I was not a good student attending high school in Massachusetts, where the full moon came out shortly after graduation, sprouting wooly fur up and down my arms and legs until they resembled arbor vitae bushes. I was always prowling and howling at the moon.
I kicked around Minnesota for a summer and partied hard, then played hockey up in Maine for a winter and partied hard, then tried Canada, all the time hearing people describe strange and exotic realms called warmer climates.
“Yeah right,” I said, with the reasoning ability of someone chasing rubber discs around frozen water surfaces. “Maybe if the sun got a little closer.”
After Maine I was living at home and going to Mass Bay Community College just outside of Boston, and it was a dismal continuation of high school, where I had become the first student to ever get a grade “far below the alphabet.”
“It’s not even in the dictionary,” our principal explained at a rushed “graduation ceremony” in his office, caressing a large handgun. “A tribe in the African Congo builds huge statues high up in the mountains overlooking their village, depicting the kind of student you represent. They’re made from piles of wild pig dung, and when the rainy season arrives, it all slides downhill very slowly, toward their village. It represents how you will eventually effect others in your life.”
“A real statue?” I asked, stupidly flattered.
The gun was in my face. “Get out,” he said. “Get the hell out and never look back, or mention you ever went to this high school.”
“A big tall statue,” I said proudly, dazed by celebrity status in a warm climate. “A real statue made of dung.”
This silly semi-fiction reminds me of a moment yesterday, when I was trying to convince my wife how we should import dung beetles to clean up after the dogs, out where thick grass keeps hiding little butt presents.
“You idiot,” she said, using her favorite description of me. “Scarabaeoideas only goes after crap left by herbivores or omnivores, and our dogs eat too much meat. The beetles don’t really clean up the crap, either. They use it for affordable housing, nibbling here and there . . .blah blah blah and blah blah but blah blah and also blah blah, certain beetles for certain animals, like in Australia, they are doing what you suggest, however, blah, blah, blah . . . prefer horse dung, blah blah blah . . . ”
True Story: My wife is a former research scientist and fashion model specializing in transgenic orchids, disease-resistant rice, and general plant biology. Why marry me, you ask? My hair was perfect; my teeth . . . victims of several hockey sticks. I had great abs before beer found a home! Yep . . . you guessed it; window dressing trophy husband.
So anyway, one night we accidentally discovered how lady bugs love marshmallows, which sounds kind of silly until aphids invade your whatever, and you decide to call in their worst enemy in the entire world (ladybugs, or what I lovingly refer to as “polka dotted mercenary assassins”). You can keep a thousand ladybugs healthy and happy with a few lousy marshmallows, before releasing holy hell fire upon any aphids that come to munch your plants, or your favorite whatever. Try doing that with the U.S. military.
So one day it occurred to me how science is all about poop and marshmallows and that funny time in Jersey when I tried to brew my own beer in a little plastic chamber, and it expanded too much and blew all over the kitchen, because of yeast or something, and the dog lapped it up before I could intervene, and started giggling, which is really disturbing to witness, but you can really bond with dogs who giggle, and there’s a whole lotta science happening right there!
What does this all mean?
Hell if I know. Wait! It all means that science isn’t science at all, which is a word that is only surpassed by calculus in the scary department. Science is real stuff happening all around us all the time, like exploding beer and giggling dogs. It means I could simplify profound theorems and elaborate cupcake recipes by simply relating it to every day things! Once I was able to do that, I attended college and achieved a rare kind of academic status — having the University President threaten me!
Woooo wooooo! Reach for the stars!