My abbreviated career in science

Along about the age of 12, I received a Gilbert #10 Microscope Set for Christmas. It contained a microscope, test tubes, some dry chemicals and slides, both prepared and blank so you could make your own. My family apparently had high hopes for my intellectual development as a great aunt had gotten me Tales Of Land & Sea, by Joseph Conrad for my birthday the previous fall. Joseph Conrad at 12? That’s like handing an infant a Rubik’s Cube.

First things first. Fireworks were illegal in Indiana, so gunpowder was the first order of business for the chemicals. As this wasn’t a chemistry set, the results were dismal. Gilbert actually made Atomic Energy kits too. Can you imagine? If this stuff was around today, kids would be making miniature IEDs to blow each other off their bicycles. We had a whole lot more fun looking at things through the microscope and looking for things to view under it. Blood was cool as I recall and one of us was always getting dinged or scratched on something. A smear of crushed, glowing firefly butt was interesting too unless you were the firefly. River water was another biggie with all of the miniature monsters swimming into and around each other like they were in a pinball machine. In time, it became harder to find subject matter that we hadn’t seen a hundred times before. Ah, but the raging hormones of puberty were about to save the day.

When I was a kid, in the 50s, your sexual information, I hate to use the word knowledge,  came from older guys, teenagers, if they weren’t too cool to talk to you at all. When they did, much of what they told you was horseshit. Maybe they’d actually done it, but back then, most of what they said they knew or couldn’t admit that they didn’t know, they’d gotten second or third hand and in all probability, that was horseshit too but hey, you work with what you’ve got. They had you and they knew it. You’re going to broach this subject at the supper table? It was the great unknown to us. We just knew that something made waves of heat shoot up the back of your neck when girls were around.

If you’ve read this far, you probably see where this is headed but you can relax, I will not delve into the particulars of pubescent male sexual exploration.

Being told by one of your “mentors” that you had millions of little organisms swimming around inside of your balls was pretty damned spooky to me, mostly because of all of those cheap Castle Films monster movies that I was addicted to back then. My bullshit detector was vibrating frantically so I decided that this needed verification. After all, I had a microscope. The first available moment of solitude I had, I made my slide. I’m sure that eventually I’d have made a slide on my own and may well have concluded that I had worms. How do you explain to your parents that A. You think you have worms. B. Why do you think so? and C. Let’s see.

Eventually, I came to grips (pun intended) with the idea that I had all of these guys inside me just bursting to get out. Swept up in the throes of puberty, I took every available opportunity to oblige them too, eventually being able to crush a coconut like a hen’s egg with my right arm. I thought, this was way too cool to keep to myself. Big mistake.

The responses I got from my friends were, “What do they look like?”, “What do they do?” and finally, “Can I try it?” What have I done? Shit!

Most Saturdays, if we were inside we hung out at my house, watching TV as both of my parents were working and it wasn’t long until I was asked by one of my buddies to let him try it. I gave him a slide and explained how to put them on it. Naturally, everyone had to take a turn. In private, of course. They all thought it was pretty cool too. After the show was over and everyone left, I took out the trash with the slides in it and burned it. I never felt the same about my poor microscope again, despite the hours of enjoyment I had gotten from it. Of course, I had a new found source of entertainment. I gingerly put it in its case, put the case in my closet and didn’t touch it again for what I felt was a prudent period of time. Months. Lots of them.

Thanks to the teenagers’ code of the 50s, we had to find out a lot of things the hard way. The beauty of being naive is the joy of discovery.

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Seniors Bingo.

A friend told me about the seniors’ center in my adopted hometown of Ferris, Texas, and, having had a lifelong fondness for old people and now a proud member of the club, I thought I’d check it out. Three days a week they serve lunch for $1. I go occasionally and as I’ve gotten to know them, one asked me to come and play bingo some Friday morning so, figuring I might pick up a little liquor money, I did.

First off, the city attorney won’t let them play for money, I guess lest it turn into a den of inequity. So they play for cans of food and tchochkes. I got my cards and took a seat. My fear that hearing would be a problem for some was confirmed immediately. There was a bit of confusion as a couple of ladies had to be helped keeping track of the proceedings and what game we were actually playing, with a number of false “Bingos!” and “No, Margaret, it’s this one over here” or “It’s B13 Emma, there ain’t no G 13” moments. Like an SNL routine but, that was just a warmup, the best was yet to come. One of the little numbered balls leaped out of the cage and hit the floor. Canes came out flying everywhere. It was a geriatric hockey face-off. That ball went all over the damned floor until it rolled by me and I stepped on it and retrieved it. If you were to piss some of these folks off, you could earn yourself a good caning. Then again, she may have dropped it on purpose to raise the excitement level. Later on, the phone rang and the lady in charge got up and answered it. “You need to talk louder”, she said so the lady calling the numbers obliged by yelling, G FORTY-ONE at about 110 decibels. Someone then mentioned to her that she was talking to the person on the phone.
What stayed with me was seeing firsthand the bond that age and their common infirmities have bestowed upon them.  Bingo.
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Kentucky Deluxe?

The first time I can recall seeing a drunk was when I was about 6, I’m guessing. I hit a trifecta plus one. I saw four.

My family had a grocery store in my hometown of Jonesboro, Indiana that was bookended by beer joints on both sides. One Saturday morning I was taking the trash out back to the burn barrel when a black 1948 Chevy four-door sedan pulled in behind Mick’s Tavern. After a minute or two, the doors flew open and four former Kentuckians wobbled out onto the cinders. Three of them had knives and the other had a hatchet. They stumbled and fell and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with them. Couldn’t understand much of what they said either which only added to my confusion. Scared the shit out of me, all of these armed men, speaking in a foreign tongue, staggering and flailing all over the place. Were they coming after me? The show was just getting started.

After some unintelligible discussion, one made his way around to the trunk, grabbed the t-handle and yanked it open. When he did, turtles went everywhere. Snapping turtles, mostly, with a couple of softshells. He just stood there, dazed and expressionless as all sizes of turtles poured over his legs and feet. Two very large ones among them, making a nasty hissing sound and generally scrambling in all directions, including mine. Either too scared or fascinated by the surreality of all this, I watched their drunken pursuit of their quarry all over the parking lot and down the alley. They would cuss and fall down, all the while attempting to behead their recalcitrant charges.

All this was all too much for my young eyes so I headed inside and asked my granddad what was happening out there. He knew them so he went out the back door and stood there in his classic stance, hands folded behind his back, as he monitored their progress. A couple of minutes later he came back in without comment. Late that afternoon, the tavern sent over a bowl of turtle soup for him.

Many years later, I found out from one of the participants, one Bill Turner, possibly one of the inadvertently funniest men I ever met, what had transpired. Seems they would fuel up on Kessler’s Reserve (whiskey) and go down to the river at night and “feel for turtles”. According to him, snapping turtles can’t snap downward so you run your hand along the bottom until you find one then you find a notch on the shell that tells you which end of the turtle you have. Most of the time they are facing away trying to hold themselves in their holes with their front legs and you just grab the tail and pull. Damn.

One question looms to this day. How did they get all of those pissed off turtles into the trunk?

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The NRA, not so much.

I’m a firm believer in the second amendment, especially these days. I’m also a firm believer that the NRA is the biggest threat to the second amendment. No one needs to buy an assault weapon every month or needs bullets that will penetrate a policeman’s vest. Unburdened by common sense, they need to pick their battles or lose the war. For all of us.

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Rescue groups? Really?

As much as I hate to rag on these people I’m having a lot of serious doubts about the motivation of many of the people that I have encountered in animal rescue groups and recently I was made aware of something that reinforces my view that most often, it’s about the people, not the animals.

It seems that many of these “rescue” groups cherry pick city shelters to get “adoptable” animals (mostly dogs) and try to find homes for them. While this sounds noble on its face, it does little to solve the problem at hand and that’s pet overpopulation and, therein lies the rub. I have yet to talk to anyone of these folks who show any interest in taking action to get spay and neuter laws enforced and these rescue groups, more than any other group, have the power and resources to get cities to move off their asses and deal with it. They have the animals and the volunteers to make something happen but they (in my experience) have shown no interest. Usually their my response to my query is, “You should contact XYZ Network, we don’t do that”.

Here’s what I’ve proposed to three rescue groups which relates directly to the power and resources that I mentioned. If they would band together with as many groups and volunteers (the numbers would be substantial) as they could muster, each with as many animals as they could safely manage (I can bring four, all former dumpees) and show up in front of say, Dallas City Hall ahead of a council meeting with the media in attendance. By showing the politicians and the citizenry what an even bigger problem they would have if these rescue groups weren’t taking some of the pressure off city shelters, they would make something happen. The response I got from them was pretty much, deer in the headlights.

So, even though what they do is worthy, it’s simply not enough. Seems to me that if the animals truly mattered to them, they’d want to put themselves out of a job. Unfortunately, I don’t see any of that.

I live in the country where dogs are dumped all of the time, including two which are now mine, and I want this to stop. Indeed, what prompted me to write this was finding a mother and her pup dumped at an abandoned gravel pit down the road. A friend and I tried to take them to the local SPCA and were told they were full. All area shelters are full. My friend offered to pay their fee and was told she could but they would have to euthanize two other dogs to make room for them. She adopted the mother and the pup is here with me and on Facebook while I try to find him a home. The one time I found a dog and worked through a rescue group, they threatened to take me to court because I found him a home, even though his new owner contacted them immediately (which is what prompted their ire) to see what her obligations were.

I really want to be wrong here.

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I am not Trayvon Martin.

First, if anyone jumped me from behind, slammed my face into the ground hard enough to break my nose and bust my head open, their race, age nor gender wouldn’t matter. If I had the means to, I would shoot them dead. But then I’m not a racist, just a stickler for good manners.

The media coverage of the Trayvon Martin case is race baiting if not racist. This little piece from a few days earlier somehow didn’t make the national news.

Tyrone Woodfork, a black male who — much like Trayvon Martin — looks like Obama’s son, allegedly killed Nancy Strait and broke her 90-year-old husband Bob’s jaw, several ribs and shot him in the face with a BB gun last month in Tulsa. 20-year-old Tyrone also raped the nearly blind 97-pound Mrs. Strait, a great-great-grandmother, before he murdered her.

I find it ironic in the extreme that so many blacks and whites claiming to be liberals, are calling for the lynching of George Zimmerman. In a high profile case like this, if there was any shred of evidence of his guilt, to he’d already be in jail. Political correctness is the real crime here. Or, at least the most obvious one. The New Black Panthers getting a free pass after putting a bounty on an American citizen speaks volumes about the racial bias of the present administration. One whom I voted for with high hopes.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Zimmerman was playing cowboy as a Crimewatch volunteer. He’s still innocent until proven guilty. The biggest casualty in this case is justice, unfortunately. Common sense is long dead.

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No vote redux.

I proposed not long ago on Facebook that the American people not vote for anyone for congress, senate or president this election in order to send an unmistakeable message to these people that we want them gone. All of them. If you think you can vote them out, you’re a fool. It cannot be done. One lament I have heard ever since I was old enough to vote, I am 64, was that you picked the lesser of two evils. So, how many more generations do you want to do that? Politics should not be a career path. That was not how America was designed. We were supposed to be a representative form of government but that bird has long since flown unless you’re a corporation that can pay lobbyists. Bribery is illegal so the government conveniently institutionalized it and calls it lobbying. Nice. The only way to get our government back, if we can, is to end politics as a career so, as I see it, if you vote for these people, of any political persuasion, you’re betraying your ancestors and dooming your children. The lack of votes will speak much louder than complacency. You have nothing to lose.

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