Friday, June 29, 2007

Of Cats and Kids and Scientists Who Aren't, part 3

6. Hegelian Kids. Thesis: Earle trained as a chemist. He became a manager and wrote speechs as well as technical and business articles. Antithesis: I trained in theatre. I became a manager and wrote speeches, technical, craft and advertising features and catalogs in addition to plays, a book or two and a blog. Synthesis: MAL is training as a teacher of science for elementary age kids. She also writes books.

7. Dogs are from Kling. Mal wanted a dog. But we have cats, I offered. I want a dog too, said she. So we borrowed the dog of friends to go for walks. The dog was too well behaved to put the Kidtm off. So we asked Marie, the local animal control officer, if she could find us a medium size dog like Chips, our friend's border collie - terrier mix. A week or two later Marie called to ask if we were still interested. We *ulp* were. So Marie arrived with a bit of black fluff about the size of a large turkey and a hard luck story that wouldn't quit. Her pink tongue lolled happily as the only non-black feature except for her large, soulful, deep brown eyes. The Kidtm was entranced. Diana, who was least interested in a dog, reached to pet the puppy's head. I suckered. Though there was a small voice nattering within: Look at the paws on that galumph! They are already as big as tennis balls. In a PUP-P-E-E!!
Marie, an excellent saleswoman, slipped me the leash, wished us luck and was gone.
Come along, Blackie, said the Kidtm trying to relief me of the leash.
Her name, quoth Diana who sometimes is quite oracular, is Peggy (after the second mate of the Amazons in "Swallows and Amazons" by Arthur Ransome).
Peggy did not become enormous. She was no where near the size of one of John's pet Mammoths. We just thought she was. Peggy grew into a largish dog of the black lab mixed variety with an alpha plus personality who thought discipline and training were for people, not dogs. She proved her point with us. The only way I was able to get her attention at all was after I got down on all fours and bit her ear. After that she regarded me as slightly crazed but mostly harmless. Or, to put it another way: Thereafter she gave me slightly more attention than Mr. Cheney gives to -- whozits, down the hall.
Her great spirits and high jinx were no end frustrating to us all as Peggy seemed always to want to do something we didn't want her to do.
We were besotted by her.
Too soon she came to die. The vet, a very good one, couldn't satisfy himself as to the cause of her weight loss. At one point he suggested we try Pepto Bismaltm. Poor Peggy hurled it which turned the screen door that bright bubble-gum pink.
I took her to the vet. She was in the back seat. Just a block away she turned her head to the heavens and howled just as the Klingons of STNG do to announce the imminent arrival of a Klingon warrior in heaven.
The Vet asked to do an autopsy so he could determine the cause of death. The result was a cancerous tumor in the esophagus just beneath the larynx. It was behind the sternum so that it didn't show up in the x-rays.
Peggy was a wonderful dog, but Diana and I are in full agreement: no more dogs.
The Kidtm says: I want a dog.
Just as soon as.

8. My First Computer. In the late fifties my brothers acquired a used pin ball machine for ten or so dollars. It lived in the basement with the work shop and the root/preserve cellar. After a year or so of its dust gathering Earle took stock of the great number of relays in the box. Earle asked Leonard if he could take it apart for two projects he had in mind. Leonard agreed. One project was to construct a working semaphore system for my O gauge model railroad. It worked beautifully with any train following too close to another stopping in a dead section of the track, seemingly in deference to the changing twinkling lights on the towers, until the predecessor was safely past.
The other was to build the Tic-Tack-Toe player in a recent issue of Scientific American ("Ticktacktoe" by Martin Gardner in Scientific American Book of Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1959 -- I think) Which also needed a bunch of relays to work through the "nk ≤ (n+2) k possible wining moves to find the most appropriate.
After several months of work at odd moments, Earle completed a three inch tall, pine box a generous foot square topped with a Masonite board containing a number of lights and switches to mark and select the moves where you could see them and jammed with scads of relays, wires and gizmos inside. I played against it for hours until I finally learned how to win the game if I went first (put your 'X' in the middle) and the more complicated strategy to force a draw if you played naughts.

Whew! I elaborated this rather more than it strictly required I guess. That gives me pause when it comes to nailing another eight to carry on. The altruistic function of these memes is to point traffic to anther, less well known, blog. Despite my invisibility, there is no lack of company in the obscurity where Dum Luk's labors to amuse. But I think it will be best to make this open source. If you feel like answering this meme, take this as your invite to do so and leave your url in comments when you've posted.
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