Low Moments in How-To History


A good lesson in staging and paralleling tasks. Most of the time the material spends soaking or drying, which it can do unattended while the worker is occupied by another activity. Nobody is expected to watch a piece of wood soaking for half a day - that’s being done while the workers are outside and/or having fun with something else.


Tongue depressor xyloexplosives have this in abundance.


Isn’t this the kind of thing where the parent and/or activity coordinator would do ahead of time so all the kids have to do is paint/decorate their already formed bracelets? I doubt the direction calls for the kid’s complete attention for the entire 12 hour soak process.


I love this series. Taken with its reader comments, it is the A Good Cartoon of Boing Boing. With every installment, the commenters take this breezily negative humor column and challenge each other to reinterpret it in the best possible light. I often learn a lot about other peoples’ (and other generations’) low-budget creative ingenuity, and come away inspired.


You start soaking the tongue depressor in the morning before your child goes to school. Before dinner, you take it out of the water… hey, look, wood bends! Put it in a glass (one that will lead to the right-sized outcome) to dry overnight. Check it in the morning – nope, not quite dry. “But it will be tonight when you get home…” And then after school, your kid decorates it. And you can spray paint it if your kid thinks wood is too uncool to look like itself before it has stuff glued to it.

So maybe your criticism is a bit short on imagination? Or maybe part of what you’re saying is that a boy-stereotyped letter opener/weapon/shiv is just more interesting than a girl-stereotyped bracelet? Your column doesn’t usually have a sexist hook… but maybe this time. (Signed: An involved father of two girls.)


As someone who, as a kid, may or may not have launched Estes rockets with the fin glue still wet can attest, teaching kids that patience is required in order to produce a better outcome may not necessarily be a bad thing.


Can you not simply bring a pot of water to a boil, then cook the crap out of the tongue depressor for a few minutes? Works for pasta.

When we were kids we didn’t have Pong or any of those fancy video games, so when we were bored we just hooked the swing set to an electrical transformer.


Yeah, early on, I was thinking - don’t get relaxed and lean against the fence… that even impressed the firefighters. :wink:

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Tongue depressors? I had visions of some medieval torture device. Where I come from they’re called Lolly sticks.

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Literally slower than molasses in January.

That’s easier than you might think. The Boston Molasses Flood happened in January and the wave of molasses traveled in excess of 35 mph.


“Hey new guy, spray some water on that.”


Well, gee, why does Matt Maranian think they’re called tongue depressors, rather than, say, something as fun and uplifting as Lolly Sticks?

I never crafted with those as a kid, but I did make a few things with used Popsicle sticks, which look mostly the same, but are narrower (and often stained a light purple if they held a grape popsicle, which mine usually did).

We’d snip the end into a point with crappy scissors, give 'em a snazzy paint job with Magic Markers, maybe glue on a couple of outriggers, and race them down the streams of melting snow in the schoolyard the winter I lived in Montana. Great fun, until the Elmer’s glue melted in the water.

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And that, dear children, shows you the merits of five-minute epoxy.

(The right time for introduction to epoxy is when they stop eating the glue.)


That’s a classical example in industrial safety textbooks, storage tank failure chapters!

According to the graph here
molasses is not thixotropic. So the same viscosity regardless the shear rate. Otherwise it would flow faster once it becomes moving, and then sort-of set to high-viscosity once stopped, trapping the victims. But apparently the potential energy was enough to get the wave moving without need for such additional mechanism. Must have felt like being a wasp in honey…
See also
for more rheology fun.

You know, you could even do it the way TV cooking shows do. You think the audience sits there while the turkey roasts for four hours? They actually prepare a turkey and shove it in the oven, and then immediately produce another, finished turkey. It’s a masterpiece of misdirection, almost as good as the vanishing lady. You can actually do something similar with loli-whatevers, or tongue depressors as the civilized world calls them.

At 1:09 you see someone from the fire department almost touching the fence and then at 1:40 you see the fence start smoking furiously.

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Actually, tongue depressors are different to lolly/sucker sticks. Wider. I use them both as timber in scale modelling.

Nice to see that I’m not the only one who found this rant a bit confounding. Saying that kids don’t have the ability to plan and execute things over time would certainly have been news to my childhood gang, who planned, designed, and built a new fort in the woods every summer, which involved not only scouring our small town for materials but, one year, even encompassed the building of a booby-trapped “false fort” to foil the rival kid gang that tore ours down the previous summer. I don’t even want to get into the prep and process of putting together hand-painted model kits. Or are we to assume that the default age of “child” is about four?