Bobby's Blog

Buried in Buffalo

November 21, 2014

Did you see the massive snowstorm that hit Buffalo and the surrounding areas this week? They measured the snowfall in feet instead of inches. Houses, cars and entire stadiums were buried under three feet of snow on Tuesday and while people are still trying to dig out, the weather service says more is on the way.

There are only a few Things you can do when you get that much snow:

  • Stay in: This is at the top of the list because it's the only real way to stay warm and stay safe. So stock your cabinets with food and water and get ready to hunker down until the snow stops falling and the shovel starts calling.
  • Make a fire: No fireplace? No problem. You can get a space heater that looks like a fireplace for all the warmth and coziness of the fire without the work.
  • Read a book: TV is fine for a long winter's night, but noThing beats a good book. Especially if it's full of funny Things You Never Knew.

Whether you're up north or down south, the winter weather is expected to bring record lows again this weekend. So hunker down with some snacks in front of the fire, read a good book and remember: this, too, shall pass.

See you next week,
Bobby

Rosetta Catches a Comet

November 14, 2014

The European Space Agency made history Wednesday and the whole world let out a collective "ooooo" and "aaahhh" as they did it. For the first time in human history, we caught a comet. Well, not exactly caught it, but ESA's Rosetta spacecraft caught up with comet 67P and then managed to land a probe on it.

Rosetta left Earth 10 years ago and traveled 6.4 billion miles before arriving at the comet in August. Aboard was Philae, the free-falling, tweeting probe that landed on the comet yesterday and then promptly tweeted, "Touchdown! My new address: 67P!" (If you want to follow The Little Lander That Could on Twitter, here's its earthly address: @Philae2014.)

Scientists hope Philae can help answer some burning questions about the solar system. According to Matt Taylor, ESA Rosetta project scientist, the team wants to know "What were the conditions like at its infancy and how did it evolve? What role did comets play in this evolution? How do comets work?" And even bigger questions could be answered, like "Were comets instrumental in bringing the ingredients of life to Earth?" And some people are even hoping that Philae can help answer the biggest question of human existence: "Are we alone in the universe?"

I'll be following Philae on Twitter and bringing you updates on the Rosetta mission. See you next week,
Bobby

What Time Is It?

November 07, 2014

I write about this every year -- or at least I think I remember writing about this every year -- the time change. It muddles the brain, bogs the body down and makes people cranky. Or maybe that's just me.

I can't stand it. Twice a year I brace myself for the disruption in my circadian rhythms, the feeling of being disconnected from the earth and that "what time is it, anyway?" feeling. But believe it or not, this twice-yearly madness has its upside. It's a reminder for Things on our household to-do lists that we sometimes forget because we only have to do them every six months.

Here's my list of Things to check, change, replace and stock:

  • Change batteries all over the house, including smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and flashlights
  • Replace water and air filters
  • Make sure emergency kits for home and car are stocked up with the right Things for the season

If it weren't for the twice-yearly clock adjustment I know I'd forget these chores -- until an emergency reminded me. So, even though I don't know what time it is, I know I have fresh batteries in all my flashlights and detectors, fresh filters for my air and water and fresh supplies in my emergency kits.

See you next week,
Bobby

Scratch That Itch?

October 31, 2014

Remember when you were a kid and you got bitten by insects or worse, you got the measles, mumps or chicken pox or some other childhood pox that made your skin break out and itch like crazy? Remember how your mom would always say, "Don't scratch, you'll make it worse!" But as soon as you were out of her sight, you'd scratch and scratch until you got that "ahhh" feeling of relief.

But it turns out your mom was right, even if she didn't know why. Scientists have discovered that the neurochemical serotonin is probably responsible for the itch-scratch cycle. It works like this: when you scratch an itch, it actually causes you a small amount of pain, which is a distraction that numbs your brain to the itch sensation. Meanwhile, that little bit of pain triggers the release of serotonin in your brain. Now here's the interesting Thing: serotonin dulls pain, but it also helps carry the itch signal to the brain. So when the pain of the scratch dies away, the itch comes back with a vengeance. And so on and so on.

Researchers figured out how to interrupt the itchy nerve cells that react to serotonin, so it's possible that their work could lead to some relief in the future. Meanwhile, we just have to keep scratching!

See you next week,
Bobby

3 Things You Should Know About Airfares

October 24, 2014

Ready for your holiday travel season? Me either, but here it comes anyway. This year, I'm going to be a little more prepared. Instead of overpaying for my plane tickets, I did a little research and dug up some Things to help save a little of my hard-earned money. Since all of us can use a little extra cash for stocking stuffers and such, I thought I'd share what I learned with you:

  1. Plane ticket prices can change as often as three times a day. As crazy as it sounds, it's true. But you can track fares with web sites like Yapta, which will alert you when a fare you're watching drops.
  2. The best time to buy is 6-8 weeks out and discounted tickets are usually offered at the beginning of the week. So don't wait until Friday to book your flight.
  3. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the cheapest days to buy and the cheapest days to fly. Saturday is cheaper than Sunday, which is the most expensive day to fly.

If you shop smart for your holiday tickets, you can save some dough for more important Things. Like a book, a blanket and some earbuds to make the flight as easy on you as it is on your wallet.

See you next week,
Bobby

Easy-To-Wear Halloween Things

October 17, 2014

Have you chosen your Halloween costume yet? I'm still on the fence. I'm thinking I'll ditch the elaborate costume for someThing a little easier to wear. I mean, a full-head zombie mask is great -- until you want a drink. And a gorilla suit is fine -- until you need to go to the bathroom. So, if you also want someThing a little on the less-is-more side, we here at Things can fix you up right for Halloween.

My first pick? This hat. Our sturdy plastic and felt hat goes with everyThing, it's funny and it's one of the easiest costumes to wear. You just pair it with your street clothes and go as "the one with the bright idea." You can even remove the light bulb if you find you've suddenly run out of ideas.

Another great Thing that pairs well with clothes you might have in your closet is a great big beard. Perfect with a suit or an old pair of overalls, the cascading facial hair even comes with a big bushy moustache. At about four feet long, it's a full costume unto itself.

My last pick is the simplest Thing of all: a t-shirt. If you're just not into costumes this year, pull on this tee-shirt that shows you're a good sport about it and shows off your unique sense of humor. Remember: whatever costume you choose, have fun, be safe and watch for the kiddies on Halloween.

See you next week,
Bobby

Do We Really Need to Build a Better Snake?

October 10, 2014

I'm not sure the world really needs more snakes, but the science teams at Georgia Tech have invented a new and possibly improved version of the deadly sidewinder. Why? Because they can, for one. But also to help them understand how snakes, legless creatures that they are, can move so efficiently across so many different types of terrain.

Sidewinders get their name from their peculiar way of moving, particularly across sandy and uneven ground. Scientists are studying the movement they call "sidewinding locomotion" to help them design robots that won't get stuck in the sand. They're hoping their newfound insights into the venomous pit snake's abilities will help them build better, faster and more efficient rescue robots.

I don't know about you, but if I saw a robotic snake coming, I don't know if I'd let it anywhere near me. But I guess that depends on how bad I needed rescuing. Watch this video of the robotic rattlesnake and decide for yourself. It's creepy to watch, but at least it doesn't bite!

See you next week,
Bobby

Five Things You Probably Didn't Know About Disney

October 03, 2014

Who doesn't love a Disney theme park? There are so many Things to see and do. So many rides to ride and thrills to seek and Things to make you go "ooooh" and "ahhhh" no matter how old you are. Would it surprise you to find out the parks are engineered that way? It's true, Disney parks have some very cool, some very dark and some very silly Things going on both behind and in front of the scenes that you probably didn't know about.

  1. Disney uses someThing called a Smellitizer to emit different scents all over the park to match the immediate surroundings.
  2. None of the shops at Disney World sell gum - that way you never have to find a piece stuck to the bottom of a table or step in a glob of the sticky stuff.
  3. The lawn at the "The Haunted Mansion" is the only lawn in the park that isn't meticulously maintained. They let it grow wild to match the spooky mood of the ride.
  4. There is actually a human skull at "The Pirates of the Caribbean" ride. A real one.
  5. There are thousands of "hidden" Mickey Mouse heads throughout Disney World - and the surrounding resorts!

Disney parks are engineered down to the very last detail. Nothing is overlooked and no expense is spared making sure no one gets out of a Disney park without having a great time. Not even Darth Vader.

See you next week,
Bobby

Boo!

September 26, 2014

A Happy Horrific Haunted Halloween takes a lot more planning than other holidays. There's decorating to be done and lights to be hung and you probably want a new outfit. And don't forget the delicious candies. It's like all Christmas, Easter and Valentine's Day all rolled into one -- with the addition of ghosts and ghouls, skeletons and spiders, bats and blood...

I'm not even close to choosing a costume yet, but I did find some animated spooky Things to use in my annual haunted house. Not a costume person? Or don't know what to wear? Check out this high-tech creepy animated eyeball t-shirt. A secret pocket in the shirt and a downloadable app for your phone makes this sinister shirt one of the spookiest Things I've seen for Halloween this year.

And how about this crawling zombie? When it's activated, the rotting undead Thing will crawl toward your guests with red eyes flashing. It's the perfect prop for your front yard cemetery or a haunted room. He's always hungry for brains so when it comes to scaring people, he never disappoints.

There's nothing like an evil clown to unnerve your guests. He hangs around innocently enough until a sound activates him and then he goes nuts, kicking and laughing maniacally while his eyes flash red. He's so scary, I've actually seen grown men run from him. Very effective. I guess it's a clown Thing.

Happy Halloween! See you next week,
Bobby

Magic Millionaire

September 19, 2014

Did you see the America's Got Talent finale last night? In what most consider a stunning upset, 25 year-old magician Mat Franco took home the million dollar prize, beating out Howard Stern's favorite, singer Emily West, in the final heat.

Myself, I was torn. On the one hand, Emily West was born to sing. On the other hand, Mat Franco is a born magician. So who has more talent? It's an unanswerable question. You just have to go with which act had the best show, was the most entertaining and -- perhaps the downfall of Acro Army -- made the fewest mistakes. When the final votes were tallied, it seems America thought West was great, but thought Franco was magical.

To me, the winners and losers matter very little in talent contest shows. The Thing that matters most is inspiration. Because of the six finalists in this year's AGT competition, kids all over the country now want to sing, become acrobats and, of course, do magic. But maybe inspiration isn't just for kids. Watching Franco's extraordinary sleight of hand made me want to break out the old bag of tricks and give magic another whirl. I mean why not? I could be the next millionaire magician, couldn't I? Stranger Things have happened!

See you next week,
Bobby