Monday, March 5, 2012

Blinded By Science

Science has never been my thing.
Oh, did I say never?
I meant... NEVER!
I blame it on fourth grade.
That’s the year we dissected a frog.
Everything was good.
Until I opened Kermit’s stomach.
And one second later.
A beetle popped out.
Had it been John, Paul, George.
Or even Ringo.
I probably would’ve been ok.
But having a dead insect in my open palm was more than I had ordered.
I took plenty of science classes after that.
Because they made me.
But none of them tickled my fancy.
And that included Physics in 11th Grade.
And Biology in college.
Oh, not because I liked it so much the first time.
More like I never went to class.
And for that I got a big fat F.
The only class I ever failed in my life.
But I really didn’t fail the class.
I would’ve had to try to fail.
It was so bad that the night before the final exam I begged my friend Phil to come over and tutor me.
Phil is one of those brainiacs.
When he got to my place, we sat down at the table.
And he opened my textbook.
That’s when we heard that sound.
You know, THAT SOUND.
The crackling sound of the first time a brand new 300 page textbook gets opened.
Not a good sound to hear the night before the final exam.
I ended up taking Biology again to wipe that F off my permanent record.
And through the miracle of academic dishonesty.
I passed.
I can admit that now.
Now that the statute of limitations have run out.
I hope.
Fortunately for my kids, they haven’t had to go through that same route for a good grade in science.
And not only are they doing well.
But they actually enjoy it.
And sometimes their love of science really pays off.
Just yesterday I got the hiccups.
After five agonizing minutes I begged my 14-year-old daughter for help.
She told me to lean my head backwards.
And then she poured some of my Bud Light Lime down the hatch.
Ten seconds later the hiccups were gone.

Take that Isaac Newton!

My kids enjoy science so much it’s not only one of their classes.
It’s also one of their extra-curricular activities.
That activity is called Science Olympiad.
Science Olympiad is a nationwide event with a bunch of competitions centered around... Science.
240 regional and state tournaments.
They get metals and everything.
I mean medals.
Well this past weekend my son’s middle school was competing in our local event.
The top X number of teams advance to the state competition.
Then the top Y number of teams from there go to nationals.
Get it X and Y.
I am so scientific.
And smart too.
So smart, I wore my Stanford sweatshirt to the event.
Oh I didn’t go there.
But I sure did fit in at the Science Olympiad.

And so did my son.
He was entered in four different events.
And each of the events has a cute science name.
Like Awesome Aquifer.
Or Shock Value.
Or Dynamic Planet.
Well one of my son’s events was called Storm the Castle.
Storm the Castle is where you load a little hackie sack ball into a trebuchet sling.
And you try to fling that ball into a box.
Well, Castle.
That empty Castle is sitting at a distance that the shooter requests ahead of time.
Closest to the Castle wins.
If you make it into the box, free suspenders for everyone.
My son spent bookoo hours working on his trebuchet.
Built it from scratch.
If you haven’t figured out, he got no help from me.
As in zero.
It’s not that I didn’t want to help.
It’s that he didn’t trust me.
And that was probably a good move on his part.
We were the last ones at school the night before the competition fine tuning his hot rod.
Every time it failed he would look at me.
And every time he looked at me.
I looked at my watch.
Father of the Year.
That’s me.
Well eventually he got to the point where this thing was working like a charm.
In practice.
But that didn’t mean it would work during the actual event.
An event where he had exactly five minutes to get four launches off.
Two “light” projectiles.
And two “heavy” projectiles.
(P.S.  I think that’s the first time I’ve used the word projectile in a sentence without the word vomit right after it.  Wow!)
He had five minutes to get his business done.
For launch one he put the box... Castle... 13 meters away.
For those of your outside of Canada, that’s like 40 feet.
Or 42.65092 if you believe yahoo.
Unfortunately his launch went a little more than half of that.
But with the clock ticking he kept pushing forward.
For launch two, he cut the gap in half.
Launch three... um.. let’s just call that a malfunction.
With less than a minute left, he still had one more try.
“Launch in 3, 2, 1,” he barked.
Then as he pulled the pin, time went into slo-motion.
The arm of his trebuchet pushed the object into the air.
It felt like it was floating for more than ten minutes.
It was probably closer to two seconds.
But when it landed, the silent room started cheering.
The projectile had landed about a meter from its destination.
A score that was not good enough to get him on the medal stand.
And not good enough to qualify him for the state tournament.
But a result that did earn him a bunch of high fives.
And a giant hug.
A winning formula from where I'm sitting.

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