Monday, May 17, 2010

Lost in the Supermarket

Once again, our local grocery store is moving things around inside the store.  Half the floor is ripped up, and today the dairy case was completely discombobulated.  Since I spend 62.4% of my time at the grocery store, this is very disconcerting to me.  Usually our grocery store does incomprehensible stuff anyway, like put the gluten-free cake mix next to the broccoli.  (When my friends who eat gluten-free food were coming over, I could not find that cake mix anywhere that made sense to me.)  But I guess The Store Managers do secret capitalist marketing experiments on us which lead them to need to stir things around.

So the Common Household got together and decided how the store should be reorganized.  Here are our suggestions:

     Put the milk next to the cookies.

     Put the peanut butter next to the matzo.

     All the desserts need to be located at the front of the store.

     All the ingredients for tuna noodle casserole would be next to each other on the shelf.

     The cheez curls, of course, should go next to the Red Box movie rental machine.

And just get rid of all the self-checkout lanes.  Last week I lost my temper in public because of those infuriating machines.  I want a real live person ringing up my groceries, please.

Well, this same grocery store did give me free antibiotics today.  I wonder what’s actually in the pills.  Because you get what you pay for, ya know?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Common Household Mom Reading: The Age of Wonder

I just finished reading The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science, by Richard Holmes.  It’s a fascinating examination of (mostly English) science and literature during the late 1700s through mid-1800s.  Okay, it will be hard to tell from what I write here that it is a fascinating book, but I found it to be so.

At that time much scientific activity was connected with nationalism.  Take the case of hot air ballooning.  There was a race between England and France to be the first to make ballooning practical, and maybe even use it as a way of military surveillance.  It was a competition not just between the scientists, but between their nations.

Another characteristic of science during that time was the drudgery and risk involved: making thousands of observations, writing it all down, undergoing many trials before successful results, encountering explosions, breathing in harmful chemicals, undertaking dangerous voyages through sea and air...

Perhaps none of this has changed about science: nationalism, drudgery, and risk.

I think my favorite part of this book was the account of Caroline Herschel, astronomer.  Her older brother William Herschel emigrated from Germany to England, starting out in his adopted country by earning his living as a musician and doing astronomy as an amateur.  He invented a better telescope than the ones in existence at that time. Eventually he devoted all his waking hours (mostly in the middle of the night) to cataloguing the stars and making telescopes.  He rescued his younger sister Caroline from a fate of being basically a slave to the rest of the family in Germany, and brought her to England. At first she was his housekeeper.  Then she became his assistant for his “sweeps” of the night sky.  She soon became just as dedicated to astronomy as William Herschel.  While her brother was traveling out of the country, Caroline stayed home and continued observing the night sky, and thus discovered a comet.  She was the first woman to be granted (by the Queen) a salary for scientific work.  And to think that the rest of her family wanted her to be their scullery maid.

I would like to say “We’ve come a long way, baby” but I still wonder if my 10-year-old girl, who is very interested in science, will be forced off the path of a scientific career.  She is interested in science, but not nationalism, drudgery, or risk.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How Creative People Study for Bio, Part 3

Get your 10-year-old sister to make a practice test for you.

I was forced to take the test, which I have reproduced below.   Keep in mind that although I hang out with a biologist, I have not taken biology since 9th grade.  After taking the test, I thought that the person who wrote and graded the test (currently in 5th grade) already knows more biology than I knew at any time of my life.  By some miracle, I remembered the word “mitosis” although I never use it.

I got a score of 12/20, probably not the equivalent of a “5” on the AP exam. I was accused of being too sinister in my answer for #16.   My answers to #8 were reluctantly marked as correct.  The "teacher" said those were not the answers she expected, but she acknowledged that my answers were correct.  

I can spell Deoxyribonucleic acid correctly! Just don't ask me what it does.

Test Questions
1.  What is DNA?
2.  What is RNA?
3.  What latches on to RNA when it is being read?
4. What does RNA make when translated?
5. What do these make up?
6. What is the brain of a cell?
7.  What jelly-like substance is throughout the cell?
8.  Name two things that all cells do.
9. _ ____________________ is when an outosomal cell divides.
10. _____________________ is when a sex cell divides.
11.  Name a bone and an organ.    ___________           __________
12.  Name the domains of life:
_____________    _____________    _____________
13. What is used from the male in reproduction?
a. egg b. sperm c. blood cells d.  none of the above
14. What do plants produce when reproducting?
a. babies b.histomines c.  seeds d.  eggs
15.  How do bacteria reproduce?
16.  Name a use for viruses.


My answers, and correct answers:
    1.  What is DNA? Deoxyribonucleic acid
    2.  What is RNA?  ribonucleic acid
X 3.  What latches on to RNA when it is being read? Cockroaches.
Correct answer: Ribosomes
X 4. What does RNA make when translated?  DNA.
Correct answer: amino acids.
X 5. What do these make up?  I don’t understand the question.
Correct answer: proteins.
    6. What is the brain of a cell? A brain has cells, but a cell can’t have a brain!  You tried to trick me!  But perhaps you were speaking metaphorically, in which case the nucleus is the “brain” of the cell.
X  7.  What jelly-like substance is throughout the cell? Goop.
Correct answer: cytoplasm.
    8.  Name two things that all cells do. Live   Die
(The teacher was expecting “makes proteins” and “makes energy”)
    9.  Mitosis  is when an outosomal cell divides.
    10. Meiosis is when a sex cell divides.
    11.  Name a bone and an organ.      Femur    Kidney
X  12.  Name the domains of life:  Work   Rest   Eating
Correct answer: Archae, Prokarya, Eukarya
    13. What is used from the male in reproduction?   b. sperm 
    14. What do plants produce when reproducting?  c.  seeds
    15.  How do bacteria reproduce?  They divide.
X 16.  Name a use for viruses.  To make the enemy sick.
Correct answer: gene therapy.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How Creative People Study for Bio, Part 2

Turn your biology facts into art work.

A few close ups:

1. Protists eat three different ways, including sitting at the table.  How civilized.

2. Endosymbiosis.  I have no idea what that is, but it clearly involves an evil eyebrow.

3. Handy map, in color, of human digestive tract.  Bring this with you to your doctor's appointment if you have digestive problems.  With any luck, protists will not be the cause of the problems.

Monday, May 10, 2010

How Creative People Study for Bio

Today was the AP Biology test.  The whole family has been studying for this for weeks.  Only one of us took the exam, but all of us studied.  That’s partly because the Student In Question had some creative ways to study.

How to Study, Part I:  Involve the whole family... throwing biology facts into light dinner conversation.
AP Bio Student:  “Did you know that there’s the vitreous humor and the aqueous humor?”
Her Dad:  “And the slapstick humor and the ironic humor...” scaring your little sister with big biology words.
AP Bio Student: “Did you know that plants have a diploid zygote and a triploid endosperm?!”
Her Little Sister:  “Nooooo! Run away from the triploid endosperm!” putting bio vocab into a simile.
AP Bio Student:  “Adenosine is like a spoof on adenine.” making blanket statements about humankind.
AP Bio Student:  “We all have a notochord.”
Her Dad:  “Well, everyone carries a cell phone these days.”
Her Little Sister:  “What’s an otochord?” throwing around fake biology terms.
AP Bio Student to Little Sister:  “Are we herbivores, carnivores, omnivores, or albinovores?”

... by combining studying with other activities. 
AP Bio Student:  “Who wants to watch TV while I study biology!?”

... by relating it to personal body parts.
AP Bio Student, to her brother: “Hey, did you know your small intestine has the area of a tennis court?”

... by revealing your winning strategy.
AP Bio Student:  I made a good guess, but you made me change it.
Her Father: You can’t guess.
AP Bio Student:  That’s how you win the exam!  You guess the right answer!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Day of Prayer

Lord God,

I praise you for this morning’s grapefruit.  You taught the grapefruit how to grow into sections, seeds, juice, and skin.  It was delicious.  Thank you. I ask your blessing on the growers, harvesters and transporters of the grapefruit.  May they have equitable wages, healthy profits, and fair working conditions.

God, I offer you my deep gratitude for my family and friends.  Thank you for my husband, who is a good man, full of integrity, willingness to help others (including me), and most always makes me laugh.  Thank you for his uncanny ability to fill in the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle, after I have put in the three answers I know.  

Thank you for my children, who are so precious to me that I have no words to express it.  I am so grateful that they get along with each other, a blessing beyond measure.  Every day they bring me joy and laughter.  Thank you for their uncanny ability to test my parenting skills.  

For my parents, my aunts, my uncle, my brothers and their families, my in-laws and their families, I ask your blessing.  They all have tough rows to hoe. I pray that their physical and mental pain can be replaced with full health.  Thank you for their uncanny ability to be there in support of our family, in spite of the difficulties they all face.

I ask your blessing, O Lord, on my friends far and near.  Each friend is unique and wonderful.  I have a rich life because of them all.  Thank you for their uncanny ability to accept me and befriend me and make funny comments on facebook.

I also pray today for the lonely, hurting, angry, and hungry people in the world.  Please comfort them and satisfy their need, and more than that I pray that I may somehow, for even just one of them, bring your peace.

On this day, O Lord, I pray that you will make it possible for my son to mow the lawn.  Because otherwise, I will have to do it.  Have mercy, O Lord.

God, lend your guidance to our nation’s leaders at every level of government.  Bless them with your wisdom.  I implore you to lead all Americans to put aside bitter complaints and accusations against those with whom we have political disagreements.  Instead, let us learn to speak with reason and compassion, so that we can listen to each other and learn how best to solve our nation’s problems.  And may those solutions be constitutional.

I thank you that there is an aerobics class for middle-aged dumpy women, and that I was able to go this morning, and that I didn’t fall down.  I pray that someday I will be able to comply when the aerobics instructor says, “Pull in your abs.”

I praise you that I have a job.  And now, O Lord, I had better get to work at my job.  But still praying....

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Kitchen Floor Metaphor

On Sunday afternoon, after running errands on a rainy day, the Common Household Husband asked me, “What are the plans for the rest of the day?”  I said, “I’m going to scrub the kitchen floor.”  He sighed, and pressed his hands to his head.  “Why do these things have to happen on the weekend, when I’m here?” he said.

I said, “If I do it today there is proof that I actually washed the floor because everybody’s here to see it happen.”  He said, “Can’t you just take a picture?”

The Procrastinator’s Club, of which I am a member, approved the idea of putting the task off until the next day, when nobody would be around.  Monday I did scrub the floor, hands-n-knees technique.  This lengthy painful process gave me plenty of time to think theological thoughts.  And since there are few things churchy folks love more than a metaphor, I came up with my own:  God’s grace is like maid service.

And I will now inflict a detailed explanation of my metaphor on you. See, I could try to clean up all the dirt on the floor myself (Reader’s Cliff Notes: the kitchen floor is a metaphor for Life).

The maid service didn’t put the dirt there (the dirt is a metaphor for Sin!). The maid service also didn’t deposit the glob of chocolate ice cream that congealed in a sticky little puddle a week ago.

But the maid service would enter the house cheerily, do the dirty work, and clean it all up!  For free!  I could stop my futile scrubbing, which never really gets rid of all the dirt anyway.

I think God is willing to come clean the kitchen floor because God doesn’t want us to be wasting our time scrubbing our own floor.  God wants us to be free to go out in the yard to do some gardening and play and cheer up the rest of the world.

Enough! Enough! my few readers cry.  Okay, no more metaphor.  That was pretty painful, maybe even more painful than scrubbing the floor.

Today I e-mailed the photos to my husband.  He called me to ask, pointedly, “Why did you send me a picture of someone peeing into a bucket?”  Certainly that is something that only a man could say about my photo of the bucket.

My leg muscles really hurt today.  Next time I’m going to use the Swiffer mop.  Because, really, no one ever notices when I scrub the kitchen floor.