the Ikea Rat Launcher

40588_pe134275_s4.jpgFrom time to time, I have been known to do a product review. (Some of you may remember my review of the iPhone, and the followup discussion of the Apple iCup.) I’ve been wanting to share this product for a while, but thought it would be good to wait for the Year of the the Rat celebrations to kick in. So, here it is: a review and demo of the Ikea Rat Launcher.

The Ikea Rat Launcher

This colorful and inexpensive device can launch an Ikea stuffed rat several feet up into the air, way up over a toddler’s head, resulting in a flying rat and a giggling toddler. (Individual results may vary.) Below are some images from our extensive testing of this product in late October of last year.


rat_launch1.jpg rat_launch2.jpg rat_launch3.jpg
rat_launch4.jpg rat_launch5.jpg rat_launch6.jpg
rat_launch7.jpg rat_launch10.jpg rat_launch9.jpg

For the full demonstration, you can watch this video.¹

This ingenious product also doubles as a storage device: rats can be collected and placed in the launcher for later launching. An attractive reptilian cover keeps the rats from escaping.
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Warning: this product is not recommended for toddler storage.


While the Launcher appears large enough to accomodate a toddler, attempts at toddler storage may result in the following:²

¹ Sorry it’s a bit long, at 2:42, but I was too amused by Phoebe’s belly laughter and backwards toddling to cut any of it out.

² This one’s only 15 seconds. You know you want to watch it.

big hands I know you’re the one

A couple of nights ago, during part of Phoebe’s pre-bath stalling tactics, Phoebe started to pull coins out of John’s pockets and put them in one of John’s hands. As John will often have pretty substantial loads of change in his pockets, I asked, “Are you going to be able to hold all the coins in one hand?” To which John replied that he had big hands. Followed shortly thereafter by “Big hands I know you’re the one.”

So John and I started singing “Blister in the Sun.” Phoebe dug it. We’d get to the end of the verse, and she’d say “more!” Then we played the various album versions, and we all danced. Rockin’ out in the upstairs bathroom.

(That’s a live 1984 version. If you want to hear the studio version, you can check out one called the Violent Sims, with an animated video. I also came across a video of a guy signing along the with the lyrics in ASL. Ah, the wonders of YouTube.)

How do you feel about squid?


“So…what is it with you and squid?”

This was the burning question that one curious soul asked Raincoaster, the celebrated cephalopodophile.¹

This question got me to thinking. Doesn’t everybody feel a fondness for squid? I then recalled a test I’d taken a while back, which measures one’s Squid Quotient.² I dug up the link, and found that my own affinity for squid is far above average³:

Your Squid Quotient = 154.75
Interpreting your results: An average Squid Quotient is around 100. A SQ of 100 means you have a normal affinity for squid. A SQ above 100 means you have an attraction or fondness for squid. Below 100 means that you should probably stay away from the deep ocean.

In case that you, too, feel you might have an interest in squid that extends beyond the occasional craving for calamari, the Squidsquid website also has a whole bunch of other fun squid activities to wrap your tentacles around. Including a squidtastic squid translator, squid games, squid insults, and a squid name generator. Behold! I am greedy alejna the behemoth!


¹ A commenter on the post where the asking was described suggested that a sign with that text might have helped the asker locate the askee among the crowds at the train station where they had their rendez-vous. This seemed an excellent suggestion. I am fully in favor of more squid signs, and I felt moved to create one of my own. And now I am flattered to see that my own tentacular design is now swimming in the murky depths of Raincoaster.

² While I don’t remember the specifics of how I came across this, it was likely via this Pharyngula post.

³ Admittedly, when I took the test back in February, my score was lower. Either my squid appreciation and/or knowledge has increased, or (more likely, as it’s a timed test) I was just faster with my answers the second time around⁴.

⁴ Yes, I must confess I did save my answer from the first time around. It was 131.75. It’s not like I had it tattooed on my forehead or anything. But I do tend to save things.⁵

⁵ Do you want to see my collection of…No, I’m pretty sure you don’t.

How do you like them apples?

Fall has fallen here in the northern hemisphere, and in my neck of the woods, this means it’s apple-picking season.¹ Which seems like as good a reason as any to pick apples for this week’s Themed Things Thursday.

  1. Apple of my eye. An expression meaning one who is most dear to the speaker.
  2. cortland_apple.jpg

  3. The Big Apple. A nickname for New York City. One source identifies its origins from usage by African-American stablehands at a New Orleans racetrack in the 1920s. (Wikipedia says it was first used by touring jazz musicians in the 1930s.)
  4. Snow White. A fairytale in which a girl falls asleep after eating a poisoned apple.
  5. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. A saying suggesting that eating apples is good for the health. I found a bit on origins of the saying:

    From “Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings” by Gregory Y. Titelman (1996): “An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Eating fruit regularly keeps one healthy. First found as a Welsh folk proverb (1866)” ‘Eat an apple on going to bed,/ And you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.’ First attested in the United States in 1913…”

  6. Adam’s apple. A bump on the front of the neck, tending to me more prominent in adult males, from the “forward protrusion of the thyroid cartilage.” Likely nicknamed based on the Biblical story of Eve giving an apple to Adam.
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  8. Newton’s apple. A falling apple (which may or not have bonked him on the head) may or may not have contributed to Newton’s theory of universal gravitation.
  9. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. An expression meaning that the offspring will often turn out like the parent(s).
  10. Johnny Appleseed. An American folk hero famed for planting lots of apple trees.
  11. Apple Inc.² A company. Makes computers. One line of which is named after a type of apple, the macintosh. Has a logo shaped like an apple_rainbow.jpgapple_clear.jpg
    apple with a bite out of it. Has a variety of iProducts: iMac, iPod, iPhone, iCup
  12. An apple for the teacher. An apple is known in the US as traditional gift to give to a teacher. (The fruit, not the computers. But I bet most teachers would appreciate getting an Apple.) Has (probably) led to apples showing up on greeting cards and coffee mugs as symbols of the teaching profession (along with rulers, blackboards and squid). (No wait, scratch that last one. I was just checking to see if you were still reading this.)


¹ We live in an area with many apple orchards, and Phoebe even got to go apple picking with her daycare last week. I hope we’ll get to go together some time this year. Late October last year, we went to a nearby orchard that grows over 50 varieties of apples. Pick-your-own season was past, so our experience was less about apple picking than apple choosing. But it was still fun. And the apples were yummy.

² I read that Apple Inc. officially dropped “Computers” from its name earlier this year. I hadn’t even noticed.



pirateparrot.jpgHere it is, the day after International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and I’ve still got pirates on the brain. But rather than bringing you a list of pirates for this week’s Themed Things Thursday, I’ll bring you a list of the frequent pirate’s companion: the parrot.

A Flock of Parrots

  1. Parrots are frequently to be seen on the shoulders of pirates¹, specifically of fictional pirates. Captain Flint was a pirate’s parrot in Treasure Island, the pirate novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. More recently, we’ve seen the pirate in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
  2. Parrots, especially African Grey Parrots, are well known as birds who can imitate human speech.
  3. This is no doubt the source of the use of the word parrot as a verb (transitive), meaning repeat without really understanding. As in “They parroted my parrot jokes, but none of them laughed.”
  4. You can find a variety of parrot jokes out there. (These even a site with pirate and parrot jokes.) This is probably my favorite parrot joke.
  5. Polly want a cracker? The stereotypical parrot sentence, whether said to a parrot, or by a parrot. Possibly popularized in Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
  6. Poll or Polly has been a common parrot name for centuries, with an early documented use from 1611.
  7. Also in the nursery rhyme:

    Little Poll Parrot
    Sat in his garret
    Eating toast and tea;
    A little brown mouse
    Jumped into the house,
    And stole it all away.

  8. Then there’s the song “Polly,” by Nirvana

    Polly wants a cracker
    I think I should get off her first
    I think she wants some water
    To put out the blow torch

  9. Or Paulie (1998), a movie about a parrot.
  10. Parrots have been featured in various folktales from around the world, like 2 Buddhist folktales from India “The Brave Little Parrot.” (who puts out a forest fire²) and “The Steadfast Parrot” (who is faithful to a tree) and an
    Italian folktale (involving a prince who has himself turned into a parrot).
  11. Other moderately famous parrots include Waldo the Parrot, from Twin Peaks (who seems to have been present, and biting, the night of Laura Palmer’s death) and Parrot, the parrot with biting sarcasm from the Terry Pratchett novel Faust Eric
  12. Parrot Heads are the nickname given to fans of the musician Jimmy Buffett
  13. And to round things off, I bring you Python’s parrot. The ex-parrot. He is decidedly not pining for the fjords.


¹ Or about the arms and head, especially of those posing as pirates.

² Kind of like a friend of mine did recently, except he used a plastic bag to put out the fire.

Shiver me timbers! Give me a job! Arrrr.

Dirty John Rackham


To contribute to your organization’s success through the use of exceptional customer service, managerial, and plundering skills. Or to find a position as a nanny. Arrrr.


  • Hard-working, tough-skinned swash-buckling individual with questionable personal hygiene
  • Exceptional versatility, adaptability and swaggering
  • Solid managerial, administrative and looting experience
  • Ability to manage multiple tasks in a pressured environment.

Interpersonal and Managerial skills

  • Interacted with and kidnapped a wide variety of personalities while pillaging, plundering, and wreaking havoc.
  • Delivered excellent customer service and conducted in-house plundering promotions
  • Proved multi-tasking abilities by scheduling and supervising crew of scurvy dogs, bilge rats and lily livered scalliwags
  • Served as right hand to notorious Bloody Captain Roberts (whose original right hand was lost to gangrene)

Administrative skills

  • Completed, submitted and burned edges of invoices and maps for buried treasure.
  • Fondled large sums of loot and booty.
  • Maintained rum inventory control.
  • Looted petty cash, payroll, inventory, accounts receivable and payable.
  • Said “Arrrrr!” a lot. (Mayhaps that be an interpersonal skill.)


  • Sailin’ the seas since I were a young lad and had all me teeth.


  • I learnt things th’ hard way. I got th’ scars t’ prove it, ye landlubber. Arrrr.


This post can be blamed on a confluence of unrelated events: the Monday Mission, which asks this week for a post in the form of a resume, and the approach of Talk Like a Pirate Day (which is coming up on Wednesday, September 19.) This resume is very loosely based on a sample resume. Actually, quite a lot of lines from the resume worked pretty well from that verbatim. Arrrr.

procrastinator’s horoscope for today…or tomorrow

The Procrastinator’s Horoscope, September 10, 2007:
For today or tomorrow. Or maybe some time later this week.

Aries (March 21-April 19): That deadline is fast approaching, so you’d best get cracking. That project absolutely needs to be done by Friday, and you have a lot of work left to do. Wait, Friday? That’s days away! I mean, practically a week. You can afford to spend a little bit of time online before you dig in. Surf’s up!

Taurus (April 20-May 20): It’s about time you wrote the email you’ve been putting off writing. It’s a sensitive matter, so make sure to choose your words carefully. Stare at your computer screen. Type “Dear Bob.” Wait, does “dear” sound to personal, or maybe too formal? Better delete that and start over. Type “Hey Bob!” No, that’s too informal. Delete that. Hey, look, you got an email! Your buddy sent you a link to a really funny YouTube video. Man, YouTube is cool. I wonder how many videos are up there that have “Bob” in their title?

Gemini (May 21-June 21): Before you get started on your day’s tasks, check on your blog, if you have one. How’s traffic on that last post? Any new comments? Any interesting search terms? How about now? Ok, that’s enough. Let’s get to work. But wait, any new comments now? What about now? Now? If you don’t have a blog, today would be a good day to start one. Maybe two.

Cancer (June 22-July 22): It’s time to pay bills again. Get yourself organized. You’ll need the checkbook, a pen, and some stamps. Oh, and the bills. Where are those bills? Oh, right. Under the pile of catalogs. Hey, what’s new at L.L. Bean, by the way? Didn’t you need to look for some gloves? Ooo, and look at that sweater on page 17.

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22): The day is already half gone, and you’ve barely even thought about the work you need to do. You must need some coffee. Go get some coffee right now. Go for a walk, even. You know, get that blood pumping. You can absolutely start working after you’ve had a quick walk and some coffee. And maybe a nap. Walks can zap the energy right out of you.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Your kitchen is a mess, and you have relatives coming over tomorrow. It’s time to scrub the floor, clear off the counters, clean out the furry things from the fridge, and tackle that huge pile of dishes. But have no fears, cleaning can be fun with the right tunes. Maybe you should put together a cool playlist on iTunes. You might need to add to your collection a bit to get just the right mix, too.

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 23): It’s about time you got around to sorting through that pile of boxes in the basement or closet. Start by restacking the boxes neatly. Doesn’t stacking boxes remind you of Tetris? I bet you can find Tetris online these days.

Scorpio (Oct. 24-Nov. 21): If you don’t do laundry today, you won’t have any clean socks to wear tomorrow. Gather up your dirty clothes, and sort through them. That’s a cool shirt. Didn’t you want to get another one like that in another color? You’d better go buy one now before they run out. You can buy socks for tomorrow, too, while you’re at it.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Today is the day to start being more productive. Absolutely today. The first step is to make that decision. See? That wasn’t so bad, was it? The next step is to get yourself savvy about the ways of the uber-productive, by reading some books or websites or something. Write that down on a Post-it. Aren’t Post-its cool? Hey, remember how Romy and Michelle pretended to have invented Post-its? That was a funny movie. Put it on your Netflix queue. Wow, it’s been a while since you’ve updated that queue.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): With fall around the corner, now would be a good time to finally start that home repair project. Before you get going, make sure you have all the supplies you’ll need. You’d better check in some home reference books for details. Or maybe some magazines. Or wait, isn’t there a home improvement network on TV?

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Spend at least an hour futzing around before you consider attempting anything. For good measure, you may also want to loaf, putter, amble and goof off. Time’s a wasting. That’s your motto. Or make that “Time’s for Wasting.”

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20): Just stay in bed today.

Brought to you by this week’s Monday Mission, which solicits posts written in the form of a horoscope.