Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What I Think About When I Think About Me.

Self-portrait, with
HI!  I heard that I was going to be mentioned on Robin's Your Daily Dose blog and thought it might be helpful to have a brief introductory post to this blog and my other one so that you know what it is you will soon complain about me in the comments and then eventually forget when you move on to other blogs.  So, in handy list form, here are 11 things you won't like about me:

1.  I write really long posts.  This one, which will probably clock in at about 100,000 words, is an aberration.  Most of my posts have their own zipcode.  They take several years to read.  I had a visit from Proust's ghost once. He hovered over my bed and howled something that sounded like "TL/DR".  I thought that was mean of him.  Lately, I've been trying to shorten them and post more pictures, etc.

2. I don't like you (but don't take it personally.)  Because I don't like anyone.  My Twitter name is @whyihatepeople (follow me here). It's nothing about you, per se.  It's just that you exist, which means at some point you probably will be in front of me in line or behind me on the road or parking too closely to me or perhaps having germs, which I will suspect are now in my Diet Coke (TM). If you really get on my nerves, you'll make my Enemies List, which already contains such villains as "People Who Honk Their Horn" and "Water."

3.  I have kids.  It's amazing that I made it this far into the post without putting up a jillion pictures of them and telling you how cute they are. And then making fun of how they poop.  It's not that you'll hate me because I have kids. It's that you'll hate me because when it's your turn to tell me about your kids, I will not listen. I will be trying to remember the lyrics to Scenes From An Italian Restaurant from Billy Joel.  It was Brenda and Eddie, right?

4.  Most of the posts here are about me but occasionally you will get really superdetailed analyses of some obscure sporting topic, or something else that will baffle you.  Or you'll get stories about kids, and thoughts on society, and overly-long analyses of commercials, and other stuff I think.  Also, I'm going to mention pizza, A LOT.

5. Like this: I like pizza, A LOT.  See? It's already annoying.

6.  I write stories but I don't post them on this blog for reasons I'll suggest are legitimate and/or businesslike but which really amount to superstition and laziness.  The blog where I post my stories is called lit, a place for stories, and you can find it by clicking this link. You won't click that link, but don't feel bad about it.  I forgive you.

7. I go about 3 minutes in between bouts of self-pity in which I complain that people won't click my links, etc., because I don't really understand how the Internet works.  The only equation I ever learned was INTERNET=MONEY/FAME, which is the formula Isaac Newton worked out that means "simply posting stuff on the Internet automatically means everyone will read it and love it and you'll get rich." I believe this 100% to be true.  It is in the Bible.  The reason it doesn't work is because you don't understand complicated math.

7A: I once let a Twinkie sit out in the open for 100 days and then ate it. I posted about that on this blog. That's the kind of quality stuff you've been missing.

8.  I never finish lists.


To make up for all the mean stuff I said about you, I am giving away free books! Every day in April you can get one of my books free.  Today's book is UP SO DOWN, the sad/happy story of a great/terrible year in the life of a brother and a sister.  It's touching, or at least that's what people who have feelings and can relate to other people tell me.  CLICK HERE TO GET IT FOR FREE.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Apparently I have been giving insufficient attention to how I sit while I poop. (Thinking The Lions)

I took Mr F out for a ride today, a nice Sunday morning with the sun shining and the farm animals out in the fields and outside the barns, and as we drove through the countryside, I listened to the news and got the headlines from the world.  The ferry sinking, a kid getting suspended for asking out Miss America, the usual kind of stuff, and then something amazing happened:

I learned I've been pooping ALL WRONG.

Probably so have you.

(At least I have an excuse. I've been busy.  What's your story?)

I learned this alarming poop-posture-related news because a commercial came on and two excited women -- it's always women, and I have a theory about this*

*the theory is this: Men are threatened by the way women are increasingly earning more money and making decisions and probably not wearing sexy skirts to the office anymore, and possibly running for president again, all of which women insist on doing even though men don't like it, and so men are fighting back in the only way they can: by creating commercials in which women characters are obsessed with their poops.  See, men know that it's over for them, as a gender.  2,000+ years of being in charge and getting to club sabertooth tigers on the head or make fire or insist that the "World Series" be put on television have given way to a world in which men are simply a caricature of what real men once were (Cary Grant), but men are fighting back by leaving a historical record in which whatever intelligent species takes over after us (my money is on the squirrels) is led to the belief that one-half of our entire species thought about nothing but being regular.  It's genius, in a way: if Galileo had hit on this, we'd still believe that the universe was heliocentric and we'd learn in school that Roman aqueducts were built to help women poop better.

-- two excited women came on talking about the latest revolution in pooping, which is, if I may boil it down to layman's terms, "Pooping While Being Uncomfortable."

There are those who would say the very act of pooping is uncomfortable in and of itself, and among "those" would be The Boy, our third-oldest, or third-youngest, depending on which end you start counting from.  The Boy is extremely uncomfortable when it comes to pooping, so much so that he will sometimes stop by on his way to or from somewhere else -- The Boy doesn't live at home anymore -- to use our bathroom.

"Hi," he'll say.  "I just thought I'd stop in," and then he disappears into the only bathroom he can actually use without inflicting psychological trauma on himself.

That is in contrast to Mr Bunches and Mr F, his younger brothers, who are exceedingly comfortable with pooping.  When either of them has to poop, we are likely to find that out because they start gathering up supplies as though they are going to hibernate or possibly they are going on a long voyage that kicks off by pooping.

Take this actual conversation I had with Mr Bunches last night:

Mr Bunches:  Can I poop in the potty?

Me:  Of course.

Mr Bunches: Can you get A To Z Dinosaurs?**

**this is the latest alphabet book he likes, filled with dinosaurs I'm pretty sure are all made up because I never heard of a huayangosaurus when I was a kid, and it's not like they're inventing new dinosaurs: every dinosaur that ever existed was named by the time Adam left the Garden of Eden, if I remember my science class correctly, and so the odds that there was a dinosaur named Huayangosaurus and I never heard of it are pretty slim, especially when  you consider that we went to church regularly as a kid.
Another dinosaur in that book is supposedly named Khaan.  That's it: Khaan.  Not "Khaanosaur" or "Khaanodactyl" or "Khaanplodicus" or anything.  Just Khaan.  That is like calling a dinosaur Jim.  Or Steve.  
Museum Tour Guide:  And over here you will find a completely assembled skeleton of the latest find in the dinosaur kingdom, a fierce predator that paleontologists conjecture roamed the great plains of Pangaea for over a million years.  We call it Todd.
I also need to point out, in the interests of science, that anyone who is old enough should right now be shaking their fists at the sky and yelling "Khaaaaaaaan!"

At what point did scientists decide to see just how lame they could make dinosaurs and
still have kids love them? "Let's tell them they had feathers! And that they
didn't really hunt so much as scavenge! What? They still like them?
Tell them dinosaurs were made of broccoli!

But we were not discussing dinosaurs, in case you forgot: we were discussing pooping, and the way Mr Bunches and Mr F view this as possibly a respite from the daily struggles they go through, struggles like having to wait all the way until May before they get the second of the two Spider-Vehicles (TM) from Shopko (TM) because they already got the Spider-Man Web Striker Battle Tank and we simply are not also buying the Spider-Man Biplane (With Real Spinning Propeller!) this month.***

***Spoiler alert: We are, and did.
To get a break from the traumatic experience of getting their next toy only three weeks ahead of schedule, Mr F and Mr Bunches will sometimes retreat to the bathroom, where they stay long enough to need sustenance.  Mr F, in particular, likes a well-stocked potty, and so when he goes into the bathroom (leaving all his clothing outside, a habit we are eventually going to break both the twins of but for now we are just relieved that they poop in the bathroom at all) he will frequently take one of his favorite books with him (The appropriately, if inaccurately, named Let's Go being his favorite; sadly, the book simply has many pictures/names of things that go, like trains or roller-skates or double-decker city buses, so perhaps the world isn't ready for a Let's Go! book showing people happily pooping on the potty.****

**** I am being sarcastic, of course.  Every parent knows that there are roughly 1 quinjillion of those books around; they are so numerous you can see them from space.  Future civilizations (of squirrels) will wonder why, if so much of childhood was based on teaching people to poop, women had so much trouble with it when they grew up.

"So I said to my kids, well, if you ain't gonna visit me I will
just have to post something about my poops on Facebook!

"You did the right thing, Agnes."

But Mr F will also take snacks in there: a bowl of cheese puffs, perhaps, or a plate of macaroni and cheese, or, horrifyingly, a Hershey bar.  I like to think of myself as not being squeamish, at all (even though everything in the world is disgusting, especially if someone who is not me touched it or was near it or maybe thought about being near it), but there isn't any way I could possibly get myself to eat chocolate while I was pooping.  That is why I will never amount to anything.*

*one of the reasons, anyway.  Another is my inability to get the jokes in Marmaduke.
And sometimes Mr F is in there so long that he needs refills, something we learn about when the bathroom door gets whipped open and a naked, possibly-still-pooping seven year old runs out of the bathroom like a linebacker and we chase after him until he finally slows down and lets us know he just needs some more goldfish crackers or whatever.

But I have gotten amazingly sidetracked even though I cannot stop thinking about the commercial I heard which let me know that I, personally, have been pooping all wrong because I have been sitting while I poop and did you know that the human body is not made for sitting?

That is what scientists say, and you could have fooled me because I love to sit.  It is one of my three most favorite postures, beaten out only by

2. Lying down,

and my number one most favorite posture:

1. Lying down after I have just eaten pizza.

But sitting is still pretty good, as a posture goes, and that's why I never realized the incredible amount of harm I was doing to my body and its ability to poop by sitting to poop when it turns out that the human body was made for squatting, something I only learned by listening to the commercial this morning for the Squatty Potty (TM!):

Note that none of those people in the beginning of the commercial are actually squatting.  Also note that if I do not get an "I [HEART] 2 Squat" t-shirt for my anniversary I will never get over my disappointment.

Did you watch that video? Did you see that they used actual geometry to show how scientific the Squat To Poop movement is? Did you realize that you now are going to need a protractor to do your squatting, unless someone has already invented an app that allows you hold up your smart phone to determine the correct angle of squat, which I am sure they have by the time I finished typing that.

There is a follow-up to that video, one that has way less Jumping For Poop but way, way, more science:

This one helpfully starts by noting that this squatting stuff isn't just a matter of opinion: they researched the science of squatting, and in related news I am no longer feeling inferior to people who got a B.S. in college because not one single part of my job involves researching how people poop.

At 0:38 into that video, you learn that the rise of Western Civilization, which is responsible for so much good in our life, like:

1. Pizza.
2. Star Wars.
3. Other kinds of pizza, which you can eat while watching Star Wars.

is also responsible for us all slowly dying of Improper Pooping Posture, because the modern toilet is directly responsible for hemorrhoids, colon cancer, and the trouble in the Ukraine. (The video doesn't come out and say that, but if Vladimir Putin wasn't all chock full of constipation, do you think he'd invade people? Probably, yeah, he would, but without being so mean about it.)

At 1 minute in, you get to see that bathroom posture plays perhaps the primary role in causing colon cancer/nuclear warfare:

Every pie chart in history is meaningless to my generation because all we think when we see one is
Hey, Pac-Man!

A graph that I take to mean that if you get proper dietary fiber, you could pretty much poop standing on your head and not run any real risk, but that's because I don't properly understand The Science Of Squatting:

This is perhaps the only scientific survey about which you can say
"I pulled these numbers out of my butt," and have it be
the perfect summarization.

The video also notes that at Stanford University, squatting is required for people with colon issues, which raises a whole bunch of other questions, questions like:

-- Do they tell you that before you sign up for classes at Stanford University?

-- How do they monitor that? Is it strictly on the honor system?

-- Did you think I was going to put another pizza reference here? Discuss.

-- EXTRA CREDIT: Did you poop today?

The video, if you didn't watch it, goes on to explain that the reason squatting is so great is that there is a muscle in your belly that has something of a Full Nelson on your colon and only by squatting can you relax that muscle enough to poop the way God intended us to (Proverbs 2:12), but you have been duped by the Western Civilization Military Industrial Poop Complex into deliberately sabotaging your own body by using the toilet.

This all leads to their amazing discovery, the thing that had those two ladies so happily chatting about their pooping, as ladies do (Am I right? Let's hear it for your poops, ladies!), a footstool.

But, because nobody ever got rich telling you to use a footstool to poop**

**Except Sir Edmont Footstool III (1712-1767), who used to give highly-attended lectures on what was then known as "Her Royal Majefty's Illuftrious Lecture & Compendium Of Historological And Scientific Vacating Of The Bowels."  Ironically, Sir Edmont died.
No, I know that wasn't ironic, at all, but if I hadn't said ironically you wouldn't have kept reading that paragraph. 
it was necessary to invent the FOOTSTOOL OF (POOPING) SCIENCE,

It took 10 years to put a man on the moon, but more than 2,000 to figure out
a way for me to have visitors to my house feel uncomfortable
the moment they first ask to use the bathroom?

With the "Squatty Potty", I was told by the women on the radio, there's no need to replace your old Toilet Of Mass Destruction with, say, a hole in the floor (which would also achieve the same effect while at the same time being far more gross), or with what I first pictured as I listened to this on the radio, a reclining toilet (I was picturing something with the toilet seat angled back towards the tank, not a toilet with an actual reclining lever and a footrest like a Barcalounger, but now that I think of that, I bet my idea would work every bit as effectively as The Stepladder To Proper Pooping, there.)

It is not often that a simple Sunday morning drive ends up revolutionizing the way I poop.  In fact, this is the first time in 45 years that it has happened, but it comes not a moment too soon, I am certain, because I certainly do not want to catch colon cancer or appendicitis from pooping the wrong way.

The only thing the commercials don't tell you is what to do if you find yourself outside of your house, and needing to poop.  After watching those Videos Of Science I am no longer willing to put my colon, let alone my butt, in that kind of danger, so for now I am simply going to have to order two of these, one that I can leave at home all the time and one that I can carry with me, perhaps in a decorative over-the-shoulder sling.

"What's that?" people will ask, as I am sure it will be a conversation-starter: who could resist the allure of a pooping stool carried with a saucy insouciance by a smiling guy who knows that he'll never face the shame of hemorrhoids?

"It's my Squatty Potty!" I will beam back, excited at the chance to finally -- FINALLY!-- discuss pooping with extended family, friends, neighbors, even total strangers.  That is what has, after all, been missing from my life. I just didn't know it, until now.

Hey, do you want a FREE BOOK?

Click here to get, absolutely free, "The Scariest Things, You CAN'T Imagine," my collection of short horror stories. 

None of them are about pooping, sadly, but they're still pretty good.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Minute With Mr Bunches

So I opened the door to the bathroom, and inside, Mr Bunches appeared to be in a room filled with smoke.  After a moment's panic ("the house is on fire and I'm gonna be blamed for it!") I realized it was baby powder he'd been spilling.

He said: "Dad, can you help me clean it up?"

I said: "What happened in here?"

And he studied my face for a second to decide if I was mad or not before saying:

"Dad? Can you just say, sure?"

THAT got him out of trouble, and then Sweetie came by to see what was going on and said "What is going on here? What are you doing?"

To which he replied: "... I'm so crazy?"

ANNOUNCEMENTS: A new book, a free book, and lots of books:

The NEW BOOK: Andrew Leon, brilliant author of The House On The Corner and Shadow Spinner, among others great things, has a new short work out:

John has a problem, and it's a problem he needs to learn to control. Recognizing that John refuses to admit his issue, his best friends decide to deal out some revenge... and bake him some cookies. Come find out the explosive results when one teenager can't control his urge to fart on people.

This is a change of pace for Andrew and the story is a great one.  Plus, you'll get a bonus short story from me, of all people. My story is How You Gonna Keep 'Em Down On The Farm, and is about a future where vampire-like augurs have learned to draw power directly from humans and have started farming them.

For just $0.99, this is a great deal.  Click here to go get this book.

The Free Book: Every day in April, I'm giving away a free book.  You should check out lit, a place for stories each day as to which book is free.  In doing so, you'll be treated to the short stories and other writing I publish on lit.  CLICK HERE To find out what the free book is.

Lots Of Books:  Indie Writers Monthly is a blog and a magazine and for the month of April we are listing, daily, a speculative fiction book by an indie author.  You'll get info on 26 great scifi, fantasy, and mixed genre books by the hottest indie writers around.  CLICK HERE to go to the blog, which also features writing tips and fictions shorts and more. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

My Raccoon Looks Like Batboy, or "I'm gonna live blog this alphabet." (Life With Unicorns)

Brief announcements: Hey, if you're looking for A To Z Challenge I'm doing that on my blog lit, a place for stories.
FREE BOOK! You can get a free collection of my short stories, Just Exactly How Life Looks, by clicking here. 
It's 11:37 a.m. as I start this.  Mr Bunches likes to write the alphabet and have me draw a picture to go with it; he names the picture.  So here's today's, with selected comments.

A is For Astronaut

Note that he is old-fashioned (astronauts are old-fashioned!) in that he is attached to his spaceship by a cord. Newfangled astronauts use jetpacks, and probably don't get that close to Saturn.

B Is For Ball.

Me: "What kind of ball."

Mr Bunches: "A soccer ball."

Me: "Okay.

Him: "It has hexagons."

Me: *realizes he is drawing pentagons.*

C is For Cookie:

There's a blog I liked called "Fastest Possible Drawings Of Everything," which had just what that sounded like: pictures like this, quick sketches of something. One thing I liked about it was that they'd talk about what has to be in a picture of something to make it that picture.  Like chocolate chips in a cookie picture.  There are a million kinds of cookies, most of which could be drawn as a circle. Putting chips into it makes it a cookie, as opposed to a pie or moon or egg or something. 

D Is For Dog:

E Is For Elephant:

As I draw about 6 or 7 or 8 alphabets a week, I am trying to develop my own style. So my animals almost always have a smile, and almost always that smile is on one side of their face.  I have also started drawing all my animals with very short legs, because I like the way that looks. 

If you are going to do a smiley face on an animal, you have to think carefully about where you place that smile; put it in the wrong spot and it looks weird.

F Is For Fish:

Originally mistaken for a number "7", the fin was given striations that show this fish is not numbered.

G Is For Grapes

I Is For Insect

"Can you draw a spider, Daddy? Can the insect be a spider?" Nobody tell Neil DeGrasse Tyson, please.

I was requested to make him smile AFTER the eyes and fangs. Hence: "Look,he's mean and happy."

J Is For Jacket

K Is For Kite

There is enough wind to keep the string taut, but not enough to really ruffle the tail.

L Is For Lobster

I have lived 45 years, 3 months, 3 days, and about 8 hours, 14 minutes, and I have just drawn my first lobster in all that time.

M Is For Moose

By way of comparison, I've probably drawn 20, 25 moose in my lifetime.

N Is For Noodles:

"The noodles go in the esophagus."

This has been your biology minute.

O Is For Ostriches

You can tell they are not flamingos because they're not standing on one leg.  

P is For Pants.

Nailed it.

Q Is For Quilt

At this point, by the way, Mr Bunches is aware that I'm blogging this.  He likes watching me take the picture and then seeing it appear in the draft of the post.

Drawing Tips From The Pros:  Just as Disney animators sometimes used the same scene over, simply drawing over the characters, a quilt is a map that has an added thickness, while a map is simply a quilt with continents on it.

R Is For Raccoon.

"Wow, Daddy, that's cool." -- ACTUAL QUOTE.

This job is not without its hazards, which include not knowing how to draw a raccoon that doesn't look like a turtle, and also not being 100% sure whether there are 1 or 2 c's in raccoon but having to make the call when Mr Bunches writes it. Turns out that's how it's spelled.

S Is For Soap

I wrote "soap" on the bar to make clear that this wasn't just any old bar of something that was exploding.  THOSE ARE SUDS.  

T Is For Turtle:

Here is how that went, verbatim: 

Mr Bunches: Can you draw a turtle, Daddy? Can you make him sad? Look, he's sad. Oh, you drew a fat turtle. He's sad.

Me: Is he sad because he's fat?

Mr Bunches: Yeah.

Seven years old and he''s fat-shaming a turtle.  I blame society.

Also, I'm not sure turtles CAN be fat. Can they? I've never seen a fat turtle. And yet they never exercise. I think I'm on to something here.

U Is For Umbrella:

V Is For Vegetable:

There are three vegetables! The blobby one is lettuce. I should've put a smiley face on it.

W Is For Whale:

Mr Bunches: He is a mommy whale.

Me: *draws false eyelashes on the whale* SHE is a mommy whale.

Mr Bunches: They live in the deep ocean.

I just naturally assumed that Mommy Whales would want to look their nicest before going out for a night of eating krill and perhaps some dancing.

X Is For Xylophone

Here is a true story about X: Mr Bunches, who loves the alphabet almost as much as he loves jets or parts of the body, has a bunch of alphabet books. One of them has these really elaborate pictures in which each picture has like 200+ things starting with that letter in them.  There's no list or names or anything; you just have to try to guess at what the things are that begin with that letter.

I was reading this book one night with Mr F, and we got to X, and Mr Bunches came over to see what we were doing.  As Mr F and I were pointing to the X things like "X-ray" or "Xylophone," Mr Bunches pointed at the swordfish and said:


I said: What?

He said Xiphias.

I said: Swordfish (not even sure why it was in "X".)

He insisted it was Xiphias.

I later looked it up and it turns out the scientific name for a swordfish is xiphias gladius.

Y Is For Yogurt

One night I got out the last yogurt from the refrigerator and ate it for dessert after dinner.

Mr Bunches came over and said "Are you eating yogurt?" I said I was, and in fact I had just finished it.

"Can I have some yogurt?" he asked.

I need to point out that he eats yogurt about three times a year, and that this particular yogurt had been in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks untouched, but neither of those true facts in anyway alleviates the stabbing pang of guilt I get every single time the word "yogurt" is uttered, and that is why I no longer eat the last of anything in our house.

Z Is For Zebra:

Here's another thing you never think about, or at least I never think about: What kinds of tails do animals have? I think I got the zebra tail right but I went back and looked at moose and I'm pretty sure that one's wrong, as they are the same tail.  And before you congratulate yourself on knowing what kinds of tails a moose or zebra has, answer this: What kind of tail does a yak have?

Time is 12:31 p.m.  Whew.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Sexy Non Sequiturs (Me, Annotated)

Thanks to Robin, at Your Daily Dose, I'm not putting Me, Annotated posts on their own blog anymore. These are old posts, photos, etc., that I'm taking a fresh look at.

PWNST, or Pictures With Non Sequitur Titles, also used to have their own spot, until I realized that nobody was looking at them there, either.  Today's picture is:

Once in a while is actually pretty often, depending on how many whiles there are in a life.

Yesterday, I took the boys on a trip to "Crazy Frank's," which is a store I've driven by numerous times over the past 20 years or so, this store with these big billboards which feature misspelled words and promise that you can save lots of money and I always wanted to stop there but never did.

April is cold so far, and brownish-drab, and yesterday promised a high of 52 degrees, so I hadn't planned anything outside, and it seemed a good day to go to "Crazy Frank's," so we did.  Mr Bunches seemed intrigued, asking me what "Crazy Frank's" was (Mr F simply watched his videos on the computer), and after we got done fiddling around at the office where we go most Saturday mornings, we hopped in the car and drove there.

"Crazy Frank's" is a flea market, it turns out: a combination of Goodwill and an antiques store, and there was some neat stuff there -- vintage, mint-condition Star Wars toys, for example, and I was tempted to get Mr Bunches the AT-AT toy he wanted but it wasn't in great condition and WAS $30, so I nixed that (and the related vintage toy spaceship that I thought wouldn't work.)

After that, we went into downtown Mineral Point to check it out; it's one of those places where there are art stores and old-fashioned storefronts and fancy candy shops, although it has a half-finished feel to it.

We walked up and down High Street there, and stopped in their refurbished library, and bought some candy, and looked at the Art Park, and then took a different way home, stopping at the scenic overlook where you can walk a footbridge across the highway and watch the cars go below you before going to a lookout spot where you could see rolling hills and rocky escarpments and off in the distance, the futuristic space-shuttle-esque outcropping of Frank Lloyd Wright's "House On The Rock," which features prominently in Neil Gaiman's American Gods.

The boys liked Mineral Point, but got tired.  They loved the bridge and scenic overlook, running back and forth to watch cars and climbing on rocks and looking out to see farms, which haven't yet turned green, either -- whereas fall in Wisconsin, after the leaves are down, has a feel of "job well done", like a house that's been cleaned up after a party before you go to bed, spring at this stage has the feel of a construction site before it gets interesting, just a dirt hole and a bunch of garbage that doesn't look like supplies yet -- and the boys got burrs on their pants, and had their hair tousled by the wind. The sun had grown warm, the sky was a flawless blue, and everywhere I looked there were old-fashioned buildings and interesting sculptures and beautifully twisted trees and distant landmarks and smiling boys running.

My camera, which is my phone, had run out of power early into this trip, and I got no pictures of 75% of the day, which worries me.

It worries me because that PWNST up there? I remember that day.  It's a picture of the railing outside Wisconsin's Capitol building, and we go there all the time in the summer. I can remember taking the boys there that particular day, and walking over the lawn of the building, and inside, where Mr Bunches and Mr F looked into the Liberty Bell replica, and going up to the observation deck where we walked around and looked down at the Farmer's Market that's on Capitol Square every Saturday in the summer.

I remember that day even though it was years ago, because I have that picture (and some others, of course, but even that relatively nondescript picture works).

I can't remember anything before second grade in my life, at all.  I can barely remember huge swathes of high school, law school, and many eras of my life.  They've faded away and it may be that they're not there in my mind, at all, anymore.

I hate forgetting.  Even the tiniest moments of life can be so wonderful that I don't want to forget them, and yesterday wasn't a tiny moment at all.  It was a great day, full of things I'll want to remember, and now I'm worried that I won't, that someday that day will be gone, like most of my 7th grade and much of the year 1993 and others.

It affected me so much that I came home and spent a half-hour looking at cameras online, trying to figure out if I could afford to buy one to replace my phone, which loses power to quickly and which I can't upgrade for free for six months.  SIX MONTHS. A lifetime can happen in six months and it bothers me to think that 10 years from now I might not remember April-October, 2014, at all.

I still had a fun day, but always in the back of my mind was that fear that I would one day not be able to remember this day.  I never worry about much, at all, and I don't worry in particular about death, at all.  I worry about forgetting, which seems somehow to me worse.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Children Standing In Front Of... Rocks

Looking for the A To Z Challenge? That's not on this blog. It's on lit, a place for stories. Click the link to go there. But feel free to read this post!

Today, I take a brief detour from my ongoing like's work, "Children Standing In Front Of Art" (TM), to show you what the title promised:

We took a field trip, with Mr F's and Mr Bunches' first grade classes, to the Geology Museum at the UW-Madison downtown, and while I was skeptical that the museum would hold anything of interest to me (Quote: "Rocks. Eh.") I was wrong.

Partially, I was wrong because I forgot that the category "Things That Are Rocks" includes "Fossils," and "Meteorites" and partially I was wrong because even things that are very obviously rocks turn out to be pretty cool.

We began with a talk from the college guy at the left in front of a large globe the guide assured us was one of "5 or 6" in the United States" that are that big.  This guy kind of talked over the kids' heads (Quote: "Right, what you have is a political map, while this is geographical") and then warned the kids not to touch any glass because "It'll break," but he warned them so much and so direly that I began to feel that perhaps this glass was extra-fragile.

Then we divided up into groups. Our group started with fossils, like this:

Which you might take for a mere rock but which is actually billions of tiny fossilized microorganisms that piled on each other, died, and then were fossilized. That rock is about the size of me, curled up, and is 450,000,000 years old.

Also in that category was the picture at the top of this post, which is a segment of rock from the seabed, and which is 100,000 years old.  We showed that specifically to Mr F to see how interested he would be in it.

He looked at it.  Which for him is something, at least.

Mr F was more interested in the lab where they work on fossils, cleaning them and doing the mind-numbingly boring work to prepare them for display:

"Children Standing In Front Of Science."

Then the fossils got more fossil-like and less rocklike:

"Dads Standing In Front Of Rocks."


is a fossil of an early shark, and included in there are fossils of early turtles, etc., that had been in the shark's stomach and which were also fossilized.

Another fossil was even better:

"Tour Guides Standing In Front Of Fish Heads."

The tour guide was pretty up on what is a shark and what is not: she knew, for example, that the Whale Shark is a filter-feeder and not technically a shark, so these kids were learning a LOT today.

This was a big (5'x6') hunk of rock consisting of hundreds of fossilized Sea Lilies:

But when someone says fossils nobody really thinks "sea lilies and shark stomachs," right? They think:

Sadly, that is a reproduction and not the original bones, although I'm not sure why that matters. Is it better to see the actual rocks that are shaped like what a dinosaur's bones are, than a fake rock shaped the same way? It is, but I'm not sure why.

Let's see a kid standing in front of that!

They had a bunch of partial and whole skeletons of dinosaurs and other massive animals:

"Blurry Children In Front Of Out Of Focus Rocks"

"Technically: People Standing Under Rocks"

And I learned that the large animal is a pteranodon, not a pterodactyl, and I also learned that pterodactyls were only the size of chickens.


I wish we had chicken-sized pterodactyls still flying around. I wish ALL these things were still around. Stupid dinosaur-killing asteroid*

*assuming that is still where science is on that.
From there, it was back to "Things We All Instinctively Recognize As Rocks," like quartz and pyrite and other cool rocks.  This is where the SINGLE BEST QUESTION AND ANSWER EXCHANGE EVER happened.  I will give it to you verbatim:

Guide: Are there any questions?
Little boy *raises hand eagerly*
Guide:  Yes?
Little boy:  Once, I saw a movie, and there was this shark, he was a hammerhead shark, and he fought an octopus.

NAILED IT.  You just know that kid had been waiting to fit that story into something for a while now, and couldn't hold it back anymore.

Mr Bunches had earlier participated, too, during the original rock part where we learned about meteors, etc.  The guide had asked whether the kids knew if there were any rocks on Earth from other planets and the kids all agreed, yeah, of course, let's get on with it we know how the universe works, etc. and the guide said:

Who can name another planet that rocks are from?

And Mr Bunches raised his hand and said:

"The moon."

BINGO. He is right.  We know of about 1,000 pounds of moon rock that are present on Earth. (800+ brought back by the Apollo missions. USA! USA! We are the leading importer of Moon Rocks on EARTH. GO TEAM!)

But the guide was looking for Mars, as the answer, and got us there, and pointed to a tiny rock that I did not take a picture of out of deference to my skepticism, and here is why:

For a MARS rock to be on Earth, the following has to happen:

1. Something has to blow up on Mars sufficiently explosively to launch rocks out of the Martian atmosphere.
2. At least one of those launched rocks must then intersect with Earth's orbit.
3. Said rock must then fall to Earth without being burnt up.
4. Someone must find it.

Those are all VERY VERY improbable things.  VERY VERY VERY.  I googled the question "Has anyone ever witnessed an explosion on Mars launching rocks into space" and found no articles showing that this has ever been observed in the history of history, while there is evidence of such a thing happening on the Moon (the most recent was September 11, 2013, when a boulder-sized meteorite struck the moon at 37,900 miles per hour.

So I am not convinced that these are Mars rocks, despite what "science" says, and before you jump all over me as being unduly skeptical: brontosaurus.


The "basic" rocks were anything but -- they had a pretty good collection of interesting-looking things, and the kids were allowed to touch some of this stuff, stuff like:

A 1,300 pound slab of copper:

And a 320-pound meteorite:

"Children Actively Touching Space Rocks"
Although blurry, I included this because the kid on the left was being nice to Mr Bunches (on the right) and taking him to see "gold" (pyrite, but I didn't tell them that) AND the nice kid is the kid who told the hammerhead/octopus story.
He is an American hero.

From there, we moved to the "Rocks That Glow" room, where the guide explained that the reason white shirts glow under blacklight was because detergent uses things like phosphorus (a rock!) to get them white, and phosphorus glows under blacklight.  

Again, I was skeptical, mostly because nowadays many detergents are not white- or color-only, and we don't even separate our whites and colors anymore.  I didn't challenge the guide or anything, and having just looked it up, "How Stuff Works" says that really is how that part of stuff actually does work, which still leaves all kinds of unanswered questions, namely:

1. So why don't the phosphors in detergent make my blue jeans or whatever glow?

So, really, just ONE unanswered question.

The final thing was a cave. We were given a big talk about caves and how not to touch them in real life but you could touch this one and talk about stalactites and stalagmites and etc etc and then finally FINALLY were allowed to walk through the cave...

...which was like four feet long and contained very few of the things we had been warned about /promised.

With that, it was time for group photos of Mr F's class:

Mr F is in the orange. He is too cool to pay attention in photos.
 And Mr Bunches' class.

"Children Standing In Front Of A Scale Depiction of EVERY ROCK IN THE WORLD"