Monthly Archives: December 2008

Honeybees under a microscope

It was pretty nice last weekend and my bees were flying around to “clear the pipes”.  In addition to that task, they also groom the hive and remove any bees that had expired.  As I watched them bring out their dead, I thought it might be cool to dissect a bee under a microscope.  I don’t have a microscope with a camera attachment though.  I am, however,  a determined and fierce cheap-skate and I have a web cam.

I gathered a few of the recently deceased bees and dissected and mounted various parts that I thought would be cool.    It took some messing around to get the focus right, but I was able to hold the webcam to the eye piece and capture some pictures.  Have a look at the shots and see if you can figure out what the parts are in each picture.  The answers are at the end.

pics from top to bottom:
-bee knee (a joint on the bee’s leg)
-bee toes (the very end of the leg)
-bee tongue (they have several)
-bee stinger (I have seen this after being in me…you can see the barbs then)
-bee wing
-girl hair (yeah, not a beepart , but a hair from Emily…she conditions!)

Christmas – the part with bruises

Skateboarding at Coonskin

Skateboarding at Coonskin

So, yesterday, I mentioned that Isaac and I got Christmas presents that were bruise-causing.  Awhile back, Isaac mentioned that he wanted to try skateboarding. A friend of mine is big into skateboarding so I consulted with him to find good starter skateboards and pads for Isaac and me. My friend skates with his sons and has a lot of fun. I figured that as Isaac and I age and we have our times where we don’t see eye-to-eye, we’ll need something to do to burn off some energy.

Skateboarding at Coonskin

Skateboarding at Coonskin

So, Isaac and I got set up with new equipment and headed to Cookskin Park’s skate area.  It was 75 or so degrees and really beautiful so there were a number of people there to watch the noobs try not to break bones.

Everything started off pretty well.  I got a somewhat effective set of sea-legs and was able to handle most of the ramps (read: I could skate down them without falling….no tricks of course).  Isaac had a smarter approach.  I asked him if he wanted to try a ramp.  He said, “Dad, you know I am not a risk taker!”  He tooled around on the flat surfaces learning to coast and balance…bright kid.  Abigail surprised me though and grabbed her scooter and followed me on all of the ramps.  Anyhow, I was starting to feel like quite the skater so I started talking with one of the teens there and he suggested a Skateboarding at Coonskin

Skateboarding at Coonskin

different way of getting on the board to ride down the ramps.  I had made 30 or so runs with no problem.  Atop the highest ramp I had skated, I decided to try the new method.

Skating Lesson 1:  Never take skating advice from a teenager.

Skating Lesson 2:  Never ever try a new trick on the highest ramp around.

Skating Lesson 3:  Always wear a helmet, knee and elbow pads, and wrist guards…absolutely no one else in the park had any safety equipment.  Mind you, this safety equipment is partly for show as you will still get an awesome bruise…but you’ll look good when you hit the deck from 5 feet in the air!

Skateboarding at Coonskin
Abigail was the only girl at the park which I thought would intimidate her. She was also the youngest. My fearless daughter was awesome though. She cruised around like an old pro! I think that scares me…a lot!
Skateboarding at Coonskin

Skateboarding at Coonskin

We surely had a lot of fun and I even earned this trophy!  It’s actually much larger than it looks but I don’t think you could handle if I showed any more leg!  It’s already turning a wonderful shade of yellow on the edges…sort of like a bag of Skittles exploded and tattooed my leg!
Skateboarding at Coonskin

Christmas – the part without bruises

Christmas morning

We had a great Christmas this year.  We spent lots of time with family and enjoyed tons of great food and gifts.  The kids were pretty calm on Christmas eve and went to bed before too late so Santa could come at a decent hour.  On Christmas morning, the kids even slept in until 7 or so (I was never that kind on Christmas to my parents)!  I think kids really are the most awesome at whatever age they are at.  I remember being so excited for my 2 and 6 year olds to open presents, but it was even better for my 5 and 9 year olds.  My Mom always said she liked us best at whatever age we were and I think I agree.  I am not sure that the same rule applies into adulthood though.  Of course, she can send us home now instead of just to our rooms.  Anyhow, I think I like my kids best at whatever age they are too!

Christmas morning

Abigail had strep for Christmas but she is now mending (after 4 days on an ineffective antibiotic, she got a new type which worked).  I only mention it because we had to wake her up on Christmas morning.  Isaac was eager to open presents and we knew Abigail would be mad if he didn’t wait.  So, we woke her and the kids started opening stuff.  By the way, motrin is magic – it makes the most awful strep/sore throat/fever bearable for everyone!  Anyhow, I loved how our Christmas morning this year.  Rather than just fly through all the presents, the kids stopped and played with each gift before moving on to the next.  We didn’t prompt them to do so, but it let us know that Santa had done good research.  It took us 3 hours to open all the gifts (and there weren’t that many)!  We were exhausted by lunch time!

Christmas morning

I’ll post some more pics tomorrow of one of the gifts that Isaac and I each got…but I need time for the bruise to properly finish developing before I show it off!

Like a lightbulb

We were sitting in the car (aka our recording studio) when the kids decided to sing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  Abigail was going to sing it with her kindergarten class so she wanted to practice.  I just happened to have my handy dandy voice recorder with me and I recorded this…the debut of Isaac and Abigail with backup vocals by Mom.  Maybe it’s just me, but I think kids singing and having fun is about the best sound in the world.  I don’t like regular kids’ albums where they have kids singing in wishy washy, overly sweet voices (do kids ever do anything gently or softly?).  I really love to hear kids singing loud and proud!

I was just a few days ago lamenting the fact that I was not yet in the Christmas spirit.  Things still feel a little different this year, but we are making great strides towards getting us fully Christmas-ey.  I may work half a day tomorrow but hanging with the family, just playing (and singing this song a bunch more times) will bring us into full Christmas swing.  I didn’t ever get how Mom and Dad could be content getting each other underwear for Christmas, but their real present was seeing their kids have a lot of fun playing games, singing, dancing, eating too much, and crashing at the end of a hard fought day.  I am a slow learner but I think I get it now.  Getting myself in the Christmas spirit is a change in attitude…it’s not about me anymore…and that’s cool!

My brother…the sock monkey

My Brother

We went to my baby brother’s house this weekend to have an early Christmas (as none of us intends to travel for Christmas itself). I only see him once or twice a year but it always seems that we pick back up where we left off. I am 2.5 years older than him so we’ve been together as long as either of us can remember. I am certain that he made out better in the deal than I did as I had to give up the complete attention of my parents whereas he was born into a good family with a fantastic older sibling.  I used to be pretty rough on my brother…he would say I tortured him but I always thought of it as tough love.  Anyhow, I still pick on him a good bit but he is now a good bit larger and stronger than I am.  Fortunately I taught him well as he does not typically pick on me to make up for all those years…

My Brother

Anyhow, we goofed around a lot this weekend. I think we’ve been clowns for about as long as I can remember. We are both professional adults and lead fairly adult lives…except when we get together. I won’t detail much of the tom-foolery that went on, but rather, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…but honestly, red suspenders need to be snapped.  My parents (who were present this weekend also) got them for my brother who recently bought a firetruck from my home town.  I think my brother intends to use the truck to get groceries and for the occasional power wash off the driveway.  Anyhow, he couldn’t have a firetruck without red suspenders…and I couldn’t see red suspenders on my brother without snapping them…and he couldn’t let me snap them without bear-hugging me until my ribs cracked!  It was great fun!

My Brother

As we’ve aged, we’ve grown separate in some of our interests and thoughts and discovered other areas in which we agree.

We still burp at the table and stuff, but since we are adults, our parents can now join in.  I mostly feel like an adult, but hanging out with my brother takes me back a little.  I get a little less serious (hard to imagine you say?) and a little more annoying to my wife.  It’s sort of funny how brothers work I guess but since I can’t (er…I mean won’t) trade mine in, I suppose I’ll keep the one I have!

Christmas seems different

The Clay Center

We decided to head to the Clay Center in Charleston again on Sunday afternoon.  The last time we were there, they were advertising the holiday displays that were to open after Thanksgiving.  Emily and I remember the old Christmas displays at the Sunrise Museum.  At Sunrise, there were numerous rooms full of Christmas trees with decorations from around the world.  It was incredible!  The trees were amazing and in a great display.

The Clay Center

So, I guess we had pretty high expectations of the display at the Clay Center (I don’t know if it was advertised as such, but we assumed the display had simply migrated to the Clay Center when they closed Sunrise), but we were pretty disappointed at the time with what was showcased.  There were only a few fairly simple trees and a few model railroads set up.  Now, don’t get me wrong…I absolutely love the Clay Center and am thrilled that we have such a place in WV.    It just wasn’t what I expected.

In a way, though, maybe it was ok too.  As I think back on it, the trees at the Sunrise museum were over done and unlike anything normal people would have.  Christmas has been about “bigger and better” for a lot of people for a long time.  I doubt it was intentional, but I think the Clay Center display sort of captured the mood of lots of folks in the country this year.  Maybe overdone isn’t such a good thing.  I know we have scaled back on hoopla at our house this year.  It’s not necessarily for economic reasons, but more for general mood reasons.  I know others are doing the same.

The Clay Center

Well, so as to not make introspection the only theme of this post, we enjoyed the huge bronze(?) sculpture in front of the museum.  The kids jumped into the “parade” and marched in time…very slow time.  It was the slowest moving parade I’d ever seen…almost like they weren’t moving at all.

Anyhow, I think we are settling in to a different Christmas this year.  I don’t know if it is just part of my growing up or the times, but Christmas is different this year…and probably better than ever!

Gentile Dreidel


A while back, the kids were asking about Hanukkah.  Apparently they had some friends that had dreidels in preparation for the Jewish celebration.  I didn’t really know much about Hanukkah aside from the dime store version.

Anyhow, I figured in the spirit of…uh…learning more about Hanukkah, I’d do a little research on the holiday.  I told the kids about the Jews’ rededication of the temple in Jerusalem and how they only had one day’s worth of oil to burn in the lamp and how the oil lasted for 8 days.  All in all, it was pretty interesting.  They knew I was building a dreidel though so they were anxious to get to the game.

spin the dreidel

spin the dreidel

I don’t know if it is proper for a non-Jew to play this game so if we were out of line, someone let me know.  In the meantime, we had a lot of fun.  The dreidel has 4 sides, each with a Hebrew letter:  nun, gimel, hei, shin which form an acronym that stands for “a great miracle happened there”.  A cool thing that I learned is that in Israel, they change the letter shin to po which changes the acronym to “A great miracle happened here”.

So for the game, the letters are given these meanings:

  • Nun – nisht – “nothing” – nothing happens and the next player spins
  • Gimel – gants – “all” – the player takes the entire pot
  • Hey – halb – “half” – the player takes half of the pot, rounding up if there is an odd number
  • Shin – shtel ayn – “put in” – the player puts one marker in the pot

spin the dreidel

The game can be played with any of a number of markers including money and chocolate.  Since the kids are thin on money, and since I might feel bad taking their money, we decided to play with mini-M&Ms.  It really is a fun game to play.  Each player spins the dreidel and does what the dreidel letter signifies.

I think spinning the dreidel might be the Old Testament version of Monopoly though as it appears to be a very long game to play.  We played for 20 minutes or so and were no where near declaring a clear winner.  In other news, I can confirm that M&Ms will melt in your hand.

Anyhow, we learned a little about other people and had some fun playing a new game as well. Abigail asked me if we could play again this morning. We’ll need to stock up on M&Ms I guess!

Of course, no discussion of Hanukkah would be complete without Adam Sandler singing his Hanukkah song!

Browser Issues

There are tons of reports out that there is an Internet Explorer (probably the web browser you are using) exploit that allows hackers to take control of your computer, steal your passwords, take pictures of you as you trim your nose hairs and may even allow them to launch missiles from silos in Nebraska.  Of course, there is always stuff going on out in the ether but this defect apparently impacts all versions of IE and there is not yet a fix.

I decided to take this as an opportunity to explore other browsers that are not currently suffering the problem.  I do not intend to bash Microsoft or IE.  Since they are the biggest player, it should not be a surprise that they get the most negative attention from the bad guys.  Still, since they have the spotlight, I think I will try to avoid some of the negative attention.

I have off and on used the Firefox browsers and the latest version mostly works pretty well.  However, firefox is also becoming more and more popular so I figure that they will soon be getting more attention from hackers as well.

I have also tried Google’s Chrome and the Opera browser by…Opera.  They are both very cool looking and sort of sexy and fringe-popular.  For now, I am planning to use chrome just because I have a chrome dome (bald is beautiful!), but I’d recommend that anyone who hasn’t tried one of these alternate browsers give one a shot.  Microsoft’s IE is still my favorite, but I don’t want to harass any cows in the fields of Nebraska when the silo doors open.  Stuff just looks better in IE also.  There are many sites, this one included, that don’t look exactly right when viewed with non-IE browsers.  I know, people say that firefox et al.  render pages according to the standards and IE does not.  I don’t really care much about the standards though, if a lot of sites I visit don’t look right.  I am using WordPress and it handles a lot of the layout issues internally so how some of the layout details of this site work are out of my hands.

Anyhow, make sure your spyware and antivirus programs are up to date, consider checking out other browsers, and think about whether you want IE or any browser to save your passwords. Bad guys are out there and my virus issues of last week are still fresh in my mind!

Preemie no more

Isaac Dec 2008

Nine years ago today Isaac was born.  It started as all babies do.  I’ll spare the details, but we found that Isaac was to be born on February 14, 2000.  Emily’s pregnancy progressed normally until the middle of December.  Isaac had always been a bundle of energy, even in the womb.  We called him popcorn before he was born since we didn’t find out his sex.  Anyhow, a few days before he was born, Emily noticed that he had stopped moving.  She waited a day and then another and still no movement.  We were new parents and didn’t know any better.  We decided we’d quell our new parent fears and she called the doctor who recommended that she go straight to the hospital.  She headed to the hospital and 2 1/2 hours later, Isaac was born.  He would not survive long enough to go through normal childbirth so they took him the hard way.  He was suffering liver and kidney failure as well as congestive heart failure.  We later found out that Emily had fifth disease, a common, typically childhood disease that is not terribly serious for kids, but very serious for unborn babies.  So, Isaac contracted it in utero which caused his loss of movement as he was dying.

Isaac Dec 1999

So, the doctors delivered him and rushed him to the NICU at Baptist Hospital in Nashville, TN.  Baptist is a huge hospital in Nashville and is generally considered “the baby hospital”.  They have a fantastic NICU and a great staff.  Anyhow, since he was born 2 months early, and without advanced warning, he was not given steroids to prepare his lungs.  A typical NICU ventilator would have killed him.  Fortunately, he was put on a jet vent which puffs lots of little bursts of air into his lungs.  They also filled his lungs with some sort of liquid to ease his transition to the ouside world.

Isaac Dec 1999

Because of his liver failure, the medications he was given processed through his system slower than expected so he didn’t not proceed as expected.  Initially, the doctors were not aware of this and suspected, instead, that he had suffered a brain hemmorage and was brain dead.  We kept faith through it all but feared the worst.

I can’t really bear to relive all of the details, but slowly, Isaac started to wake up and to move.  And slowly he was transitioned off of the jet vent and placed on a regular ventilator.  Slowly, he was moved from a feeding tube to eating a few cc’s of milk at a time.  He pooped 8 days in to this ordeal!  It was only then that his body started to really heal.

Isaac Jan 2000

We still weren’t out of the woods.  Doctors recommended all sorts of treatments, one of which they warned us, would likely make him deaf.  Due to all of his issues, they warned us that he would likely have some mental disabilities as well.

So, here we are 9 years later.  From the boy we were told was brain dead, we have come so far.  From the 3  1/2 pound baby to the 5 foot tall, 90 pound eating machine who wears a size 8.5 men’s shoe, he has exceeded everyone’s expectations.  From the baby who would likely be mentally disabled, to the boy who has just started gifted classes, we remain astounded at how we have been blessed with and by this child!  He suffers only one of the afflictions the doctors warned of.  Isaac has moderate hearing loss for certain frequencies.

I love my little boy so much and he continues to delight me.  I had no idea, 9 years ago, that I could possibly love that kid more…but I do.