Thursday, January 22, 2009

My Daughter's Science Fair Project

Tonight was Science Fair night at my kid's school. My daughter Megan (who was recently accepted into the Gifted & Talented program) had her project on display with all the rest of the 5th graders' projects. I wandered down the hall looking for hers, perusing all the others along the way. I saw the 3rd place project, very impressive. I came upon the 2nd place winner, also very impressive. Scattered along the way were numerous Honorable Mentions too. I turned the corner and saw Megan up ahead, waving to me, pointing to where her project sat.

When I got to it, I noticed something a little different about it - the blue 1st place ribbon hanging from the top. Just the night before she had told me that she didn't even get an Honorable Mention, which was true. She had gotten much more! (little imp! has her father's sense of humor)

Now, it's on to District competition. I pity the other kids.

I've always heard that you can never feel as much pride in your own accomplishments as could be felt for the accomplishments of your child. Tonight I finally understood that.

The project was created using a gift I got her for Christmas, called Eyeclops, which is a video magnifier with a built-in lcd screen or you can connect it to a tv. It takes still and video images at 100x, 200x or 400x, and stores them on a usb flash drive. We took pictures of many different things, and she decided to do a poll on whether people could tell whether the object was natural or man-made. As a secondary question, people could also guess what the object actually was.

Here are the pictures, can you guess a. natural or man-made and b. wtf is it? You can click on the image to see a larger version and what it is, but don't cheat! Guess first!

Update: Tonight (2/17/09) they announced the winners in the district competition, and she received an Honorable Mention award out of a field of about 50 entries in her category. Awesome!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Perfect Woman?

I was challenged (just for fun) to compile a list of traits which I felt would describe "the perfect woman." Being the sick puppy that I am, this initially conjured lines like "3 feet tall with a flat spot on her head where I could set my beer." But since her "perfect man" list was a genuine, thoughtful exercise on her part, I felt that I owed her the same.

The perfect woman for me, in no particular order:

Individualistic, such as changing the spelling of her name from ordinary to unusual.
Intelligent: capable of coherent, original thought, able to articulate those thoughts, and values & appreciates my intelligence.
Financially self-sufficient.
Attractive without requiring makeup.
Doesn't believe she needs full makeup just to go to the grocery store.
Not skeletal, not obese. height/weight proportionate, extra padding no problem.
Has reasoned opinions which she isn't afraid to defend, yet respects the opinions of others (or, at least their right to disagree with her)
Likes kids, especially mine.
Casual in attitude and dress, when appropriate (casual being the rule, not the exception).
Capable of forgiving, even if she doesn't forget.
Open and honest.
Comfortable in her own skin, not averse to casual nudity when in private (and it's not too cold).
An enthusiastic, imaginative lover who enjoys sex often.
Exudes natural charm and poise.
Warm and friendly to friends and strangers alike, unless she has good reason to be otherwise.
Can realistically differentiate between major character flaws and minor eccentricities.
Can laugh at herself.
Keeps her word, even when it's difficult to do.
Inspires me to be my best.
Can say it all with a smile, but not hesitant to say it with words and/or actions.
Subtle, sophisticated sense of humor, but still likes slapstick comedy too.
Passionate about her job and interests.
Gives her heart completely to those she loves.
Dances like no one is looking.
Has her own hobbies/interests, doesn't mind being alone sometimes.
Likes most music, especially mine.
Doesn't let potential embarrassment keep her from having definite fun.
Doesn't embarrass easily.
Can initiate action, or let others do so instead.
Has an infectious laugh, and uses it often.
Likes seafood, especially sushi and cajun.
Has bedroom eyes.
Makes me feel that there's nowhere she'd rather be than with me.
Makes me feel humble and blessed for being with her.

And if she inherits a liquor store, that's just a perk!

Monday, January 19, 2009

My Bad Just Wasn't Good Enough

Most people who know me are aware of how I'm essentially deaf in one ear and can't hear a damn thing out of the other (a line they've all heard from me too many times, I'm sure). This can be traced back to the fact that I never realized that volume knobs could also turn down, be they connected to stereo headphones or guitar amps, until some point in my late 20's. By then, the damage was done and chronic tinnitus was my personal affliction. By my mid-40's, I came into a windfall sufficient to finance the acquisition of a pair of high-end digital hearing aids ($5k for the pair!) that truly transformed my life - everyone around me stopped mumbling all the time and stuff that was supposed to go "click" no longer went "thud".

These hearing aids have been repaired and replaced many times since I got them, and though I milk them for all they are worth it's only a matter of time before further repair/replacement is no longer an option, and I'll be forced to cough up more big bucks to continue enjoying the auditory lifestyle to which I've become accustomed.

So I'm listening to the radio a couple of weeks ago and I hear about an ongoing clinical trial for the purpose of obtaining FDA approval for the sale of a fully-implantable hearing aid instrument (not to be confused with a cochlear implant). Even though I'm not altogether thrilled with the prospect of having something surgically implanted in my skull, the fact that everything but personal travel to/from the clinic is paid for intrigues me. It turns out that the price tag on this instrument is $12.5k apiece, plus $5k in surgical costs. My cost would be a couple of tanks of gas. So I call the number.

They were sufficiently interested in me to bring me into the participating ENT practice in Houston for a full hearing test and interview. My knowledge of the various features and subsystems of hearing aids (mostly learned from using signal processing gear in my music, same kind of stuff) was a big plus, and I looked like a shoo-in assuming that my hearing loss was within the desired profile - which it was. But...

It seems that I have a negative-pressure condition within my middle ears, which results in a 2db drop between what happens at my eardrum and what I actually sense in my inner ear. This is a disqualifying condition according to the criteria set by the FDA for this trial. Ironically, the instrument in question is actually designed to address that kind of hearing flaw, which I would think makes me an even better candidate. But no.

So, now I needn't be concerned with having a hole drilled through the side of my skull into the middle ear cavity, and a laser-drilled hole created in my stapes bone therein. Nor do I have to ponder the tricky placement of the subcutaneous microphone that might keep me from using headphones anymore, or the ramifications of having a shallow chamber routed out to allow the instrument package to be flush-mounted in my skull surface. If I ever need an MRI, it will still be an option available to me. And I won't have to walk around for an hour a day with charging unit stuck to the side of my head with a magnet. Not to mention surgical replacement of the internal battery 5-10 years down the road, on my nickel.

Maybe getting kicked off the island wasn't such a bad thing after all.

What do you think? If you were in my situation, would you do it?

Update: I called the audiologist back and told her that I was just getting over a head cold, and could that have skewed the test results regarding my middle ear pressure? She said that it could indeed, and agreed to retest me in a few weeks after all vestiges of the cold are gone. I still might get the opportunity to have a bionic ear after all.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My Mid-Life Crisis Badge

I started playing guitar in various bands in my 20's, during the big-hair 80's. While my hair was pretty long back then, and I thought of myself as a liberal progressive, looking back it's obvious to me that I was much more conservative in my views than I would have believed. I was the only one in my circle of musician friends and associates who liked President Reagan, for instance. Also, everyone else had a pierced ear and a tattoo or two, but I never did. I just figured I was being a pussy about it.

Over the years I came to recognize how conservative my values were, and learned that being conservative didn't automatically mean that I was a mean-spirited bastard with a heart of stone, although those are the preconceived notions most liberals would blindly apply to me just for admitting it. I've portrayed myself to the world as the quiet, professional type who dresses conservatively and avoids any kind of outrageous appearance. The only exception to this was the few years that I shaved my head, but that was mostly a response to how fucked up my hair looked after it started falling out.

I'm less than a month away from my 50th birthday as I write this. I've re-immersed myself in my music since my divorce, and I believe that I'm writing my best songs to date. I also decided that I was tired of my plain vanilla-ness, and it was time to take more risks while I was still young enough to enjoy doing so. That's why I gave myself a long-awaited present just after Christmas, and got my ear pierced. Big deal, right?

I know that in this modern era, a single pierced ear and no tattoos is hardly considered very rebellious. But considering how I've refrained from exhibiting any kind of wild streak for so many years, it's still very liberating for me. Those who know me either smirk and make some kind of comment about a mid-life crisis, or genuinely smile and appreciate what I've done, and what I overcame to do it (surprisingly, my mother was among the latter). And even though body piercings and numerous tattoos are now often considered practically mainstream, I'm still pretty plain-vanilla with my little loop hanging from my earlobe - but it's a big deal for me and a first step toward shedding a lot of inhibitions with which I've chosen to contain myself for so long. I'm even ready to get some ink on me, if only I can find something that I can live with - I hate cartoon tattoos, which describes most of them in my opinion. But one step at a time.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

WTF Happened To Me Since Last Posting?

BTF out of me! I just sobered up yesterday.

I did have a nice creative spurt this past fall, and wrote/recorded several songs. If you are interested (and of course you should be!) you can hear them at the home of my MySpace persona, Captain F-Hole. (friend requests welcome!) My music is my hobby, but I still crave adulation so feel free to patronize my gullible naivete'. You get to smirk a little, I'll pretend it's sincere, and everyone leaves happy.

I've had some major upheaval in my love life too, but I'll spare you the need to roll your eyes and navigate away before my sad tale prompts you to slash your wrists in solidarity with your humble correspondent. Suffice to say that you can get a sense of what happened by listening to the songs I mentioned above. Also, things are finally smoothing out, so lets all put away the razor blades, shall we?

I'm not even going to say "I promise to post more yada yada yada..." because even I don't believe it. But you never know...