Parenting: Answering the Tough Questions

My twins just turned four and they are starting to ask tougher questions.  For example, a couple of days ago my daughter inquired about the little boy pictured on the weekly store circular (next to the words, “Have you seen me?”).  A few weeks ago my son asked why there was a man standing on the freeway off ramp (holding a sign that read, “Homeless, please help”).

When my kids first started asking questions about the world I made up my mind that I would always answer honestly.  It is, I thought, better to help your children learn to navigate the realities of the world head on, rather than to lie or over-simplify.  My wife is on the same page.  However, this new line of questioning has me wondering to what extent I should open my children’s minds to the harsher realities of the world.  Do four-year-olds really need to grapple with the concepts of missing children and homelessness?

So far, I have chosen to stick with the plan and answer their questions plainly.  My answers have been succinct, but to the point.  I explained to my daughter that the boy was missing, his parents are looking for him, and they put his picture on the circular in case we might have seen him.  She was concerned and expressed that we should look for him.  I said, “That’s exactly right, they want us to watch for him when we go places, with the hopes that we might see him and let them know.”  I told my son that some people don’t have a home like we do, that some folk aren’t as fortunate as we are, and that we should be grateful for what we have.  My wife and I have taught the kids about gratitude, so circling back to that seemed to help him understand it.

I know that these questions are just the tip of the iceberg.  The questions about death and where babies come from are inevitable.  I am interested in hearing from you.  How do/did you address the tough questions with your children?  Have you tried to protect your children from the harsher realities of the word?  If so, how have you gone about responding to their tougher questions?  If you answer head on, have you had success in framing answers in a certain way that help them comprehend matters?

I’m certainly willing to admit that I don’t have all of the answers when it comes to having all the answers.

The Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Streaming; the Definitive List

If you are a sci-fi purist searching for the best sci-fi movies streaming on Netflix then you’ve come to the right place.  The list below is based upon what is arguably the definitive list of the top 100 sci-fi movies of all time.

©Netflix
©Netflix

Searching the web, I was dissatisfied with the available lists of science fiction movies presently streaming on Netflix.  Many of the lists include fantasy films, which – in my opinion – muddle the rankings.  Though I am a fan of the film classic “Wizard of Oz” for example, I don’t think that it should be jockeying for position against the “Star Wars” franchise and “2001: A Space Odyssey” in any “Best Movies” rankings – unless you are noncategorically ranking “The Best Movies of All Time.”

So, I searched for “best sci-fi movies of all time” and landed upon TimeOut Film’s recent The 100 Best Sci-Fi Movies list.  What makes the list special is who TimeOut reached out to in order to select the films.  They didn’t do an online poll; they didn’t just reach out to critics.  Instead, their comprehensive approach was to have “Leading sci-fi experts, filmmakers, science fiction writers, film critics and scientists pick the best sci-fi movies ever made.”

The result is an exciting array of fantastic films ranging from 1927’s “Metropolis” to 2013’s “Her.”  The list is comprehensive, exhaustive, and 100% pure science fiction.  Happily, the list includes links to the films on Amazon.com and iTunes.  Sadly, it does not include links to Netflix Streaming.

Doing my part to improve the lists of sci-fi movies available on Netflix Streaming, the list below contains all of the films in TimeOut Film’s top 100 that are available for streaming (I will update the list from time-to-time).  The number beside each film title reflects its position on the TimeOut Film list.  I’ve flipped the list from the way it’s posted on TimeOut Film, so that the-best-of-the-best appear first.  Clicking on the film title will open the film’s page on Netflix.com in a new window or tab on your browser.

Happy viewing!

8.  Metropolis (1927)

16.  Terminator 2:  Judgment Day (1991)

26.  Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

31.  The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

33.  Silent Running (1971)

38.  Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

42.  The Fifth Element (1997)

44.  Star Trek 2:  The Wrath of Khan (1982)

48.  Ghostbusters (1984)

58.  Donnie Darko (2001)

86.  Barbarella (1968)

89.   Fantastic Voyage (1966)

95.  Serenity (2005)

Bonus:  Here, in no particular order, are a few sci-fi films that didn’t make the TimeOut list, but are currently streaming on Netflix and you might find worth the watch:

Robot & Frank (2012)

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Star Trek III:  The Search for Spock (1984)

Star Trek:  Generations (1994)

Star Trek:  Nemesis (2002)

The Brother from Another Planet (1984)

Starman (1984)

Strange Days (1995)

Event Horizon (1997)

Will the iPhone 6 Fit in My Pocket? Here’s the Answer

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus look like excellent new additions to the iPhone family.  If you’re like me, then you’re probably hoping for catastrophe to strike your current iPhone soon so that you have an excuse to run out and grab one of these new iPhones with a larger screen.  There are stats for the new phones all over the web, but stats don’t readily help to answer the most pressing question.  Namely, will one of the new phones fit into my pocket?

Not to worry.  I’ve taken a few moments to print out mock-ups of the new phones and test them with a real pocket on a real pair of jeans.  Your welcome, internet.

First, to be as nearly scientific as possible, I went around the house measuring jeans pockets (I pretty much only wear jeans, so I wasn’t so much interested in going down the pants-other-than-jeans rabbit hole).  The standard pair of brand name jeans has a pocket that measures 5″ wide by 6″ deep.  My iPhone 5S fits in there with a cover on it, no problem.  (UPDATE:  I’ve added front pocket images; scroll down to see them.)

First, here’s now the phones compare:

©Cult of Mac, 2014
©Cult of Mac, 2014

Then, I cut out the mock-ups and put the phones to the test.  Here are the results:

iPhone 5S:

©Matt Vasko, 2014
©Matt Vasko, 2014

iPhone 6:

©Matt Vasko, 2014
©Matt Vasko, 2014

iPhone 6 Plus:

©Matt Vasko, 2014
©Matt Vasko, 2014

Oof!  That’s a little long.  Here’s about how it will look in your pocket:

©Matt Vasko, 2014
©Matt Vasko, 2014

Well, there it is.  It looks like it’s simply a matter whether or not you are comfortable with the idea of your cell phone sticking out the top of your jeans pocket a bit.

UPDATE:  Based on reader feedback I’ve added some front pocket images.  Here is about how the phones would fit into a front pocket measuring 6″ wide by approximately 6″ deep.

iPhone 5S (for reference):

I hope that marker washes off!   ©Matt Vasko, 2014
I hope that marker washes off!
©Matt Vasko, 2014

iPhone 6:

©Matt Vasko, 2014
©Matt Vasko, 2014

iPhone 6 Plus:

©Matt Vasko, 2014
©Matt Vasko, 2014

I hope this was helpful.  Happy iPhone-ing!

JPL Open House is Back!

OK, I admit it, I’m totally geeking out…

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA, is bringing back their Open House this fall!  If you are a fan of the JPL Open House then you might remember that it was cancelled last year due to the sequester.  Fortunately, that’s behind us and this important and exciting public event will be taking place on Saturday, October 11, and Sunday, October 12, 2014, from 9am to 4pm.

Not familiar with it?  Well, let me tell you, if you live anywhere near Pasadena and are even a little bit of a space geek then you will absolutely love the open house (and if you are not a space geek when you arrive, there’s a good chance that you will be one by the time you leave!).  It’s a cross between a science fair and Disneyland.  If that’s not enough to entice you, then it might help to know that admission and parking are FREE.

There is almost too much to do in a single day.  So, you might want to consider coming on Saturday so that you can come back on Sunday to catch the things you miss the first time around.  The past few times they’ve had working models of various rovers cruising over rocks right as you enter the property (the place is huge and hilly, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes).  In the building immediately to the left, there was a scale model of the Curiosity rover and a welcome video showcasing the breadth of dynamic work they do at JPL.  To the right there was an outdoor display about the work of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers.  I remember spending over an hour exploring these areas alone.

That, however, is just the tip of the iceberg!  You’ll want to be sure to visit the Space Flight Operations Facility, which serves as mission control for a variety of current missions, and the Spacecraft Assembly Facility, which features the clean room where everything from the Voyager spacecraft to the Curiosity rover were built.  There is too much to list, but highlights of the event include robotics demonstrations, current and upcoming mission showcases, and hands-on activities for the kids.

Here are a few tips.  Arrive early to ensure parking and shorter lines.  Bring drinking water, sunscreen, and some cash for lunch at one of the many food booths.  Wear comfortable walking shoes (as mentioned above).  Finally, not to lay it on too think, but be sure to bring your scientific curiosity and a sense of adventure!

 

Worthy of note:  If you’re not available the weekend of October 11th and 12th, then you might want to take advantage of one of JPL’s free public tours.