In a perfect world every child would get their own cow eyeball

Who doesn’t love neuroscience? For a couple of hours, every spring, we can’t imagine anyone not having fun with brain studies. These are the hours we spend at our university’s annual neuroscience fair.

The boys get to see some fun exhibits and collect a little free swag. I get to revisit my theory about the neurons in the heads of little boys. In a nutshell, this theory posits that random testosterone spikes surge up the spines of boys to the brain neurons, causing entire lunchrooms full of synapses to have violent slap fights, resulting in periods of frenzied naughtiness. I have yet to get any of the science fair officials to endorse my Theory of Frenzied Naughtiness, but it’s only a matter of time.

The big draw at the fair is the cow eye dissection. You have to sign up in advance of one of the dissection programs – cow eye supplies are limited. In the past we’ve always arrived after the sessions were full. This year we got there early and secured a pair of eyes for our family.

While we waited for our session to begin, the boys touched some brains, did some surgery, and invested in the longevity of their own fledgling cerebrums with free bike helmets. Free bike helmets and cow eyes – and I always thought the only perks early birds got were worms.

Ever wondered what a Zombie buffet looks like?

He preferred performing surgery on the cherry flavored brain.

Wrapping up some precious little noggins.

In the dissection room, we donned our rubber gloves. If you can get a two-year-old and a four-year-old into rubber gloves before the event is over, you earned your cow eye. Nobody deserved those eyes more than we did.

Big Man and Big Brother shared their eye with Mommy. Buster worked with me. You might think an eyeball would be a hard nut to crack with a little pair of scissors, but if you squeeze that bovine peeper tight in your other hand, you can snip your way into the gooey center without difficulty. It helped that a couple of strategic slits were pre-cut for us. I had to wonder who got the plum job of scoring a hundred eyeballs. They should get an A on their freshman midterm.

We put our two best surgeons on this case.

Look: there’s a toy surprise inside.

There were nice, big placemats for us to work on, but every time Big Brother had a question, he would carry his preservative-dripping eye over to me, trailing eyeball juice on the table. The scientists were tolerant; this must not have been their first experience with young surgeons.

Knowledge gained, we left the operating room to go paint a brain. I don’t know a better way to wind down from a tense operation than with a little light brain painting.

A little orange makes it think better.

Then we sampled a magical berry extract that makes lemons taste sweet. It was interesting, but I’m not sure I want sweet lemons. I’m just an old prude, clinging to my traditional values about citrus. Before I could break into a rant about how the younger generation and their newfangled science was ruining tart, my family took me home.

Meeting Robert E. Lee

When I was in 1st grade, I got up at 4:30 every morning. I put on my barn clothes, and after a quick bowl of Cream of Wheat, went off to milk cows with my parents. My teacher was also my neighbor, so when I put my head on my desk in the afternoon for a little nap, she let me rest. It didn’t harm my education. In fact, I often revived the technique during my college years to get through boring lectures.

I sometimes slept through the bits of free time we were given, but when I didn’t, I discovered two things that shaped my life.

The first was a puzzle of the United States. I practiced that puzzle until I could put it together without having to consider the pieces. The entire world became a puzzle to me; I studied maps until I could put the different colored pieces together in my mind. Unfortunately, this never helped me in a Spelling Bee, where I always found myself sitting down after the first round. Geography Bees weren’t a thing yet.

The second was a book: Meet Robert E. Lee, hardly the reading material you’d find in a 1st grade classroom these days.

I expect 1st grade book collections have changed since 1973.

It’s hard to pinpoint when love affairs begin, but the fact I remember this hints that it had something to do with kindling my interest in history. I wanted to know more about long-gone people and the lives they led. More than that, I wanted to read.

I checked out of the library a book called Rogers’ Rangers and the French & Indian War. It was a middle school book, and despite my not comprehending it very well, I read the whole thing. It inspired me to play French and Indian War games in my Cap’n Crunch – the yellow pieces were the French and the Crunch Berries were British. The milk was a reminder that I had to get up at 4:30 next morning.

I doubt this cover will be featured on the front of next month’s Scholastic catalog.

Why do I mention these things? Partly, it’s because I don’t have anything more interesting to mention this week. It’s also because all our boys will be in elementary or preschool next year. I’m hoping each of them will find something in school that makes his little synapses crackle and fires him with a hunger for knowledge.

It would be nice if whatever excites them inspires them to read, but maybe they’ll learn in different ways. The boys like maps and Big Brother has revered Mr. Lincoln since he was three, but it doesn’t have to be Geography or History that sparks them, though it would be nice to raise children with an appreciation for what came before them.

Speaking of what came before, I’m grateful General Lee lived a fascinating life that drew me into the past. I’m happy his team lost, but I don’t think he would harm today’s children any more than he harmed me. Rogers’ Rangers on the other hand, those guys were rough, firing off all their long words at a 6th grade reading level. They almost took me down.

 

 

Nothing says Winter like some long Summer days

It’s mid-March. That means a few noteworthy things.

Skunk mating season is winding down. If you don’t live in North America, this may not mean much to you. If you do live in North America, this may not mean much to you. If you live in the piece of North America where my house sits, this is a cause for celebration.

College Basketball – NCAA Championship Tournament. Even in a year when our team is expected to bow out quickly, this is the purpose of March.

Daylight Saving Time has begun. This is a lot like Groundhog Day, except instead of a rodent popping out of the ground, an obscure politician pops out of the woodwork to propose altering the practice of changing the clocks.

Some people love DST; some hate it. I don’t mind it, except for making it increasingly difficult to get the children to bed at a decent hour. Finally, our boys are old enough to go to bed all at the same time, without any fussing or crying. We just got the process perfected, and BOOM! – now it’s not dark at bedtime. It’s not bad so far because it’s almost dark. It’ll get more difficult every day.

Some have suggested hanging blackout curtains in the boys’ room. I was hoping to wait until I heard Zeppelin engines overhead before I invested in blackout paraphernalia. Speaking of the Germans, they were the first to institute DST. In WWI it was enacted to help their war effort.

Douse that sunlight! Here come the Zeppelins!

The Allies quickly glommed on, because in the early 19th century, when the Germans had an idea about making better war, you copied it.

Despite Daylight Saving Time’s success in helping Germany win the war, we eventually made it permanent.

“Here’s my fiendish plan: we trick them into setting their clocks ahead; their children won’t go to bed; that’s when we hit them!”

Blackout curtains might work if the boys lived in their room all the time. They don’t. They live in the entire house, where there are several windows. Even if their room is pitch black, they know in their little hearts it’s not dark outside. Therefore, this supposed bed time is a dirty fraud.

“Now children, we must all go to sleep for the war effort.”

It probably sounds like I’m complaining about DST, but I’m not. I like long summer days as well as the next guy whose kids don’t have school in the morning. What I’m complaining about is DST beginning in winter. There’s no good reason for this. I won’t see anybody dining al fresco tonight in spite of the natural light at dinner time.

DST used to start in late April, when it made sense to start it. By then you had earned extra daylight and the weather allowed you to enjoy it. The reassignment of light and dark wasn’t such a shock to the system. It had none of the folly of attempting to jump from February into May.

I think returning to an April start for DST would be a good compromise, but I’m not an obscure politician, so I guess I’ll keep my notions between myself and my closest Internet friends.

Basketball preempted by Japanese animation and one fast German lady

A few Christmases ago, my wife got me a wide-screen TV on which to watch sports. On a Sunday in early March, this should have been perfect for college basketball, except Big Brother was hogging my TV to binge watch Pokémon cartoons.

I’ll admit, there are many cartoons I enjoy, even at my advanced age, but Pokémon is not among them. I like some humor in cartoons, even if it’s just a little bit around the fringes. Pokémon contains almost as much humor as a Volkswagen repair manual.

There is one thing Pokémon does well. Unfortunately, that one thing is to encourage kids to spend their money on those annoying trading cards. In the ‘70s, Major League Baseball got me to throw my allowance at Topps trading cards, so I guess watching a new generation of waste is payback.

You wanna card battle, 21st century children? 1977 Willie Stargell would crush this young puppy.

Tiring of the Pokémon marathon, I got my iPad to see if I could find a basketball game to live stream. Browsing the sports listings, I noticed one of the channels I didn’t realize existed was broadcasting a biathlon race. I forgot about basketball and tapped to watch this.

I’ve previously made references to my secret childhood dreams of becoming an Olympic Nordic (cross-country) skier. In case you’re wondering, those dreams did not come to fruition. I was close though. The only thing I lacked was years of sacrifice and training. And perhaps athletic ability.

Nordic skiing is a great sport on its own, but then some nameless hero came along and made it into the absolutely awesome sport of biathlon by putting rifles into the skiers’ hands. Who wouldn’t want to ski and shoot? The only way it could possibly be better is if there were also a knife-throwing component.

Buster climbed onto my lap and watched the race with me. He is not as keen on skiing as I am, but he does like to see a good firearm in action.

The race was almost over. We watched all the Europeans sweat it out for the tops spots, with the traditional 8th place Canadian cracking the top 10 on behalf of North America, and only wild rumors of a United States representative far back among the workers packing up the beginning of the course.

At the end, the German racer broke away. “The German’s gonna win!” I exclaimed.

Buster pointed at the screen. “That guy’s German?”

“That lady’s German,” I corrected as she slid across the finish. “All the people in this race are ladies.”

The other racers came to the line. It was a tight finish for second among four racers.

“Wasn’t that great? Wouldn’t you love to win a race like that?” I asked Buster.

“No!” he said with disdain. “I don’t wanna be a German lady.”

I wonder how many other American boys have rejected the sport for the very same reason.

The B Team. A real German lady never takes her skis off to shoot.