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School science fairs are, to those of us whose children aren’t headed to Cal Tech, a super pain in the neck. Some years back, when it was announced at open house that our sixth- graders would no longer be required to do a science project, The Observer’s friend called out happily, “You mean we no longer have to do a science project.”

Then there’s high school. Now the kids are expected to do projects on the incomprehensible — that is, stuff most parents never did in high school. Moms and dads are trying to keep weather-forecasting crickets alive, other critters from getting loose in the house, keep plants from dying. They’ve got smushed fruit hanging from makeshift laundry lines in the kitchen; their children are setting fire to clothes to see if flame retardants really work.

Sometimes, the projects are a boon to mankind. We speak particularly of “Texas Hold ’Em: The Best Starting Hands and Their Probability of Winning,” a third place winner by Tanner Treece at Central High School’s science fair last week. Two pair, that’s what you want to start with. We’d tell you more, but we’re off to the casino.

We had great hopes that “Strategic Sudoku Solutions” would make us better puzzlers, but when we read the word “algorithm” our eyes glaze over. Too bad; those Friday sudokus are darn hard.

That Central High has some really brainy students is wildly in evidence at its science fair. These teen-agers are finding ways to reverse cataracts in people with diabetes. Checking stream pollutants. Working to cure cancer. Amazing kids, amazing projects.

But the regular kids, they shine too, and you can’t give the teachers there too much credit. We figure their reward comes in seeing students who’ve come up with projects like “The Effectiveness of a Parabolic Reflector when Adding Strength to the Signal from a Wireless Router.” Or, how to horn in on your neighbor’s Internet service. Clever!

The Observer has reported periodically on recent foot traffic on his quiet cul de sac below Knoop Park in Hillcrest. Recent light snow brought another chapter in the story of the park’s homeless campers who’ve grown accustomed to checking out the cars on our street. We could see tracks in the snow coming from the direction of the homeless camp onto the bottom of the cul de sac and then on a wandering line up the street. The footsteps meandered over to each parked car. Snow was brushed off windows of all of them, the better to get a look inside.

The back window of at least one pickup and the side window of a small sports car were broken. Some locked cars were left untouched. The Observer’s battered Volvo? Alas, not so lucky. The intruder, apparently in a frenzy, ripped the cheap and malfunctioning radio from the dash, splintering the framework in the process. He took it, a penlight flashlight and a canvas bag containing two 3.2-pound, metal-rimmed discuses.

The Observer doubts the intruder is taking up The Observer’s hobby of discus throwing. We suspect, rather, that the case made a good loot bag and a couple of weighted objects with metal rims looked like good tools for entering parked cars. The Observer hauled his 16-pound shotputs inside.

The homeless have been rousted from their various camps (only to reappear elsewhere, Wack-a-Mole like). The city rolled into Knoop, too. The occupants, however, were away for the afternoon. At work, no doubt.


“If the music’s too loud, then you’re too old,” The Observer was once told. Well, we did have couple of decades on most of the other music patrons we were out with that night. We were enjoying watching the young ladies gyrate to the music (we’re not too old for that!), even if it was loud. But was it ever loud. Very loud. Extremely LOUD. Loud to the point of a Gitmo-style interrogation technique.

When one singer began to shriek out a song, we swear an ice pick had just been thrust through one ear and out the other and the bass had shattered our shin bone. The Observer and companions were scrambling for bar napkins to soften the blow to our ears. We all looked like Shrek, twisted napkins sticking out of our ears.

Wasn’t sound like this used on Noriega?

Perhaps we have aged a bit and more power to those who can withstand the bass shockwave. The Observer just doesn’t think listening to music should be a painful experience. (The Observer just realized ... we sound just like our parents.)

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