Written sometime in 2007?
I saw a moon rock today, encased in a thick glass case inside another glass case in the temporary home of the California Academy of Sciences, looking awesome in that totally unassuming way rocks have, unless they are diamonds or sapphires. I had a smile on my face half the time I was there, but what I liked best, besides the moon rock, was the classroom set up like the academy’s old-time self with lots of things crammed into wood cabinets around the walls, and photos of old guys with beards and hats and even two old gals, curators of botany and ichthyology. 
Claudia came back from an unsuccessful hunt for dinosaurs (they are coming, but not there yet) and I directed her to the classroom and then took her to see my other favorite, a fat gecko stretched, head down, up the wall of its little box, like that was nothing, and for a gecko it is. “It looks bored,” said Claudia. “I don’t think that concept applies to reptiles,” said I. “Maybe I’m projecting,” she said, and proposed that she wait on the bench in the lobby while I finished looking. 
Claudia and I share many interests but science is not one of them.* She took astronomy to fulfill the science requirement at U Mich. and never bothered to look through a telescope. I took the classes for science majors: Chem 1A (a five-unit lab course, which did great things for my GPA when I got an A in it), and Zoo 1A and 1B, both lab courses, and I enjoyed them all. I also took a non-lab organic chemistry course and was bored stiff, but the professor was a terrible lecturer, though the textbook he wrote for the class was a model of clarity.
I always thought my interest in science came from my father, who taught me names of constellations, trees and field crops and taught me the only thing I know of the dismal science, Marx’ Theory of Surplus Value. My mother was more interested in the arts than the sciences, though she was a dab hand at replacing worn plugs on electric cords back when they were replaceable. Imagine my surprise when I turned up her college transcripts while sorting through her files and found that she, too, had aced Chem 1A, a five unit course at that time as well, so undoubtedly the exact same course, but perhaps more rarely taken by women in her day even than in mine.
And the current thoughts:
I found one of those little nuggets of information I love in a footnote in the book I’m reading now, Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks. “Galileo famously exemplified this [the accurate memories humans have for tempo and rhythm] in his experiments timing the descent of objects as they rolled down inclined planes. Having no accurate watches or clocks to go by, he timed each trial by humming tunes to himself, and this allowed him to get results with an accuracy far beyond that of the timepieces of his era.”
Can we agree now that music is not a frill? No? Come ON!
I’m at Toby’s Feed Barn in Pt. Reyes Station again, sitting next to a guy named Gene, who told us he moved out here from Berkeley some time ago. He’s originally from the Bronx, and we were recommending to him the film we saw Saturday night at the Jewish Film Festival, At Home in Utopia, about the “coops,” the cooperative apartments started mostly by secular Jewish Communists in the thirties. I said I especially loved the film, being a red diaper baby. He said his father had described himself as a liberal Republican, but had named his baby boy after Eugene V. Debs.
Now I’m back at our undisclosed location, wondering what kind of bird is outside sounding like a piece of small machinery: chi-bp-bp-bp-bp-bp-bp-bp, over and over. Ah, a quail walking along the porch railing. Oh-oh, a quail on the rail--this is either a song or a pinky-stinky. I’m reading the Wikipedia article on Debs, which is still on my laptop though I’m off-line, and find that he didn’t start out as a socialist. He was a Democrat until he read Marx while in jail for obstructing the mail (during the Pullman strike). Uh-oh, jail-mail. Sorry, I can’t help it. It’s genetic. The quail is now doing a quieter bp-bp, bp-bp, like a faucet dripping into a basin of water, and it’s time to go into town for dinner.
*When she read this post, Claudia pointed out that she had been reading the Tuesday science section of the NY Times while I was working on the links. An article about the government trying to suppress the publication of an army instruction book to teach army surgeons new methods to deal with multiple wounds from roadside bombs. They say it’s because it gives the enemy information on the penetrability of American body armor and armored vehicles. Couldn’t be because the gory photos might give the impression that war is a bad thing, could it?
©2008 by Nancy Schimmel

Tuesday, August 5, 2008