Biology Memories

I’m not as young as I look. Or act. Or claim to be in chatrooms. The truth is, I’m actually going to attend my ten-year high school reunion this summer. As a tribute to the Ellensburg High School Class of ’96, I thought I would share a variety of high school experiences… starting with some memories from sophomore year Biology…

In a row we sat, The Captive Lion, Solo, and myself. Lecturing in front of us, a dispassionate biology teacher. I think you can imagine how the year went.

Keep in mind, we weren’t the type to throw spitballs. No, our form of rebellion was uninvited commentary throughout each lesson. Our teacher soon learned that he couldn’t just start a video and leave the room without some sarcastic praise of his teaching ability. And we made sure that homework wasn’t assigned, it was negotiated. Thankfully, our teacher really had no objection to his authority being undermined. As you can imagine, all of this made for a very memorable year…

Before there was Fear Factor, there was biology class.

First off, where do they find the grasshoppers for biology class dissection? These things were the size of a Thanksgiving turkey, smothered in formaldehyde gravy. Seriously, is there a real-life Land of the Lost that I’m not aware of?

Anyway, it was the Class of ’96 that proudly created the need to warn future classes about the dangers of eating your dissection project. We actually had a classmate bite the head off of a gigantic grasshopper as part of a bet. In his defense, grasshoppers are an excellent source of protein.

The Fetus:
There’s not much to this story, other than the fact that we had an actual fetus, in a Mason jar, stored in a display case in the back of the classroom. He was our unofficial mascot.

Extra-Credit Assignments:
As you might expect, extra-credit was very hard to come by, as that would generate more work for our teacher to grade. However, if you made a profound advancement in the field of science, he was usually willing to throw a few extra points your way.

Here are two actual suggestions he seriously pitched to us in class, neither of which were actually attempted by anyone:

Train your cat to pull a small wagon. In the beginning, it will border on animal cruelty. Over time though, your cat will theoretically learn to use that wagon to accomplish a variety of amazing tasks. Or, more likely, your cat will suffer a horrible wagon-related death.

Here’s another: Build a miniature microscope from items around the house. That’s right, he wanted unmotivated high school sophomores to build a homemade microscope. He stood before us, telling us how easily this could be done. First, you melt some glass. Then, you shape it into a perfect hyperbola. Or maybe it was a perfect parabola. Either way, there were 8,000 additional steps that followed. As you might have guessed, things that the Professor did in an episode of Gilligan’s Island were the inspiration for most of our extra-credit assignments.

The Biology Field Trip Death March:
First, I’ll answer the obvious question on your mind: No, the fetus didn’t get to come along on the field trip.

Everyone else got in a bus, and drove two hours into the Channeled Scablands. That’s right, The Scablands. Not only is “Scablands” the geographically correct term, but it also perfectly conveys the godforsaken nature of this Eastern Washington desert.

Have you ever noticed that while Disneyland has a Tomorrow Land, a Fantasy Land, and an Adventure Land it does not have an amusement area called Scabland? As such, you are correct to infer that the Scablands is not the happiest place on earth.

But yet, here we were, on a field trip to observe nature in its natural state. Unfortunately, it’s kind of hard to learn about ecosystems in the most uninhabitable place on earth. In the entire day, I think we saw one breed of plant: tumbleweed, and one breed of animal: rattlesnake.

Scratch that. We also saw vultures… lots and lots of vultures. They spent most of the afternoon circling above us as we trekked through the Scablands for seven hours on a sweltering day. Other than that, it was pretty uneventful. Oh, wait, I saw my ancestors too. That actually might have been a hallucination though. Somewhere along the way, the outing kind of morphed from a simple field trip into a vision quest.

The Insect Collection:
We were assigned to collect a diverse sample of insects. I got an “A” on my project, which was actually very difficult to do. Normally, you pretty much needed to go on an African safari and return with trophy-sized insects to ace it.

For the most part, my collection was unspectacular. I had a modest collection of bees, houseflies, ants, moths, and ladybugs. Basically, I pinned anything that could be picked off the front of your grill or windowsill onto a piece of cardboard and turned it in.

So how did I pull off such a high grade? I found a spider with the legspan of a CD on my parents’ porch. Naturally, I pinned it to the center of my collection. Of course, spiders technically aren’t insects, they’re arachnids. Apparently it was close enough, as my grade reflects. I sometimes wonder if I would have gotten a similar grade had I pinned a hummingbird or salamander to the center of my insect collection instead.

The Final Exam:
Most teachers don’t look at the final exam as a mere formality. Of course, I use the term “teacher” loosely, as ours was really more of a projectionist anyway. Fittingly, our final exam was thrown together from a sample of questions and multiple-choice answers that were written by students. Needless to say, it takes a really apathetic teacher to give a Final Exam in this manner. And as expected, the test was a total debacle. For instance, here’s one classic example:

Our galaxy is:
A. The Milky Way
B. Punkville
C. Mabton
D. B and C.

For the record, this question was proudly submitted by Solo.

Bonus Story: (Epilogue)
This same biology teacher happens to moonlight as a photographer. Last summer, we ran into him taking pictures at a friend’s wedding. He went to extraordinary lengths to insure that the Captive Lion and I were not included in any shot at the wedding. Of course, we picked up on this early on, and naturally we went to our own extraordinary lengths to get into every wedding shot possible.

Ultimately, we won. The Captive Lion’s elbow can clearly be seen in a shot of the couple going through the buffet line.

The Bee Trap

I would like to share the singular philosophy that guides me through life:

When life gives me lemons, I have my wife make me a glass of lemonade. Extra ice. And then I put my feet up and hope that life gives me the ingredients for a sandwich as well.

You could say that I am a very lazy optimist.

So, when the Zillionaire Homestead became infested with bees, I didn’t panic. I didn’t even blink. I merely dusted off the juicer and readied a clean glass, metaphorically speaking. The bees’ days were officially numbered. The only question was how best to eliminate them.

I considered using various poisons, but since I have a baby at home, and friends (Krusty, I’m looking at you) that will indiscriminately eat things off the floor, I thought better of it.

I pondered digging miniature tiger pits all over the yard.

I looked into flypaper. Ultimately, I had no desire to kill these bees in the most unsanitary way possible.

Finally, I began to use my brain. What animal eats bees? They must have a natural predator. I bought an anteater, thinking it would be close enough. It didn’t work out.

And then it hit me. Home Depot sells quality bee traps for six dollars. As you can see from the picture below, problem solved:

bee trap resized.jpg

You are looking at a figurative glass of lemonade with extra ice. With these bees helplessly confined, I can now ponder ways to use their plight to enrich myself. Here are the ideas I’ve come up with so far:

  • I could train them to fight each other to the death for the amusement of others. This seems like it could be the perfect undercard event to a cockfighting match.
  • Maybe I can get a vapid quasi-celebrity to walk around with a well-groomed bee in her handbag. And voila, the bee would instantly replace the Chihuahua as a fashion accessory.
  • I could single out the biggest specimen and take it to a taxidermist. But instead of having it stuffed, I’ll have it made into a rug.
  • I could sell them as pets. Aren’t people sick of having pets that can’t fly and have fewer than six legs? I know I am.
  • Maybe someone could use them as part of an amateur audition tape for Fear Factor. Seems like a worthy cause. Hell, I’ll even throw in some rotten dairy products as well.
  • With this many agitated bees, it seems like I should be able to take the concept of a flea circus up a notch.
  • Candy is so played-out on Halloween. What kid wouldn’t like a handful of bees?
  • Maybe this could be a roadside attraction? I could charge travelers from the Midwest a dollar to let them take their kids’ picture next to the infamous bee trap. Naturally, using the bathroom would cost an extra dollar.

Finally, if you have a better idea, I’m willing to sell these bees directly to the general public. Simply send me a self-addressed stamped envelope and 25 dollars per bee for “handling” charges. Be sure to mark “FRAGILE” on the envelope though. And poke some holes in it too.

The Chain of Command

Sidenote: I’ve actually been a pretty good husband of late. I came up huge on my wife’s first Mother’s Day. And I’ve been helping out a lot with the new baby… Now, watch me squander all of that goodwill:

As you might have guessed, I am the Head of the Centaur Household. Along with that title, I am also the CEO and CFO of our organization. And I function as the Board of Directors too. Needless to say, we are very top-heavy in our family managerial structure.

As my titles would suggest, I oversee all aspects of the daily operation of the Centaur Conglomerate. However, at certain times, there is a need to delegate authority. For this purpose, I have crafted an organizational chart, illustrating the chain of command in our household.

As expected, the Xbox 360 is second in command, functioning as my deputy and right-hand man. In my absence, the Xbox 360 is left solely responsible for all household operations. My truck, the Manmobile III, then reports directly to the 360, who then reports to me. If both the Xbox 360 and the Manmobile III are unable to fulfill their duties, my wife assumes full command.

Of course, if you pay attention to the Org Chart, you’ll notice that my Original Xbox still holds a significant position of power within our family. This is done mainly as a precaution. While my wife is probably capable of managing the household on her own, she simply doesn’t have the leadership experience of my Original Xbox. Close to retirement, the Original Xbox functions mainly in an advisory role at this point. By having her working closely with the Original Xbox, I’m hoping it will help groom my wife for an executive position someday.

Some may question how the Xbox 360 achieved such a high-ranking position with such a short tenure. Normally, experience and years of loyal service will factor in heavily when deciding promotions. However, the hiring of the Xbox 360 involved special circumstances. The 360 was a heavily sought-after, big money acquisition. We couldn’t bring him on board without offering him a position of authority. While I would have preferred to promote from within, it was the only way to seal the deal.

Thankfully, my wife is accustomed to the glass ceiling in our household. She continues to be a loyal employee, devoting her time to tackling administrative work and handling all of my correspondence. Believe me, her positive attitude will be looked upon favorably in her annual review. And please, don’t feel sorry for my wife’s status in our organization. I’ve offered her countless opportunities to sleep her way to the top.

Finally, I recently decided to create a position for my son. I’m going to station him in the metaphorical mailroom of the household and let him earn his future promotions. He will report directly to the barbeque for all personnel matters, like getting vacation time approved and so forth. The barbeque will keep me regularly apprised of Charlie’s progress, and once a quarter I will give him an unbiased evaluation of his potential for advancement. As my wife can attest, there’s no room for nepotism in this organization.

The Netflix Queue Restraining Order

Dear Netlix Queue Stalker,

It has recently come to our attention that Netflix registered user, InternetZillionaire, requested that you be served with a Netflix Queue Restraining Order for inappropriate use of his current Netflix movie queue. In his complaint, he supplied the following anecdote to justify his actions:

“Mackenzie and I were coworkers in real life. Over time we became friends in real life. One day I thought, hey, we are both Netflix customers so I should add her as a “friend” on the Netflix website where we can recommend movies to each other, send messages back and forth, and generally extend our friendship into the virtual world. But then I quit my job and moved far away. Mackenzie and I didn’t communicate as often. We drifted apart, naturally, the way friends drift when they are focused on other things. No animosity, just a slight drift. Weeks go by with no communication then I get an email out of the blue from her. She’s curious to know if my recent rental, Denise Austin’s Fat-Blasting Yoga, is really BLASTING away the fat. I already felt stupid enough getting a dvd with that title and then she throws it back in my face! I tried to come back with a corny joke about the dvd not even coming with a laser gun, but we both could sense the humiliation in my stilted, brief email response. Things just haven’t been the same since. I want to get back at her in some petty way for thinking I could take the joke. Doesn’t she know by now that I can dish it out but can’t take it.”

The Netflix Queue Restraining Order has the following stipulations:

1. You cannot surf within two clicks of InternetZillionaire’s Netflix movie queue.

2. You will only be able to view your other friends’ queues if you register with the Netflix Queue Abuser Rehabilitation Plan wherein you meet in a chat room with a Netflix Queue Rehabilitator and go over the Netflix Queue FAQ. Q by q.

3. The small purple “friend” icon that currently appears next to your name and movie suggestions will be replaced by a small graphic of a blood-stained knife with the word “Backstabber” underneath it. This is a permanent change. No undoes.

4. Once in a while, just to mess with your head, we will send you a video of Robin Williams doing spontaneous improv on some talk show. At first, you will laugh. But soon, you will beg for mercy. As if mercy could wipe those heinous memories away.

5. Two words. Late fees.

6. Because of the specific details of your offense, you will have to live with image of an ex-coworker doing yoga to a stupid dvd in his living room. Probably in his underwear because it gets so hot in there. And then you will be forced to answer the timeless quesion, “Could he be any more of a loser?”

This restraining order will be in effect on your account for two months as this is your first offense. If you get a second offense, things get a bit uglier. We immediately give up your account info to the NSA where they will begin a full analysis of your terrorist threat potential. It will suck. They will dig up all kinds of dirt on you. Dirt you thought you got out from under your fingernails in the late 1980’s. Guess what, they’ve got that dirt. In a jar. In a closet. In a lab. And they will get it out if they want to. So wise up now and save yourself a lot of hassle.

Proving Krusty Wrong

Below is a poor-quality scan of an article I wrote for the high school paper in 1994 about the infamous biology field trip death march. Not only is Krusty quoted in the article, discussing the many heatstrokes he endured on the journey, but there is even a photograph of him snapping a stalk of cattail, ostensibly for his last meal…


So, Krusty, here is photographic proof of you attending the Biology field trip. I hope this jogs your memory.

(And if you stumbled onto this post randomly, and it makes no sense whatsoevever, start here.)