Friday, October 28, 2011

The dirty dish dilemma

Ancient cooking pots reveal diet of 6000 year old Europeans. Well, not really 6000 year old Europeans, rather Europeans who lived 6000 years ago. Using complex chemical analysis of scraps of food left in cooking pots, scientist determined these people ate fish and other seafood. If there were any 6000 year olds around, scientists concede it would have been much easier to ask them what they ate for supper. They also postulate that the presence of fish and other seafood indicates these ancient Europeans did not start farming until more recently than 6000 years ago and up until then were primarily hunter-gatherers. Since hunter-gatherers is both a long word to type and hyphenated, I will refer to them as fishermen in the following paragraphs.

This information is extremely important to those who like to argue the corollary to “which came first the chicken or the egg?” question. That question being, which came first, the farmer or the fisherman? While people who argue the chicken/egg dilemma are better known than their counterparts in the farmer/fisherman camp, they often are accused of being scrambled eggheads.

The farmer/fisherman argument has a long history of violent rivalry. This is evidenced by the Biblical story of Cain and Able. God was displeased with Cain’s, the farmer, sacrifice but accepted Able’s, the keeper of animals, sacrifice. Cain, as you probably remember, was angry, took his brother out to a field and killed him; thus ended the first discussion of the merits of farming vs. fishing.

Although the animosity between farmers/fisherman has quieted down over the past few thousand years, there is still a sense of distrust between the two camps. From those who are vegetarian comes the cry, “How can you eat that sweet innocent creature?” This outburst is even greater at this time of year when hunters roam into the wooded areas to cull the herds of white-tailed deer here in the northeast. Now the cry is, “How can you hunt, kill, and eat Bambi?” Seriously folks, Bambi is a cartoon character. Just like the cucumber and tomato duo of Bob and Larry in the animated video series, “Veggie Tales.”

On the other side of the debate are the carnivores, or perhaps more correctly, omnivores, since most of us eat both meat and vegetables. This, however, is not a true omnivore. A true omnivore is a toddler, who will eat anything, meat, potatoes, vegetables, crayons, glue, shoelaces, and smaller children. It is, in fact, the toddler who, with tears in his eyes, would say to the vegetarian as they are munching on salad, “How can you eat Bob and Larry?”

In conclusion, it is obvious that this study has a fundamental flaw. The scientists failed to understand that they were studying the bowl of a bachelor. It is a well-established fact that bachelors do not properly load the dishwasher when they are finished using their bowls. My wife, like all other wives, is an expert on the loading of dishwashers and she consistently reinforces this lesson with our daughters and me. Do not leave your plates lying around, rinse them immediately; do not put dishes in the washer with food still on them because they will not come out clean.

It follows therefore, since the bowl had scraps of food left in it, that it was a bachelor’s bowl. Someone who was not blessed with the consistent reminders from a loving wife regarding the appropriate way to load a dishwasher. Let this be a warning to present day bachelors, clean your bowls thoroughly, or in 6000 years scientists will be poking around in your dirty dishes.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Eldest wants to be an engineer.

Recently, I confronted sexism, gender bias, or whatever you want to call it, at least in some small way.  I was at open house at Gates Chili High School, where Eldest and Middlest are students.  The plan for the evening was to follow the girls’ schedules, spending ten minutes in each class. Beloved followed Middlest’s schedule and I followed Eldest’s. Eldest is a senior and is taking seven Advanced Placement classes this semester. I do not mean to brag. Actually, I do mean to brag. She, like her mother, is beautiful, intelligent, and driven. She does not even have time in her schedule for lunch. Which I do not understand at all, since lunch was my best subject in school.

Perhaps, those of you who are parents have experienced the babbling of an infant that in a moment sounds like intelligent speech. I am not referring to the approximations of saying words that sound like mom or dad. I am talking that surprising moment in which it sounds as if an infant has spoken a complete sentence. For Eldest that first sentence came as she was laying next to her car seat, pushing it back and forth, looking under it as if it were an automobile on a lift. At that moment she said, “How’s it work?”

The intervening years have been filled with pens torn apart, unused 35mm cameras dismantled, even rewiring a bathroom. The most wonderful thing for me?  Sometimes she even lets me help.

At this open house, I followed Eldest’s schedule diligently. Going to all of her Advanced Placement (AP) classes, until I arrived at the one class she is taking that is not AP, “Principles of Engineering.” The teacher began to talk and I eagerly listened, until he said, “This is an excellent class, if your sons want to become engineers.”

I was dumbfounded, stupefied, flabbergasted, and so angry I had to consult a thesaurus to find words to describe my emotional state.  My daughter is many things, but a son is not one of them. She is taking seven AP classes, not even taking lunch. She has her college application process started and wants to do three years at Roberts Wesleyan College and two more at Rochester Institute of Technology. She wants to be an engineer. And she is not male; she is a beautiful young woman.

If the high school teacher not acknowledging that my daughter, who is most definitely not a male, could want to, and actually become, an engineer was not bad enough, a few days later she received a letter in the mail from the BSA. I tried to think where I had seen those initial before. Was it “Beautiful and Stunning Americans”? No, BSA is the Boy Scouts of America, and apparently, the local Boy Scouts of America are holding a series of meetings to explore what it means to be an engineer. The only connection with BSA that my daughter has is her scouting for a boy. I do not wish her to find one too soon however, so she will not be attending these meetings.

I did not realize becoming an engineer was so complicated and had such gender bias. I hope that when Eldest finally becomes an engineer she will give me a ride. I really like trains.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

If it's broke, fix it.

My dad firmly believed that nobody drinks enough water. Headaches were the result of not drinking enough water. Stomach ache? The surest cure was a frosty glass of water. Scraped knee? Drink more water. Arm gnawed off by a great white shark while surfing? Surely you must be dehydrated and need to drink more water.

Just as Dad believed water could cure any biological ill, he was firmly convinced he could fix any household item. Dad grew up fixing cars and for a while, owned his own car repair station. Decades after he had gotten out of fixing cars, mine was in the shop. The owner of the shop called to tell me he couldn't find anything wrong with it. I asked if he had checked the starter. He replied he hadn't and in order to check it there would be a fee if it tested 'ok'.  I told him, “Dad said it was probably the starter.” “Oh” he replied, “In that case, we will pull the starter; your dad is usually right about those things.” Although he wasn't afraid of trying to fix anything, sometimes his usual choice of repair materials was a little off. I still remember him trying to fix a vacuum cleaner with Elmer’s glue and toothpicks. I believe my father thought that Rome wasn't built in a day, but could have been with the proper toothpicks.

Now I find myself imitating my father. I tell my daughters they need to drink more; I try and fix household appliances (although I tend to use super-glue, duct tape and it's cousin, electrical tape, and some fancy epoxy I picked up at Home Despot.) My family is quite aware of my penchant for these items. Every year at Christmas, I receive new tubes of super-glue. If I am fixing something, I often hear a daughter chime in, “Daddy, I am looking for your electrical tape.” Physicists are eagerly searching for how the nucleus of an atom is held together. I already know what holds it together – super-glue and duct tape.

I wrote all of the preceding to tell you reader a story. Saturday night at around 10 pm, I was at work going down a set of stairs. If stair descending were an Olympic sport, I would have scored a perfect ten on my form. But, when I reached the bottom landing, my ankle began to hurt rather horribly. I had not twisted it, I had not skipped any stairs, I scored a perfect ten and was expecting an Olympic Gold Medal. Anyway, I iced it for almost an hour and at 11 pm I went to ED/Urgent Care at Park Ridge Hospital.

The wait wasn't long as apparently it wasn't a big night for medical emergencies. In fact, I barely had time to send a quick tweet announcing, “I am in ED. Falling apart. Send super-glue and duct-tape.” when an X-ray technician, Kelly, came in and said, “Mr. Distaffen, I am here to take you for your chest X-ray.”

I replied, “That is nice, but it really is my ankle that hurts.”

Apparently, she had taken so many chest X-rays already she just blurted that out. After my X-ray the Assistant Physician came in and announced there were no broken bones and it was just a sprain. Within a few moments I had my ankle wrapped in an ace bandage and an aircast put on (fancy name for two foam padded plastic splints that are held on either side of the leg by velcro straps).

Things were moving so quickly in the ED/Urgent Care, that soon I found myself face to face with two people with stacks of papers. One stack was my admission paperwork that needed a few signatures. The second person held the stack of discharge paperwork, which also needed signatures. Just to be sure, I signed the discharge paperwork first, making this the world’s shortest ED visit, since I was technically discharged before I was admitted.

Now, I am sitting here, foot elevated, drinking ice water, since I am probably dehydrated and gazing at my fancy aircast. It is occurring to me that I could build a better one with toothpicks, duct-tape, and super-glue.