Zoe swears like a sailor. The researchers at the University of Illinois' Language Acquisition Lab told Biff that new studies suggest that toddlers learn large groups of words by what they call data mining. Data mining, usually computer assisted, involves analyzing and sorting through massive amounts of raw data to find relationships, correlations, and useful information. This theory suggests that the human brain accumulates large amounts of data minute by minute, day by day, and handles this data processing automatically and it could contribute to a "system" approach to language learning that helps explain the ease with which some toddlers can learn multiple words at once. In other words, Zoe's swearing habit could be attributed to the massive amounts of raw data (in this case cuss words) she absorbs each day. What Bunna and Biff don't understand is where she gets the "raw data." They have never been known to utter profanities; they don't allow Zoe to watch HBO (they don't even have cable); and she hasn't been a merchant marine, as far as they know. In case you're wondering, here are some of Zoe's most frequent expletives and the best explanations Bunna and Biff can conjure:
F*&# translates as frog. (They know this because Zoe's favorite bath towel is a frog. Unless that towel is dirty Zoe usually gets out of the bathtub saying, "F*&#! F*&#! F*&#!")
F*&#er translates as finger. (Bunna and Biff first heard this after a checking out a board book about body parts from the public library. Zoe has a hand and ten f*&#ers.)
S*%t translates as shirt. (Zoe used to say "s*%t" as she crawled around looking for things to play with. Bunna and Biff now hear this most often when they try to dress Zoe in the morning. They originally thought she was angry about having a hard time getting her arms in the sleeves, but now they think she's just fashion conscious and doesn't want to wear that dumb s*%t.)
B^$%h translates as spoon. (Zoe can't say spoon. B^$%h is the closest she can get. Recently, however, she has cleaned up her language; she is more likely to use butts now to the great relief of her parents.)
Bunna and Biff are keeping a close eye on all her little friends just to see where she's picking this up. They have a pretty good idea. In the meantime they are encouraging her to broaden her vocabulary in the hopes that she will someday break the habit.
The culprits: Zoe and some of her potty-mouthed friends.
This week Bunna took his special field exam. Everything went well. Biff wanted to do something special for him to help him unwind from the stressful past few months. She planned and planned and planned. She asked herself, "How does one properly celebrate such an achievement? What would Bunna really like to do?" The only answer: a personal tour of the university dairy. So, Bunna and Biff packed up the ol' Toyota and headed out to one of the sources of that stench that wafts by with the incessant south-southwesterly breeze.
Their first stop on the tour was the milking parlor. The University of Illinois Dairy is a state of the art facility: recessed parlor for easy access to the udders and state of the art milking machines held in place automatically by a vacuum system designed for maximum production. Each of the cows is milked three times a day and produces up to 100 lbs. (or about 12 gallons) of milk per day, says our tour guide, Bruce, graduate student in dairy sciences and formerly of Richards' Jersey Farm of Logan, Utah.
Bunna and Zoe inspecting the milkers in the milking parlor.
The milk tank. Biff and Zoe did some quality control: a perfect 38 degrees.
On the next stop of the tour Bunna and Biff were granted VIP access to the cows. They got so close they were in danger of being soused with snot at every snort.
Jenny and Zoe with their favorite cow: 7996.
The tour proceeded to the feed shelter where they got to look at what the milk cows are fed.
Bruce describing the nutritional value of hay.
The diet of these dairy cows consists of a unique mixture of:
...corn (no, Bunna is not holding a purse)...
...and of course, the 11 herbs and spices that Bruce would not divulge. Hmmmm. Sounds familiar. It makes Bunna crave milk more than fortnightly.
Zoe's favorite part was by far the calves.
9218. Zoe called this one "dee" (she thought it looked like a deer). No matter how much Bunna and Biff mooooed, she was convinced it was a deer.
The tour also included an opportunity to reach into a live cow's stomach--all the way from the rumen to the abomasum and back--and take a turn milking the cow, manually. Zoe was getting tired, so Bunna and Biff had to excuse themselves before that part, but we hear those who did stay for that part have switched to soy.
All in all Bunna and Biff and Zoe had an udderly great time. Who knew that was how milk got from the cow to Bunna's cereal bowl? Thanks to Bruce and Brittany (and of course the cows) Bunna's post-test celebration went off with a bang.
Bunna reads a lot. So does Biff for that matter, but Bunna's current vocational undertaking obliges him to turn more pages than most typical thirty-somethings. Because his scant occupational remuneration doesn't support his bibliophilic dream of shelves chockablock with crisp new copies, Bunna is accustomed to thumbing through cast-off second hand editions and library copies of the best (and worst) nineteenth-century Americans have to offer. Anyone who regularly peruses previously read volumes has certainly encountered the text with insightful underlinings or other annotations that indicate the book was in capable hands. But the reader of used books, especially one who purchases them "site unseen," as it were, from one of the many online outfits, also takes the risk of slogging through a text congested with the inane marginalia of a half-wit. While leafing through William Dean Howells's The Rise of Silas Lapham, one of the late nineteenth-century's classic realist novels, Bunna was content following in the footsteps of what seemed to be one of those capable readers. The markings bespoke someone familiar with intellectual and literary movements, someone who was to his utter dismay, however, familiar with a different kind of movement all together. During a key scene in the novel, this pencil wielding egghead wrote a very cryptic and disturbing (or disturbingly amusing) comment.
In what was an otherwise flawlessly scrupulous job of annotating, came this little jewel in the margin: "pooing." Perhaps because Lapham "leaned back in his chair," or maybe because the narrator described him as "stiffly resolute," or perchance because "incommoded" is cognate with commode (a piece of furniture concealing a chamber pot), this scholar chose to write "pooing." Now, lest you accuse Bunna of forging this comment based on his scatological leanings, you should know that he much prefers "pooping" to "pooing" and has long adopted the former as his chosen term when conversing in that field. "Pooing," of course, has nothing to do with the passage and its presence on the page has long vexed Bunna. Because the other markings to this point had been spot on in his mind, Bunna had to reevaluate his reading and was forced to disassociate himself from the puerile prankster.
Next time the urge to write in a library book (or any book for that matter) takes hold, Bunna advocates caution--others will follow!
Fourth of July on a Friday is like having two Saturdays. We rarely have a real Saturday like most people - you know, cut the grass, throw a barbecue, play a round of golf, or maybe even set up the canopy, put out the nylon lawn chairs, fill the one-use styrofoam cooler with your favorite beverage, set up the slip 'n slide in the backyard, and go topless for the afternoon like our neighbors - you know real Saturday kind of stuff. Since our neighbor ripped the slip 'n slide belly-flopping with his keys in his pocket, we decided to use the first Saturday of the weekend to get out and enjoy more of Champaign's mini parks. We had such a good time at McCollum Park and Mini Park II on Memorial Day, we couldn't pass up the opportunity for another holiday visit.
The first stop of the day was Mini Park V at 909 W. Church Street. Obtained through a lease from the Carle Foundation in 1988, the luscious .01 acres located just west of The Pavilion - Champaign's premier mental health institute - provides park goers with ample space for playing frisbee, engaging in a fierce game of bocce ball, or even setting up the croquet wickets. Biff and Zoe managed to get a spot right in front of the sign! We were the only visitors.
Everyone must have been at a 4th of July barbecue or maybe staking out places for the fireworks at Dodds Park. It's possible, however, that most of the park regulars were visiting the cows at Prairie Farm. No matter, we had the place to ourselves!
Because 98% of the park is asphalt, Mini Park V is the destination for Champaign's rollerbladers, rollerskaters, and street hockey enthusiasts. In our excitement to get out of the door, we forgot the rollerskates, but Biff said we could probably return next week. We did, however, make it over to the Pavilion for a look at their top-rate facilities. We might leave the rollerskates at home every time we visit Mini Park V.
Convenient parking is located in the park. Parking is free as is admission. Long-term parking is provided for friends and family of Pavilion patients. Validation can be obtained at the front desk.
Some recent photos of friends enjoying the tropical paradise of Hawaii's pristine coastline have given us a hankerin' for our own island-hopping adventure. We packed up our things and headed to one of Champaign's Flower Islands. Located on the southeast corner of Prospect and Devonshire, this flower island can satisfy any floraphile's addiction.
Its beautiful arrangement of pansies and its exotic palm-like center piece attract heavy traffic during the summer months, so we advise an early morning or late evening visit. None of the cars stopped this Independence Day, though nearly everyone came to a complete stop at the intersection to gaze at all the flowers in all their summer loveliness. Again we suspect everyone was en route to some kind of patriotic party, too busy for what really makes this country great.
Convenient parking is located across the street at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. Admission to the island is free.
Stay tuned to Bunna and Biff for more about Champaign's mini parks and for your chance to vote for your favorite mini park and much, much more!
Last weekend Bunna realized every basketball fan's fantasy. In Knightstown, Indiana, a small town about 45 minutes outside of Indianapolis, stands a humble community gym that has come to symbolize the legendary history of Indiana basketball. When a film crew descended on Kinghtstown in the late 1980s looking for a place to make their little underdog sports picture, simply titled Hoosiers, the gym catapulted into celebrity.
Nestled in a quiet neighborhood just off US 40, the gym would go practically unnoticed by any ordinary passerby. However, Bunna got excellent directions from the gas station attendant, who, oddly enough, looked just like "Shooter" (Dennis Hopper), the assistant coach/recovering alcoholic who "know[s] everything there is to know about the greatest game ever invented." Anyway, Bunna thought he could get a few pictures of himself outside the gym and be on his way. When he arrived, about 6:30 p.m., a glance at the sign on the door confirmed his assumption:
Hoosier gym was closed for the night. After Biff took a few pictures of Bunna at basketball's Midwestern Mecca, an elderly woman turned the corner and noticing their downcast expressions, mentioned that Merv was her husband, and even though she was off to Bible study, she would be delighted to run back and let him know we were waiting for the VIP tour. Not a moment later, Merv's wife drifted by in their forest green mini-van and Merv appeared at the lobby doors, key in hand and commenced the tour eagerly. Merv was no rookie tour guide. With the greatest possible thoroughness he guided us through every aspect of the gym's construction, every detail of the film's production, every anecdote about the cast, and every possible analysis of the film itself. Bunna was impressed.
B&B got the tour of the locker room where Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) encourages his team...
sat in the stands directly above Hickory's bench...
sunk a few jumpers from the famous floor...
and snapped a photo with the state champs...
They got to see everything but Myra Fleener (Barbara Hershey). Next time they're in Knightstown B&B know where to have a good time.
Bunna and Biff discovered that they get wireless at Rico's house, so it's back to the Mac! Since the feature on Champaign's mini-parks, Bunna and Biff have been wondering what other cities do in the way of providing urban recreation. Because the CU Sightings crew wasn't invited to Rico's wedding and had to stay at home to work on the next segment on the mini-parks, B&B thought they could do some exploring. But where in the frick are they supposed to go in an unfamiliar city? Pittsburgh's fashionable Squirrel Hill, home to the tranquil and sylvan Frick Park.*
Frick Park, one of Pittsburgh's Citiparks, provided, however, an unpleasant alternative to Champaign's mini-parks. Pittsburgh has a lot to learn. First of all the park was too frickin' big - over 600 acres - including several miles of frickin' hiking and biking trails and frickin' nature walks. How were they supposed to see the whole frickin' park in one afternoon? Impossible. Secondly, the park was too frickin' crowded. B&B ran into dozens of frickin' hikers, bikers, and joggers. And everyone was so frickin' friendly; they never had more than thirty minutes alone to enjoy the frickin' park. And finally, Zoe couldn't find anything fun to do on the frickin' hike. They tried to get her to have fun in the frickin' kid carrier backpack...
...to no avail. She wouldn't laugh or smile the whole frickin' time. B&B tried to distract her from the monotony of the frickin' steep valleys and wooded slopes with the frickin' camelbak, but that didn't work either.
She couldn't even stay frickin' hydrated. Bunna finally got tired of the whole frickin' thing and made Biff carry Zoe on the way out.
They will never go back to that frickin' park. Give them Champaign's Mini-Park II anytime.
* You may need to be a Utahn to fully appreciate the frickin' humor.
Bunna and Biff had to take a break from the Citiparks and do something really worth their while. What better thing to do in western Pennsylvania than visit the most wonderful place on earth: Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park!
All of Hanna-Barbera's lovable characters joined in making their visit one to remember. Ranger Smith gave them a hearty welcome as they entered...
...and Yogi Bear let Zoe and Biff take a ride in his picnic basket!
What fun! Zoe even got to pretend she was a little toe-headed boy!
On the way back to Pittsburgh, B&B decided to follow some signs to some local-yokel place on the outskirts of Mill Run, called Fallingwater. Apparently some guy named Frank Lloyd Wright built some crazy house in the middle of the Pennsylvania woods. What d'ya know?
They didn't dare take the tour of the interior - who really believes the cantilever construction will hold anyway? - and just decided to take the tour of the grounds. The trails around the house provided them with plenty to do and see. Bunna got to go swimming...
and Biff got to wash her hands.
They really couldn't have asked for more at Fallingwater. Just goes to show you never know what you're going to find in the woods. Western PA is really cool!