Saturday, May 29, 2010

Not for human consumption

I went fishing this afternoon. 

On the way to Willard Bay, I stopped at Maverik and got a Styrofoam container full of mud balls and a dozen night crawlers. 

When I got on the water I set up a bottom bouncer weight with a double worm hook.  When I pulled the top off the worm can, I read the label.  "NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION"

OK, lets get this straight.  We aren't supposed to eat the worms.  I kind of thought that was self-explanetary.   

So I baited my hook and cast it into the water.  Then my mind started racing.  I've heard that for every disclaimer there was an associated lawsuit. People hire attorneys for every conceivable shortcoming.  I just heard about a lady suing an airline because she fell asleep on her flight and the stewardess failed to wake her.  She was on the plane four hours after it landed, still sleeping.  I don't think she has a case.

Then I remembered McDonalds getting sued for a woman spilling hot coffee between her legs.  That is why all the coffee cups now say, "CAUTION: CONTENTS MAY BE HOT"

So now my Styrofoam worm can says "NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION"  What human ate the night crawlers and then sued the worm company?  Whoever wins a lawsuit like that should have to wear a sign for the rest of their lives that says, "WARNING, I REQUIRE SUPERFLUOUS DISCLAIMERS FOR MY OWN SURVIVAL"  The back of the sign would need to say, "NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION" 

Friday, May 28, 2010

The day our bus-boy tried to kill our newborn

Six years ago we brought home our youngest child. 

After three weeks at home with a newborn and two toddlers, my wife was stir crazy.  She wanted to take the family out to dinner on Saturday night.  She was craving meat so we headed north to a great steak-house up the road a bit from North Ogden. 

Our toddlers were acting extraordinarily well-behaved that evening, as they sat and played with their toys, but our newborn was fussy.  He wasn't crying or screaming by any means, but he was making louder than normal baby noises. 

Our waitress came and took our order.  We ordered half a cow as I rocked our baby in my arms to try to keep him quiet.  A few restless minutes passed and a buss-boy came to our table and set down a two-inch tall miniature bottle of warm baby formula.  He turned and walked away.

I held up the bottle and inspected its contents.  "Wow, you go to a fancy steak-house and they bring your newborn a drink too.  That's pretty cool.  Do you think he is being too fussy?  Do you think they are trying to politely tell us to shut our kid up?"

"Can I see it?"  One of my toddlers asked, reaching past my outstretched arm.

"No, it's not a toy, it's for the baby."  I responded, holding the bottle out of reach.  I set the bottle down on the end of the table where the check is usually dropped off so it wouldn't be disturbed.

Several minutes passed and the baby and the toddlers grew restless.  It was a busy night and our meal was delayed. 

"It's gonna be a while.  You haven't fed the baby yet.  Why don't you feed him the bottle?"  My wife asked.

"That sounds fun."  I reached over and popped the clear cap off the top with one hand.  The lid bounced around on the table and fell onto my older son's lap.  He looked up and smiled.  He looked back down and filled the lid with Lego's.

The babies head jerked around to the touch of the nipple to his cheek.  He latched on.  His lips settled into a steady rhythm and I leaned back, enjoying my family.  I looked up and smiled at my wife.  She winked at me.  We were prepared to last a few more minutes without nourishment.

Just when we expected our food to arrive, the restaurant manager came to our table with an expression that feared a lawsuit.

"Good evening," her voice cracked.  "I don't know how to say this, but that bottle was supposed to go to a different table.  A customer gave the bottle to a waitress who gave it to a cook to warm up, who gave it to a bus-boy to return it to the customer, but he saw your baby and gave it to you on accident."

I pulled the near-empty bottle from the babies mouth.  "Tell me that was formula." I said as my head rolled back and my eyes widened.  I set the bottle down on the table and the manager picked it up. 

"Yes, I'm pretty sure it was just formula."  she replied.

There was silence for a moment as I stared at my wife and looked down at my newborn son, questioning my ability to use common sense. 

"Well, lets find out what was in the bottle I just fed my newborn."  I demanded in a whisper.

"I'll do that sir, I'll be right back."  She walked away with the empty bottle in her hand.

I shook my head while staring at my wife.  "That thing sat right on the edge of our table for ten minutes without being touched.  She's probably wondering what kind of idiot puts a random bottle in their kids mouth.  It looked like a disposable bottle, a little one use thing you would just throw away.  We've never taken a baby to a nice restaurant before.  Oh, this is just unreal."
A few minutes later the manager returned with the look of someone who just lost a lawsuit.  "It wasn't formula."

We ate half a cow while wondering what to do next.  The baby fell asleep, totally oblivious to blood-borne illnesses and STD's. 

We got a chance to talk to our baby's surrogate milk donor.  It turned out she was a nurse at Primary Children's Hospital.  She worked with children who had compromised immune systems.  She had regular blood work done for her job.  She told us we couldn't ask for a better milk donor.  Somehow I believed her.

I sometimes wonder if what we considered to be an act of complete stupidity didn't help our son.  Maybe she passed an important antibody to our son.  Maybe his surrogate milk donor helped him avoid a serious disease.  Sometimes what seems like a curse is really a blessing.

We ate at that steak-house again with our three kids last month.  We ordered a whole cow that time.  I avoided the temptation to order a miniature bottle of breast milk.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Who's breastmilk is in my freezer?

I work from home and I eat lunch around two in the afternoon. Today at around 1:45 p.m. I opened the freezer door with my left hand and the refrigerator door with my right to take in the full view of available snackage. I had in mind to get some hot-pockets but was distracted by what looked like a white rectangular astronaut drink pouch straight from N.A.S.A.

"What the heck is this?" I said out loud to myself. No one was home to hear me. I tipped it over to find a date handwritten in permanent marker on the side. My hand immediately shot back as if it had run into spiderwebs under a couch. It was some one's frozen breast milk container.

I stepped back from the refrigerator and swung the doors shut. I wondered how milk could startle me. We drink four gallons a week at my house, how could a little frozen bag make me jump?

My mind went into overdrive. My youngest is six, so it definitely wasn't from my wife. I tried to figure out how many suckling children had been in my house lately and which one of them left their lunch in my freezer. Overcome with hunger, I gave up on the question and went back to eating.

I decided against the hot pockets. To get to them I would have had to face the astronaut drink pouch in the freezer again. I decided on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The raw materials for that meal were on the other side of the kitchen.

I did, however, eat lunch with a tall ice cold glass of cow's milk. I thought I could use the calcium.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What makes your life worth living? Why not just roll over and die?

What makes your life worth living. Why not just roll over and die? Here is the list I started before my daughter was born 11 years ago of things that make my life worth living:

1. Emily’s fluttering eyes
2. Puppies
3. Dogs
4. Lizards eating moths after chasing them down
5. Catching really big fish on lakes where there are “no fish”
6. Buying any kind of gear
7. Emily’s curly brown hair
8. Big Stores
9. My mom’s lasagna
10. Back massages
11. Foot massages
12. “Other” massages
13. Sparkling apple cider
14. Pet stores
15. A spotless house
16. Video games
17. Dinosaur toys
18. Rock and Roll
19. Books
20. Jets
21. Building models
22. Shoot ‘em up movies
23. Pet stores
24. Emily’s kisses
25. When it’s so clean you don’t have to wipe
26. Lingerie
27. High test scores
28. Correct answers that were well thought out from difficult questions
29. Bubbles
30. The ocean
31. Being up and working before the sun is
32. Sunrises
33. Fresh snowfall
34. Baseball
35. Reading Stimulating literature
36. Physics
37. Titanic the movie
38. Speaking Russian
39. “You’ve got mail”
40. Nikki-dog
41. Jogging
42. Hiking
43. Sleeping like spoons
44. Rex and Torque the lizards
45. Being right
46. “A’s” (grades not the team)
47. Emily’s cute-sy look
48. Hitting home runs
49. Blocking home plate so well that the runner never gets within two feet of the plate
50. The dream of hitting a baseball into Hartman’s pool from Fohi’s field
51. Carrie’s smiles
52. Carrie’s laugh
53. Baby “bubbles” (the ones they make with drool)
54. Carrie’s blue eyes
55. A good night’s sleep
56. “Jane’s F-15” flight simulator
57. Wingman interceptor flight controller
58. Walks with Carrie
59. Geckos
60. Science
61. Cookie dough and moose tracks ice cream
62. Scouting
63. Sunrises on campouts
64. Toys
65. Toy section at the store
66. Tool section at Sears
67. Victoria’s Secret
68. New books
69. Lizard stuff
70. Bed time
71. Frisbee football
72. Mail order CD’s
73. IBC Root beer
74. Reptiles magazine
75. Jogging strollers
76. Being Naked
77. Skinny dipping
78. Understanding an entire Chemistry lecture
79. Watching Emily breastfeed
80. Carrie trying to crawl
81. Carrie sticking out her tongue
82. Carrie sucking on her top lip
83. Insects
84. Stars on a clear night
85. Locking the door after work
86. Showing Carrie off
87. Showing off pictures of Carrie
88. Watching live minor league pro baseball games
89. Ballets
90. Ballet goggles
91. The board game Risk
92. James and Blake’s “alliance” in Risk
93. Jurassic Park and Lost World (books and movies)
94. Candlelight dinner after work
95. Carries Crinkly nose
99. Carrie humming while eating
100. Carrie playing chase
101. Carrie Playing peek-a-boo
102. Being able to see the mountains in California (no smog days)
103. When the checkbook balances
104. Payday
105. Carrie saying “dog” and her excited look
106. White-wings paper airplanes
107. Watching lizards eat crickets
108. Seeing Emily dance naked
109. My multi-meter and ammeter
110. Having enough work to make lots of money
111. Having my dad say he’s proud of me.
112. Being satisfied at the end of a day
113. Watching young scouts come together in a time of emergency
114. Christopher’s dimples
115. Looking at Christopher’s eyes
116. Playing anything with Carrie
117. Tic-tac-toe with Carrie
118. Watching the stars with Carrie and having her fall asleep in my arms
119. Commission!
120. 500 crickets in a box on my doorstep (lizard food for my breeding colonies)
121. A Blake-clean house
122. Fixing a problem in record time with no hang-ups
123. Kristine’s hugs
124. Snapping my sister’s bra
125. My dad’s handshake and smile after shooting my first deer
126. Craftsman tools
127. My air compressor and shop vac
128. Root beer
129. Macaroons
130. Emily’s lasagna
131. Em in a bikini
132. Long talks with my mom at 2-4 am
133. Monetary gratuity
134. Watching Carrie hold up her snake saying “FUFFY” (the snake’s name was Fluffy)
135. Hearing Carrie say “Izard” when she wants to go to the garage to hold the lizards and watching her hold both hands out in anticipation
136. Em’s long hair
137. When Em packs a lunch for me
138. Seeing Evan get married
139. Christopher’s “Webster” laugh
140. Watching Chris run
141. Tickling my kids
142. Chris running to me with two bar clamps, handing me one and making a light –saber clashing noise
143. Chris’ fascination with airplanes
144. Chris saying “ug” when he sees a bug
145. Carrie and Chris’ workbench
146. Model rockets
147. Being the one in the neighborhood the boys catch snakes for
148. Carrie calling me at work and saying with a gasp, “Uhhh! It’s Daddy!”
149. My outdoor fish pond
150. Reading
151. Getting my college diploma
152. Business potential
153. Hummingbirds fighting over my yard
154. The way it feels when a goldfish nips at your finger
155. Chris’ black eyes
156. Big, well-trained German Shepherds
157. Getting certified to work with Freon
158. Being out of debt
159. The “Bed of Roses” Soundtrack
160. My three car garage
161. My rocket launching system
162. The first house we bid on falling through (got us in this house)
163. This house working out
164. My reptile room
165. Being the only Russian speaking appliance repairman with a Bachelor’s of Science in Animal Science in the entire world.
166. Smallville
167. Adam Sandler movies
168. The dog run
169. Automated sprinklers
170. Movie family night at the outdoor amphitheater in Ogden
171. Palm pilots
172. Glide recovery rockets
173. Radio shack
174. Finding out that Em is pregnant
175. Riding lawn mowers
176. Knowing that reptiles are coming out of hibernation
177. Snake tongs
178. Lizard nooses
179. Affecting young men in a positive way
180. Sports cars
181. Big trucks
182. Jars of Clay: Little Drummer boy song
183. Rocky Movies
184. The undying resolve to never give up
185. Staying up late to think
186. Chris standing by my bed and staring when I wake up
187. Carrie’s smiles
188. Riding Garden Tractors
189. Fixing microwaves in my shop
190. Garden tractor wagons
191. Egg lofting rocket competitions
192. Rock-sim software
193. Father-son campouts
194. Carrie smiling and sprinting to me across the yard when she see’s I’m home
195. Hearing the pipes in the basement crackle and knowing Emily is getting out of the bathtub
196. Coleman falling asleep in my basement office with a blanket
197. Hitting waffle balls with kids
198. Air rockets
199. Winning the egg-lofting contest
200. Geocaching
201. Breaking records with my business
202. Seeing a competitor’s magnet on the refrigerator I’m working on.
203. “Escape-pod adventures”
204. Dutch oven cooking for family
205. Chris wanting to play computer games
206. Chris asking if today is a work day and me saying ”no”.
207. E-bay
208. Being my own boss
209. Creating a successful business
210. Knowing my competition
211. Taking my dog backpacking
212. Air-shows
213. The F-22
214. Central air (don’t have yet)…so Swamp coolers
215. When my yard is topped off
216. Finding good employees
217. Baying bills the day they come
218. Netflix
219. Jennifer Garner movies
220. Girls with Sai’s (the weapon)
221. Glocks
222. Concealed carry permits
223. Tactical batons
224. Light/laser attachment for Glocks
225. Walking on a frozen lake
226. Ice fishing
227. Sonar
228. “The Pelican” 10 foot plastic boat
229. Cache doing a 200 yard blind retrieve
230. Cache coming out of thick brush with a duck in his mouth
231. Watching Carrie catch a 6 pound 3 ounce Wiper – her first fish
232. Watching Chris catch his first fish, a rainbow trout, through the ice
233. 15 passenger vans
234. Klondike campouts
235. People asking who trained my dog
236. Taking my dog into restaurants as a service dog
237. Headlamp flashlights
238. Butterfly crescent kicks
239. Step up side kicks
240. Sparring
241. Watching Carrie spar against two boys
242. Sparring with Emily
243. Gina Carano fights
244. The ferrets attacking Emily’s socks
245. The ferrets stealing tennis balls.
246. Coleman asking if we can cuddle
247. Coleman wanting to help fix his bike so he can ride

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sardines and six-year-olds

It must be close to payday because we are down to sardines and crackers for lunch. 

Actually,  payday was supposed to be last Friday but we are self-employed and there is no money to pay ourselves yet.  So, we are eating the sardines from our food storage.

Actually, I am the only one who eats sardines.  They remind me of camp outs as a teenager.  I don't know why we thought sardines were good camping food.  They are messy, they stink up the campsite, and invite bears.  Then you are stuck with the stupid can and the blade of a lid trying to stab you until you get back home to a real trash can. 

My six-year-old was fascinated by his father eating whole fish on crackers and he wanted to try some.  With salt.  (Because everything is better with salt!)  He got his own can and stuck his finger through the loop.  He pulled pin, detonating the sardine juice grenade.  Sardine shrapnel flew onto the table and onto the shirt he was planning on wearing to afternoon Kindergarten.  Yes, my kid is the stinky kid in class. 

After cleaning up the carnage, we built a sardine sandwich.  I watched his face closely.  His eyes were full of trepidation as he stared at the cracker coffin with a fish on top.  He looked like he wouldn't have been surprised if the fish started flopping around and hopped right off the table.  It took him a second to gather enough courage to try it.  He stuck his tongue out and touched it to the side of the fish. 

"Dad, it's cold."  He said, surprised.

"Of course it's cold.  You don't warm up sardines."

He took a little bite and chewed with a pucker on his lips.  I waited to see if he would run for the trash can or keep it down.  He swallowed and took a bigger bite.  With the full sardine flavor in his mouth he squinted.  I handed him another cracker to neutralize the taste. He finished his snack and looked up at me, wiping the fish juices on his shirt with his fingers fully extended. 

"Dad, I don't really like sardines."  He said.  "But it is sure fun to open the cans."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Did it bite me?

It was late Friday night.  My wife and I were cuddling on the couch and enjoying a movie.  The kids were in bed, asleep.  It was 9:00 p.m. and the sun was setting.  We heard voices on the driveway and I paused the movie to see what was going on. 

I peaked out the window and saw five boys crouched in a tight circle on my driveway.  I opened the front door and called out, "Hey there gentlemen.  What are you up to tonight?"

"We know you like snakes so we brought you one."

I smiled and skipped down from the porch over to the breaking huddle.  I looked down in the twilight and felt my heart stop for a second.  My smile evaporated.  They were all in striking distance of a baby rattlesnake.  

"Boys get back that's a rattler."  I tried to say with a calm tone.

The boys shifted back and the rattler coiled up. 

"Did it bite me?  Did it bite me?"  One of the boys yelled out as he patted himself down like a spider was in his shirt. 

"If it bit you you'd know it.  Stay back.  How did you get it on my driveway?"

"It was slithering across the street.  It didn't rattle at us, so we thought it wasn't poisonous.  I took my shirt off and threw it over the snake and bundled it up.  It was just a block away from here."

"See its tail?  When they hatch there is no rattle.  Every time they shed they get a new knob and the knobs rattle against themselves when they shake their tails.  Look at the jaw, see how it looks like a pit-bull?  A head like that means it's venomous.  Watch it for a second while I get my snake tongs out of the garage.  Stay back!"

I returned moments later and put the rattler in a red five-gallon bucket with a twist on lid that was used as a shield.  I decided to keep the snake intact.  I needed to teach my kids what kind of snake was too dangerous to handle.  I filled the bucket with water and drowned the rattler.  I had leftover formaldehyde from college.  I used it to bottle the snake in a mason jar. 

An hour after we paused our movie, I presented the bottle to my wife.  She kept her distance as if the snake was still a danger to her in the jar.  I showed it to my kids in the morning.  They gained a new appreciation for something that lived near our home.

A couple of months later, while I was shopping, I came across a robotic rattlesnake that was motion activated.  It hissed, it's head struck, and the tail rattled when you passed in front of it.  I couldn't resist buying it and placing it in the refrigerator to scare my spouse.  It has scared her every time I put it in there.  I think she liked it because she never threw it away, she just threw it at me.  Those are good times dodging toy rattlesnakes from a scared wife.  I think it's about time to get that toy out of storage again.

NOTE:  Every year I get called in to catch one or two rattlesnakes from neighborhood yards.  Those snakes get to ride in the red bucket  to the top of the canyon where they are released back into the wilderness.  Many people have learned about rattlesnakes and their benefits through the bottled specimen.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Boys, flint and steel, and smoke

We just got home from our annual Father-Son camp-out with our Cub Scout pack, Boy Scout troop, and all the younger brothers.

I got there early with my boys. We set up the battery powered foam ball pitching machine. We enjoyed a couple of hours of batting practice before dinner was served. We ate chicken and chips and drank lemonade before the boys formed up by age group and disappeared. Some of the older boys went back to the pitching machine. A Nerf football game started, and some boys were playing laser tag. I sat down in the shade to rest for a few minutes in a collapsible blue camping chair. I chatted with a couple of the other dads that were there. We were discussing the subtle taste differences in the new Pepsi compared to when it was made with cane sugar. I can't taste the difference.

Then I saw something out of the corner of my eye. A cloud of white smoke funneled up from a grove of trees next to the picnic tables. Through the trunks of the aspens I made out the shape of half a dozen younger boys surrounding a small fire.

I looked over at the dad next to me. His eyes met mine and he said, "Don't look at me, my boys are grown up, that's gotta be your kids." He laughed a nostalgic chuckle that made me look forward to being a couple of decades older.

I pushed myself up from the chair and trotted over to the plume of smoke. My six-year-old was crouched down next to a small circle of rocks they used to make a fire pit. He was feeding the small fire one pine needle at a time with a look of pure delight on his face.

"What are you boys doing?" I asked.

"Brock's Dad said we could start a fire." My son looked up with no guilt in his eyes. He was either becoming a seasoned liar, or he truly believed he had permission to build a fire.

"I'm pretty sure he didn't want a fire next to all these trees."

"But we brought water to put it out." My son said as he went from crouching to kneeling. He reached for a little Dixie cup full of water. It might have been big enough to hold two shot glasses of liquid.

"I'm glad you are being safe. Poor it on the fire and build a new one in the big fire pit over there." I pointed past my camp seat to the big fire pit.

My son poured the water onto their small fire. I was surprised to see it go out so easily. One of the other boys immediately pulled a flint and steel kit from his pocket and dropped to a knee where he proceeded to launch sparks into the muddy remnants of their fire. His face squinted with determination, like a medic doing CPR on a child, determined to restore the flame of life. After several strikes he let out a deep sigh and his shoulders drooped. I restrained the desire to call out the time of death.

He took another breath and jumped up as the team effort came back to life. "I'll get more pine needles." My son called out.

"I'll get more paper." The boy with the flint and steel responded as he bee-lined for his tent. "Everyone else get more sticks." He yelled over his shoulder as the group scattered.

I went back to my seat. The other dad was still laughing at me. We quit talking about sugar cane and tried to determine how young is too young to give a boy a piece of fire starting equipment. He was pretty adamant that I was still too young for that kind of thing.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rocket propelled eggs

Every May for the past eight years our scout troop puts on a unique event. Each time we witness men and boys diving for cover as fresh grade A eggs fall from the sky with incredible speed.

It's our eighth annual Father-son egg-lofting contest.

A couple of weeks before the contest we start building the egg-lofting rockets. Kits are distributed to around twenty father-son teams. My two boys each get a kit.

I'm a little eccentric. To help me build a better rocket I bought a model rocket flight simulator program. It lets me simulate changes in the parameters of the rocket such as the fin shape and rocket size to improve my flights. My wife thinks I'm crazy.

My son's enjoy building rockets. First they build the payload compartment that holds and protects the egg during the flight. They glue the motor assembly together and mount it in the rocket body. Then they glue the fins on the sides with elementary-school finesse. I follow them with a rag to wipe off the dripping glue and to help straighten everything out. After the glue sets, the boys use spray cans to create a strangely patchy, yet runny paint job that would make any auto body-shop employee cringe. But hey, it's their rocket and as long as it is glued together correctly I don't care how it looks. Structural integrity is the only thing that is important when you are sending an egg into the atmosphere at 120 miles per hour.

The day of the launch is pure excitement. We normally camp overnight and by ten o'clock in the morning on Saturday the boy's excitement peaks. I built a five lane rocket-launching system to speed up preparations. Five rockets can be prepared to launch simultaneously. Then we launch one rocket at a time and use a stop-watch to see how long each stays airborne. The team with the rocket that stays airborne the longest is the winner.

The most interesting launches are over in seconds. The rockets achieve an altitude of around 500 feet before the parachute deploys. Sometimes the parachute doesn't open and the egg comes drops back to earth with impressive promptness. We have an award for the most scrambled egg.

It is also amusing when the wind pushes a parachuting rocket over the forest, never to be seen again, with a father and son running together across the field in hot pursuit.

Occasionally a rocket malfunctions and never leaves the pad. The resulting smoldering heap is carried away with outstretched arms like it's an injured family pet.

In spite of the lawn darts and catastrophic take-offs, the event is a thrill to everyone in attendance. The grand prize is a three foot tall progressive trophy. It has granite eggs on top of pillars and a post to mount the winning rocket on top. The winning team keeps the trophy for the year. The winner's name is engraved on the trophy and it is passed on to the next year's winner.

My name hasn't been on the trophy in eight years. I need to go run some more rocket simulations. Maybe my wife is right...

Monday, May 10, 2010

The day my mom attacked me with a broom

Mother's Day brings back lots of memories.

I tripped over a broom in the kitchen yesterday and remembered a little incident with my mom twenty-something years ago.

My mom was usually pretty calm, but some things put her into a frenzy. I weighed 180 pounds by the time I entered eighth grade and she gave up on trying to physically punish me. She liked to talk and her replacement punishment was to lecture me. It was an effective disciplinary technique that I dreaded as a teenager. I would have preferred a good paddling and being on my way.

Once in a while I pushed her too far. That was the situation on a spring day after school when I was in Jr. High. I can't remember what I was accused of, but I was probably guilty. I was so guilty that my mom gave up on the lecture and chased me upstairs to my room with a kitchen broom. She was pretty upset. There was rage in her eyes. The amazing part was that she chased me up the stairs and managed to grab a broom on the way faster than I could get in my room and lock the door. She must have been skipping stairs.

I was nervous about being hit by a broomstick so I took a safe position on the far side of my bed. That's when she decided to try to knock the model airplanes off my wall with her weapon.

I spun around the end of the bed and grabbed the broom. She was hell-bent on getting it back so I broke it in half with my knee. For some reason, at the time, I thought breaking the broom would save the models, even though they were low enough to be hit without a weapon, and she was just bluffing. Lucky for me she switched focus from the models to the broom when it split in half.

"That's it! I've had it. You are buying a new @#$%&* broom." My mom was only guilty of swearing while brandishing a weapon. I can't remember her ever getting mad enough to swear at anyone but me. I have that effect on women.

The models were safe that day and I did end up buying her a new broom. It was a nicer one than she had before and it came with a dustpan. I felt bad for driving her crazy.

In spite of the battles and the rough patches, my mom and I were always very close. She was usually awake when I got home and we would often sit and talk for hours.

Now I live twelve hours away and we still talk on the phone for hours. Now she laughs at me when I am in a rage for something my kids have done. There is a hint of reserved, "You deserve it," in her laugh. I probably do.

Thanks for putting up with me mom. I love you.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The diabolical woman who invented cushy toilet seat covers

Women are diabolical. If they can't get men to comply voluntarily, they move to compulsion. It was a woman who invented the cushy shag toilet-seat cover.

Let's analyze this for a second. How many people sit on a closed toilet seat? Let's count them.


That's right folks, no one sits on a closed toilet seat. Putting a cushy little earth-tone cover on it has no functional purpose except to frustrate bladder-challenged males. You see, toilet-seat covers have only one function: To keep the toilet-seat down. But it comes at a cost.

Men pee standing up. When you put a stupid cover on the toilet seat it spring loads that sucker and won't let it stay open. How many men have thrown their backs out while holding a spring loaded toilet seat open with one knee while trying to parallel park in the little space next to the porcelain throne? This orientation puts us shooting at the narrow aspect of the toilet. Does the word 'over spray' have any significance to you? They should sell spy cameras on the cushy toilet seat cover aisle. The ensuing footage would be worth some money.

And, no ladies, sitting down to pee would not be easier.

I would like all the men out there to join me in a little rebellion. Any time you come across a toilet with a cushy seat cover impeding your urinary freedoms, please remove the seat completely and hide it somewhere. Don't worry, hiding that little furnishing for a day or two should guarantee a cease fire. You'll never have to pee with a balancing knee in the air again.

But if the cushy toilet seat cover comes back, we move to phase two: urinating in the sink. The sink is safer. Workers Comp doesn't cover injuries incurred while wrestling with a toilet seat cover.

Ladies, learn to work your toilet seat. It is not a complicated piece of equipment. If it is up, please move it to the down position before setting up for a landing. We don't even ask you to return it to the upright position when you are done.

I apologize in advance if this rebellion causes a diabolical woman to invent the bathroom sink cover with a cushy shag cover.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Parasites, crickets, and rattlesnake poop

I discovered an interest in cold-blooded animals as a Boy Scout. My patrol leader, Adam Weitzel, had me over to spend the night at his house. On his desk glowed a glass terrarium with plants, a water bowl, and two Anole lizards from Florida. He was raising them for the reptile study merit badge.

He handed me a small plastic cage full of crickets and showed me how to reach in and grab a cricket to feed the lizards. I dropped mine and we crawled around chasing the escapee. We released him into the lizard cage where he was devoured in a matter of seconds. It was a blast to feed them and I was sad when they were too bloated to eat another insect.

My mom didn’t know what she was getting into when she took me to buy my first Anole lizard the next weekend. She learned to hate it when I came downstairs and told her I was out of crickets. One more errand to run. Thanks to my mom the lizards survived and I earned the reptile study merit badge in the months that followed.

My interest in reptiles continued into college. I started a gecko breeding colony that devoured a shipment of five hundred live crickets every two weeks. My wife learned to hate when I told her we were out of crickets. Buying five hundred at a time got to be a little expensive. Not to mention, our living room sounded like a tropical rain forest.

My senior project for my Animal Science degree was on parasites of reptiles. I met a Professor on the Internet who had access to an electron microscope. I sent preserved lizard mites to his lab in Hawaii. I collected the mites from the arm-pits of local lizards I caught in undeveloped dusty fields in Southern California. He sent me electron microscope images of the mites months later. The detail of the pictures was breathtaking. It was hard to believe something barely visible to the naked eye had large hairs on its body.

While waiting for my images to come back from Hawaii, I was taking an upper level Herpetology course that had a weekend field trip to the Mojave Desert. Twenty college students armed themselves with snake tongs and buckets. We were determined to catch as many reptiles as we could find in two days.

Sidewinders are the only snakes that leave “footprints”. We came across some sidewinder tracks in the sand and followed them to see where they went. At the end of one of his tracks was a perfectly formed sidewinder stool sample. It contained the undigested portion of his last meal. I jumped up and down in excitement as I pulled a sterile vial from my pack. A sidewinder poop was just what I needed for my parasite presentation. I zipped it in a protected pocket like a prized gemstone. You don’t get to bottle rattlesnake poop every day.

I jumped up and down again when I got to the lab. Under a camera microscope, I took images of a microscopic intestinal parasite, from the diluted stool of a sidewinder rattlesnake. That image was the trophy of my presentation.

I still enjoy watching reptiles and amphibians feed. Now I’m the merit badge counselor for the reptile study merit badge. I just realized I’m out of crickets.

S.E.M. image above taken by Dennis Kunkel. All other images by Blake C. Goddard

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

It works just fine

I bought a twelve foot by seven foot flatbed trailer from a neighbor last weekend. He told me it was working just fine. I believed him. I knew the lights worked on it last year because I went hunting with him and the trailer. A lot can happen to a trailer sitting outside all winter though.

"It works just fine," is a copyrighted phrase held dear by people who have yard sales, used car salesmen, and middle-age men on their eighth marriages.

All I wanted to do was haul off a load of branches from my yard. I loaded up the trailer with pine boughs until it was full and hitched it to my van at noon. I didn't know I would be troubleshooting trailer lights until dark.

It turned out I had multiple problems. They started in the wire harness on my van. Two wires were broken there. The connections on the trailer plug had some corrosion so I changed those, and I found three burned out running lights on the flatbed. Trips to three different auto parts stores to find the right bulbs, and two Cherry Slurpees later, I fixed the problems and turned on the lights. They all lit up and I did a little victory dance on the dark street. I was overly proud of my electrical prowess. My victory dance took me around the trailer as I inspected each light, chanting, "I'm the man... I'm the man."

Then I turned on the blinkers. All the lights started flashing under the pine boughs like a wacky trailer shaped Christmas tree. I kicked the tire and murmured under my breath something about the similarities between my trailer and human feces.

Half an hour later of Internet research I learned a few things to check. I cleaned the ground wires connecting the trailer frame to the frame of my van and said a little prayer asking for forgiveness for comparing my new trailer to something I wanted to flush. I hit the blinker and at eleven o'clock on a Saturday night, I fist pumped the air. All the functions were working properly.

Now I can say, "It works just fine."

Monday, May 3, 2010

Are you a species-ist?

The back planter in our yard has around fifty mature trees and bushes. Seven monstrous blue spruces managed to distress all the plants underneath them. Earlier in the month, after all the snow melted from the winter, my wife caught me staring out the back window with my hands on my hips. She had a honey-do list in her hand, but put it away when she realized I had a big project on my plate. She wasn't surprised to see me walking across the yard five minutes later with a wagon full of yard implements in tow.

It took me the better part of two Saturdays to fill the trailer with branches four times and to develop an allergy to pine sap. I didn't actually knock any trees down, I just lopped any branch I couldn't kneel under. My kids loved it. The boys were thrilled to have a new "fort" under the west trees, and my daughter was excited to have a shaded picnic area on the east side. I found a ball we lost before my six-year-old was born. I should prune more often.

Since I live on a corner, I get to chat with people out on walks. Three different strolling neighbors accused me of destroying the "Quail Habitat".

Now, just for the record, quail visit my feeders but don't nest in my yard, even when it's overgrown. We have six bird-seed feeders, five hummingbird feeders, and a squirrel feeder. I invite many species into my yard. If anything, I was destroying "Spider Habitat" under those trees. Where are the angry mobs and picketers when spiders are losing their homes? Don't they have feelings too? Where is the outrage for arachnids when an evil person cleans up his yard?

Why are people more connected to animals that are furry and fluffy? Are we all species-ists? Do we favor some species over others? Or do we dislike what we are afraid of or don't understand?

Being accused of destroying the quail habitat got me thinking about what species I don't actually want in my yard. I can do without mosquitoes. I don't let them live on purpose. And I don't have a mountain lion feeder in my yard either. I'd rather eat chicken than snake. Well, I guess I am a species-ist. Are you?