Archive for April, 2014

The 2014 Sweet 16 Kinetic Sculpture Race

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014



Come One, Come All to the zaniest race of them all!

This Saturday, May 3rd marks the 16th annual Kinetic Sculpture Race hosted by the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

As a celebration of the many forms that play can take for both adults and children, we wanted to showcase this annual challenge dedicated to ingenuity, incredulity, creativity, determination and utterly fabulous costumes.


The KIPP school’s Kipplala crew

What is it you ask? This is the east coast installment of a west coast tradition of racing custom built, human powered works of art through intense and inventive obstacle courses. Who builds these wonders and how? It’s safe to say that all ages build, pilot, volunteer, cheer and participate in the race from start to finish. Engineering the vehicles is a challenge that even middle and high school students have conquered. Talk about putting STEM into practice…


Greendustrial Revolution and a Not-So-Angry-Bird stop traffic.




For the past 16 years Baltimore has hosted the east coast version of the Kinetic Sculpture Race, taking advantage of the city’s good-natured acquiescence to the ridiculous.



KineticFirebreatherKatynOn the first Saturday in May these people-propelled contraptions (most relying on some form of bicycle base) are piloted across 15 miles of urban terrain. Rolling and clunking through crowded city streets, past the Inner Harbor, and around downtown monuments. Hundreds of spectators gather on foot and on bikes, in costumes and plain dress, along the race route to wave to the teams of kinetinauts, (the name given to the pilots of kinetic sculptures).




KineticWaterEntryThe sculptures then plunge valiantly into the Canton waterfront, and if they don’t sink, the vehicles and their intrepid entourages and pit crews continue into  Patterson Park where they must power through a mud pit, a sand pit, and wind through park paths covered by treacherous low hanging tree limbs.


Go Ask Alice manages the mud with a good push from its pit crew.


From there, the exhausted pilots of the vehicles (the same people must pilot their vehicle for the entire race), cheerfully pedal up and down hills to finally cross the finish line to the hero’s welcome that awaits at the American Visionary Art Museum.


The one-man show that was Frednan receives the “Spirit of the Glorious Founder” award for cheerfully walking the entire course-while carrying his Flintstones-inspired kinetic sculpture.

This race is truly something you should experience at least once in your life; the Spectators Guide makes it easy for people to follow along throughout the entire race, or just to meet up at some of the highlights- like the water entry where although the crowd cheers  the vehicles on, they secretly hope to see a spectacular dunking.


Dr. Vlad’s Mad Lab surging into the harbor.

For more about the American Visionary Art Museum—the home of self-taught geniuses and wondrously strange methods of artmaking—and several of the kinetic sculptures who live there.



I personally always root for Team Fifi (the Visionary’s pink poodle who’s been racing for over a decade), but I’m partial to the pink princess; I’ve been on her pit crew for the past 6 years, pushing her through most of the race.

Come out this year and choose a sculpture to cheer on yourself.



Time Shift Your TV  – Doozers

Monday, April 28th, 2014


We’ve got a doozy of a recommendation this week.

It’s Doozers, Hulu’s first original series for kids.

Remember Fraggle Rock, the popular 1980s Jim Henson series? In Fraggle Rock, little hardworking green creatures called Doozers made buildings the Fraggles would eat.

Now, more than 30 years later comes this spinoff, focusing on the ‘Pod Squad’ – four Doozers: Spike, Flex, Daisy Wheel and Molly Bolt. These Doozers are problem-solving, creative inventors. They sing, dance, and they “do” a lot.

In Episode One, the Doozer gang must come up with a way to make bigger puppets for their puppet show so that the audience can see it all better. The concepts include inventive thinking, team work, building and more. One fun detail: In the puppet show, the main character’s name is “Princess Sparkle Engineer.”  Yes, she’s a princess AND an engineer. You can be both.

In Episode Two, the Doozers are tasked with building a dock, but first they have to figure out how to get supplies to the site through roadblocks in the form of reeds. Luckily, they’ve got several handy, cool tools to help them solve the problem. And when they aren’t able to make it work at first, they’ve got to try, try again. Doozers never give up.

The series is big on problem-solving, coming up with plans and executing them with help from your friends. “Good thinking!” one Doozer will say to the other. “Great idea!” is heard more than once. Their CGI world is colorful, warm and inspiring. The Doozers are polite, positive and can-do.

Doozers debuted last week on Hulu with seven new 12-minute episodes, the first of 52 ordered. You’ll enjoy watching it with your kids or you can feel good about putting it on for your preschoolers to watch alone.

Home Repair

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

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It’s that time of the year for ritual house cleaning, rebuilding and repairing–but this year, don’t forget to repair or re-route the emotional cycles set at home.

All families fight and all have misunderstandings at one time or another. Conflict is a part of life and is part of the learning process for kids. The most important part of an argument, according to experts, is what happens after a disagreement.

Think about it. As an adult, how many times have you stayed awake in bed rehashing a quibble with a co-worker? Kids do it too, according to Kenneth Barish, an associate professor of psychology at Cornell. To help them work through the curveballs life throws us, parents should set aside time each day for a state of the union with the kids. For just 10 minutes, go over the day, any worries or disagreements and let them vent—respectfully and without judgment.

By providing the tools to work through anger or anxiety, we equip our kids with life-long problem solving skills and a good blueprint for emotional health. Parents, says Barish, should also be forthright about their own emotions, and learn to apologize to kids if needed. If we work on letting go of anger, our kids can too. Setting time to repair mistakes, either in a house or a family, only makes the home that much stronger.


“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” —Lao Tzu

Earth Day 2014: Green Cities and green selves

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014
Image via

Image via

Today marks the 44th anniversary of Earth Day, the day dedicated to celebrating and to actively working to better and preserve our planet. According to the Earth Day Network, the very first Earth Day gathered more than 20 million Americans to take to the streets in demonstrations on the 22nd of April in 1970. When groups and individuals from coast-to-coast convened to speak up for for a healthy, sustainable environment it was clear that they had not been working alone to “fight against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife.”


green-citiesAs more than half of our planet’s population currently inhabits urban environments, this year’s Earth Day theme is Green Cities, a push to help urban spaces evolve into environmentally sustainable places for people to work and live. Every year on Earth Day, more than one billion people take part in activities and gestures to help make the planet a better place according to the UN’s Mother Earth Day webpage. Here are a few ways that you can join this growing community of environmentally concerned citizens.


The Earth Day Network’s website offers an environmental footprint calculator to see just how much your lifestyle choices have an effect on the

The drive (no pun intended) towards creating greener cities can begin with simple efforts to carpool, ride public
transportation, or if possible, to walk or ride a bike to school and work. Be a role model for your kids. Make meals using locally grown vegetables and sustainably produced meats, plant a garden, or strategically toss some seed bombs.

Raise awareness in your family by listening to some of these Parents’ Choice Award-winning albums, The Storm King by the late, great Pete Seeger, One Earth So Green and Round and The Mountain Came Alive. Try Endango a board game where kids learn about protecting the environment the Sustainable Earth Lab is filled with hands on experiments and activities that help kids understand environmental problems and what sustainable practices can do to help overcome them.

For more inspiration check out our Earth Day Pinterest board and these websites, the HuffPost has “non-annoying” ideas for activists and “slacktivists” alike, while the Environmental Protection Agency has a more serious approach.


Time Shift Your TV – Ken Burns’ ‘The Address’

Monday, April 21st, 2014



the address

Ken Burns loves to delve into history. His 1990 miniseries documentary on The Civil War was the most-watched program ever on PBS.

In a new 90-minute documentary, The Address, he is focusing on Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address of Nov. 19, 1863. But The Address isn’t really about Lincoln.

It’s about the all-male Greenwood School in Putney, Vt., where boys who struggle with learning disabilities each year are challenged to memorize and recite the famous speech in front of students, faculty and parents. Those who do receive a special commemorative coin. It’s been a tradition at the school since 1978.

Melding history, using black and white photos from Lincoln’s time, to footage taken at the school now, Burns shows how what may seem like a simple task – memorizing 272 words – isn’t simple or easy at all, especially for these boys, who have dyslexia, attention-deficit, speech disorders and other issues.

What is especially interesting about the documentary is seeing the amazing one-on-one attention the boys receive at the school (tuition for a year is $53, 475). Teachers are patient and supportive as the kids struggle to focus and remember the words that sometimes seem to make no sense.

Even though it’s hard not to think about all the kids who can’t afford such a special education, it’s impossible not to be moved by all that Burns shows in the documentary – from the boys and how they think and act to the triumphant end speeches.

You can check your local listings for repeat airings of The Address, and you can watch the film in its entirety at