5 for Friday: Camera Interference, Bar Codes, and Sittin’ on the Dock of a Bay

Go Ask Daddy: Open for business.

The kids don’t ask me about the fiscal cliff, or General Petraeus, or even what the heck the BCS is going to do if four schools remain undefeated. Nothing heavy, you see.

No, the questions come out of what’s in front of them. The grocery store. Storms. Sports.

Long after I exhaust the list of blog topics, there’ll still be the questions.

For that, I’m eternally grateful.

So let’s get to it, shall we? My Google’s all warmed up.

1. How does the scanner scan our groceries?

Back in the day, they had to type in all the prices, and add them up. Weird, huh? In the 70s, a store called Kroger introduced this fancy thing called a scanner, designed to eliminate that wait time in line. (In the 70s, we didn’t have smartphones to play on while we waited.)

What we call UPC codes today (which stands for universal product code) were referred to as bull’s-eye codes. Now, customers in Harris-Teeter wait in line even though the self-scan is wide open with four registers, just so they can have someone else do the dirty work of scanning UPCs for them.

The register shoots out these high-tech laser beams that read the black bars hundreds of times in a less than a second. All the while, the white lines in the code are reflecting light back to the laser, and the black lines are absorbing it, so that every time we buy a fun-sized bag of Cheeto’s, we’re generating the same laser power that took down the Death Star in the first Star Wars movie.

It’s a tiny exchange of ying and yang technology that culminates in a loud beep and more money taken from my debit card.

This scanner, though, does nothing to keep my sourdough bread from being bagged beneath my bottle of Coke Zero. Some things are left to God.

2. Who invented football, and why do they call it football?

Football originated from college life. Crazy college kids. Maybe they didn’t have any disc golf courses around back then. “Football” grew in popularity, and included several dozen players trying to kick a round ball across the opponent’s goal line, but you couldn’t throw or run with the football.

It was soccer, without the goal nets, copious hair product and incessant flopping. It probably looked like the opening moments of Black Friday at Walmart, but less violent.

After Rutgers and Princeton bruised their way to a 6-4 final in the late 1800s in the nation’s first football game, the school cancelled all games because players neglected their studies (a precursor to the modern game).

Harvard and Canadian college McGill also floundered around with the sport until Walter Camp, a player at Yale, put down his pate and took the initiative to formulate rules and a points system.

It took President Theodore Roosevelt to save the sport in 1905. The flying wedge – a formation in which a group of blockers ran around a ball carrier and leveled anything in his path, not unlike the current-day celeb posse – left far too many young men in traction, so Roosevelt urged a movement toward player safety that led to banishing the wedge and the introduction of helmets.

This led to the advent of the forward pass, Thanksgiving Day football, quarterbacks who lick their hands before every play, and eventually players who wear pink cleats in October, in roughly that order.

Aside: Maybe they still call it football today because on the first play, you kick it with your foot. This has no logical value whatsoever. We should then call basketball Tipoffball and baseball Pitchball. Plus, “mostly handsball, but sometimes football” would make the NFL the NMHBSFL, which is cumbersome to paint on the 50 yard line.

3. Speaking of football, has anyone ever hit one of those power cords that hold the TV cameras?

Nah, brother. We hang those puppies from cables, right over the players’ heads.

Those TV cameras – known as SkyCam – would distract me if I was an NFL star. Imagine me streaking down the sideline en route to a 101-yard touchdown run, having that puppy slide up above me as I ran. I’d probably turn to look at it, then trip, tumble, stumble, then fumble the ball to a place on the field where the other team could scoop it up and run in for a score.

There are no incidents of the ball hitting the camera nor the cord, on official record or the first two pages of Google searches. The NFL, with the greatest athletes in the sport and the most cutting-edge technology and a commissioner and players union all relegating the game, would defer to one of the oldest rulings in sport should the ball hit a power cord or the actual TV camera (or a yellow-eyed penguin, meteorite or James Harden’s beard, actually):

They’d call a do-over.

I’m serious.

Check out what happened with the SkyCam during an SEC game once. Maybe God doesn’t want the BCS championship games dominated by SEC teams after all:

4. How do they take those pictures of lightning?

This takes rare talent, and a quick trigger. All photographers who capture lightning on film (as opposed to a bottle, which is where the world of commerce would like it) are direct descendants of Wild West sharp-shooters – well, the shooters who didn’t end up looking at the sky with lead in their belly on a dusty western street.

This explanation is so complex it makes my mustache ache. You need a real camera – not the one on your tablet or mobile phone – a tripod, 100 speed film (I’ll explain what film is someday, girls), and a locking cable release.

Set the focus on infinity, the shutter speed at B, and open the shutter for 15 seconds to 2 minutes. You might have to do this more than once. Oh, and you’ll need someplace dark. And lightning, preferably.

The challenge is getting close enough to the storm for a sick shot, but far enough away that you and your tripod don’t get barbecued. If you do this when you’re all grown up and don’t have to listen to me anymore, don’t go all Ben Franklin on us, OK?

5. Why did that guy not get to finish writing his song?

(This one was asked while we listened to Otis Redding’s “Dock of the Bay.”)

Otis died in a plane crash Dec. 10, 1967 – three days after he recorded this song, and six weeks before its release. His star was just on the rise. He’d just moved to Sausalito, near the San Francisco bay. At age 26, who knows where his career might have taken him.

When I hear this song, I feel an equal dose of gratitude/solitude, and remorse/regret. It probably depends on where I am the moment it comes on the radio.

The whistling? Otis and his producer, Steve Cropper, didn’t have the last verse written, so Otis whistled in its place. He’d finish writing it when he returned to Memphis, he said, but it never happened. His producers left the whistling in, and really, it fits the song pretty well, doesn’t it?

Sometimes, whistling’s better than words, anyway.

This post originally appeared on Eli’s blog, Coach Daddy!

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Ten to Twenty Parenting was created as an honest resource for those of us parenting kids between the ages of 10 and 20. Our needs are so different and the issues much more complex than diaper rashes and playground tantrums.

Ten to Twenty

Ten to Twenty Parenting was created as an honest resource for those of us parenting kids between the ages of 10 and 20. Our needs are so different and the issues much more complex than diaper rashes and playground tantrums.

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