Whimsy: March 2004 Archives

Another story about the lamentable spread of American litigiousness, from the Telegraph:

The arrival of the American-style compensation culture is turning open spaces and public parks into dreary, fun-free, soulless places, the Government's architecture and building advisers said yesterday.

Bouncy castles, ancient trees, boating lakes, adventure playgrounds, public art and even firework displays on windy days, such as the celebrations in Edinburgh last New Year, are all victims of the trend to stop or take down anything that might have the slightest risk attached....

Ruth Holmes, of Groundwork, said: "We can't go for as exciting a playground as we'd like - swings and roundabouts and things like that - because they need to be checked and, if there was a danger, they would have to be closed down.

"We are hoping now to have some static stuff, such as a mound-like fort with a slide and some fixed parallel bars."

A council officer said: "We were worried that children could vandalise the equipment and take bolts out. We are trying to get equipment as tamper-proof as possible. We can't risk somebody being hurt."

The trouble with static equipment is that it is extremely boring to play on, said Cabe, and play areas are now being built where children have no wish to play.

I blogged a while ago about the Toronto School District's removal of all playground equipment for safety reasons, and about the joy of finding "dangerous" old-fashioned equipment still in place and in use in Independence, Kansas.

This move away from fun playground equipment must be a boon to the backyard swingset industry.

Spring hath sprung


We knew spring had arrived, a bit ahead of schedule, back on March 8. The Bradford pear tree in the back yard was about to blossom. It was just a day or so past the full moon, we'd had some big rains, and that night we heard the trilling of a toad next to our backyard pond. The chorus grew and by Saturday we spotted a pair of toads in the pond, um, riding piggyback. This last Monday there were 9 toads in the pond at night, mostly lonely boy toads, pitching noisy woo. On the 17th, we had 17 in the pond, matching last year's peak attendance.

Apparently, our pond received some good word-of-vocal-sac referrals during the off-season. Thursday afternoon there were 22 and by 10 o'clock that night there were 32. It was like a little Woodstock: music, mud, and free love. As it was for the grownups back in '69, it was hard for us outsiders to tell which were the boys and which were the girls, and we had the impression that the toads weren't so sure themselves.

The townies -- the goldfish who are the permanent residents of the pond -- seemed bemused by the noisy, busy tourists in their midst and did their best not to get in the way, but the bigger fish in particular seemed agitated by all the frantic activity.

Thursday night was also when the first strand of little black pearls appeared -- tadpoles-to-be -- and by Friday evening, toad eggs were laced all through the water hyacinths in the middle of the pond.

Friday evening the numbers were down -- back to about 17, mostly singles, having a sing-song round the pool. When they got quiet, my son got them going again with his uncanny and amazing toad call. (Somehow he can trill his tongue and whistle at the same time.) We came across a very tired looking female (we think) resting in the grass nearby. We should start to see the tadpoles hatch in a week or so, and then watch them grow legs, lose their tails, and leave the pond.

(Here's a link about toads in fish ponds and the toad lifecycle.)

Tonight the weather turned cold and the pond is toad-free. And spring is definitely here.

Arcade games from Big Idea


Big Idea, the makers of two hit video kids series -- Veggie Tales and 3-2-1 Penguins -- has a great selection of free arcade games online.

No fees, no registration required, no popups. The games use Java and Shockwave, so you may need to install plugins for your browser.

Although we have a big collection of Veggie Tales videos, I hadn't known about this site until I saw a link on National Review Online's "The Corner" to this game, which involves using a slingshot to launch someone into a spaceship. Planets form obstacles and also exert gravitational influence on the flight path. You can set up some interesting orbits, which make pretty Spirograph-like designs and gain you extra points. There's a new version of the same concept, called "Doom Funnel Chasers", with some more challenging layouts. In this one, you have to fling a ball of duck tape into a sort of black home.

Other favorites include an enhanced version of Breakout, and Jerry's Cheeseburger Madness, which will look familiar to 1980s arcade fans.

It is all kid-friendly and kid-safe, but lots of fun for grownups too. Check it out.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Whimsy category from March 2004.

Whimsy: December 2003 is the previous archive.

Whimsy: April 2004 is the next archive.

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