Saturday, March 01, 2008

Chicken Legs

A big shout-out to our big guy on the occasion of his eleventh birthday!

Zhù nǐ shēngrì kuàilè!
Wǒmen ài nǐ!

~Māma, Bàba, hé Jié Jié

Black and White?

I wonder what Barack Obama's mother would have thought about the current mini-flap over Saturday Night Live's use of an actor who is not black to portray her son? Mind you, I don't think she should have cared. Rather, I pose the question in response to reactions like this (Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune): "Call me crazy, but shouldn't 'Saturday Night Live's' fictional Sen. Barack Obama be played by an African-American? I find 'SNL's' choice inexplicable."

~Steve

Friday, February 29, 2008

Dedkinz

So Z asks me, as usual, if he can go on Webkinz for a few minutes. As a non-PlayStation, Xbox-lacking, Wii-free family, I consent to, say, 20 minutes. A few minutes later I look at the screen and ask him what he's up to.

"Well, I'm setting up Duke's room...buying him a bunch of stuff because he's gonna pass away soon."

Visions of Ancient Egypt pass through my mind as I think of preparations for the afterlife. In this case, Webkinz heaven.

A sudden, unexpected sadness overtakes me as I think of how Z's going to react to the passing of his first Webkinz. Should we bury the stuffed Pug that accompanies the on-screen version in our backyard?

I know that Webkinz are the hottest thing since Beanie Babies. They're cute and lovable, and seemingly harmless. But should they really serve the purpose of educating children about loss?

I'm hoping "they" forget to end Duke's web-life or that somehow we can pay to re-up. If only it was really that easy...

~Desi

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Terrific Toes

So I'm back on my toe kick again...all nails intact.

I discovered a few years ago that my stubby toes (probably cut off by a lawnmower, according to my cousin Tony) are actually a recessive trait. Not a disorder...just a trait. For those of you who have forgotten your High School Biology, this means that each of my parents contributed a recessive allele. Since it is fairly rare, I have chosen to highlight and explore this trait with my classes...and my family.

Last Easter, when we were all gathered to celebrate, I asked my parents, Steve's parents, Steve and the kids if I could photograph their feet. Most were definitely against it but gave in one by one (call it peer pressure). As a result, I have created a beautiful pedigree chart that will be a fantastic learning tool for my genetics lessons for years to come. Displayed on the closet doors, boys and girls alike marvel at the life-size photographs and wonder how I got everyone to take their shoes off! They try to figure out the genotype of each individual based on his or her phenotype. A few of us have unknown genotypes because more information is needed to know for sure. We can tell that the kids are both heterozygous (Tt) given that they have a long second toe but a mom who is recessive (tt). In this way, I remind my students that I can have grandchildren with the trait since my kids are carriers and that I'll be checking out Julie and Z's possible spouses for their toe potential...do I hear beach week?

Thanks to my family for their contribution to science education. It's all about trying to make sense of the world around us and making the concepts tangible and relevant. Who knows, those toes may someday inspire someone to study genetics...or at least to get a pedicure.

With this year's Easter celebration just weeks away, be frightened...be very, very frightened. I may just be looking for attached vs. free-hanging earlobes...or maybe even a hitch-hiker's thumb.

~Desi

Monday, February 25, 2008

In Season, Out of Season

In what has become a fairly regular winter ritual, we spent this past weekend down at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. For two Jersey kids who grew up close to the shore, but never went anywhere near the beach outside of the Memorial Day-Labor Day season, this has been an unexpectedly fun "discovery."

Rehoboth is not much more than 100 miles away, and without summer traffic it is a breeze to get there. Then there is the hotel situation. For $119, we can check in Friday and stay until Sunday afternoon (late check out is part of the deal). This is at a hotel, mind you, that costs like $250 a night during the peak season. This time around, we (and our intrepid travel buddies, the Scaleras) were the only people staying in the entire hotel.

And it is not just the roads and the hotels that are easy to access. It is awesome to have the beach to ourselves. Sure, there is no swimming or sun bathing. But the kite flying sure was excellent. And it's great to have the dogs on the beach, any time of day or night. (I'm not sure Cameron feels the same way. I took him on one of my morning runs, from the Rusty Rudder to Dolle's. He was great for about the first quarter of the way. By the half way point, he was starting to fall behind. Eventually, I had to slow down to a walk and wait up for him. I guess the vet was right when she said he needs to drop a few pounds!)

No trip to the beach, of course, would be complete without some shore food. We raided the Candy Kitchen and had no problem getting a table at Nicola's...twice! The most crowded place we encountered on the entire trip? The pub at the Rusty Rudder, believe it or not. It was quite the scene. Ask me (or Bubba) about it sometime. For now, suffice it to say that partying apparently never goes out of season down at the beach...

~Steve

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Interactive Fish

His name is Blazer and I bought him as a class pet. He spent a few weeks at school, but when I brought him home over a break, I quickly realized that he was no ordinary fish. This fish actually responds to human interaction--coming to the surface or his "window" when he hears his name.

Of course, Steve didn't believe when I told him this fish was special. I don't blame him...after all, it's a fish. He's been swayed though, by proof positive. Blazer responds and "greets" him as well.

Over Christmas, I thought we might lose Blazer to one of those "icky" fish illnesses. He looked lethargic and seemed to need the assistance of his fake plant to keep from floating to the top. I was truly upset (as I'd never been before...about a fish). Somehow, though, Blazer bounced back and is as happy today as I've seen him.

The kids at school often ask, "Where's Blazer?" I tell them that I'll be bringing him back as soon as I have the chance. That used to be totally true, as I intended for him to remain class pet. Now, though, I'm attached and a bit concerned about his survival as we have "lost" a few class pets to mysterious circumstances. Now that he's a family member, he has "graduated" from school.

~Desi