I get all kinds of questions from my awesome kids about this wonderful world we live in.
I love it. I suspect the girls are getting a little gun-shy. Grace, the kid who used to turn to me and say “put *that* in your blog, daddy,” now groans a little as she watches me thumb her questions into my mobile phone (so I don’t forget to blog about them.)
I’ve worked on waiting until the girls are on to their next adventure before typing their questions into note mode on my phone.
So far, so good.
Here’s what they asked this time:
1. Why is it when I microwave two stuffed shells for the same amount of time as three, they get hotter?
Ah, let’s get started right away with food.
I’ve vowed to avoid political references in any of my blogs this week and next.
I think there’s a Republican parable out there about two stuffed shells vs. three stuff shells, and how the microwave represents the government, and the actual waves represent welfare, and the stuffed shells represent welfare-eligible recipients.
I’ve vowed to avoid political references in any of my blogs this week and next.
But if I weren’t avoiding them, let’s just say if it were Romney noodles, it’d be best to heat two at a time, and get that third one out of the microwave all together, with help from loop holes in the microwave’s wattage.
And let’s just say if you were heating Obama rolls, it’d be best to actually put two more in the microwave and add more time to the timer, and if you can, add two more after that.
And that’s not political at all. It’s just that if you have fewer items in the microwave, you have less stuff for the actual microwaves to heat, so it goes faster and is more efficient, because the shells aren’t as dependent.
Even if the shells are stuffed with government cheese.
My name is Eli Pacheco and I approved this message.
2. Why don’t ants make their piles in the middle of the sidewalk?
Can you imagine getting an ant bite from a creature with jaws strong enough to rip up concrete?
Grace, you’re allergic to ant bites. Can you imagine getting one from a creature with jaws strong enough to rip up concrete? Let’s be happy they can’t chew through the sidewalk.
Ants have this great reputation of being able to carry several times their weight. It’d be like having 600 linebackers living among you, only the ant would make a linebacker look like a kicker.
Carpenter ants, though, have been known to chew through brick. Yeah, brick! All that dirt you see piled up on an ant hill is what they’ve moved out to create a complex network of tunnels, chambers, storage units, and burial chambers.
Ants out west probably make tornado shelters, and I heard of an ant pile in Cabarrus County that had a man cave, an RV park and a dirt track in it, too.
Ants are capable of a great many things, and live in a complex society. Why build your fortress on the sidewalk where some dumb human on an i-Phone is going to trample you?
3. Do all writing spiders make zigzags in the middle of their webs?
Not all of them. I’m pretty sure writing spiders in Asia and the Arabic world have very different patterns. I think they write right to left, too. Don’t quote me on that.
The English call writing spiders wasp spiders.
Makes me wonder if Kentucky writing spiders do their writing in blue.
(Actually, the English call them wasp spiders. I presume because they look kind of like a wasp, and not because they’re white anglo-saxon protestants. Maybe for my next blog you’ll ask why white anglo-saxon protestants make zigzag lines in their webs.)
Many people are freaked out over writing spiders, because they’re so big, and sport Pittsburgh Steelers colors. They’re pretty docile, though. Ever seen one upset? They get the bum rap with superstitions, too.
Some people think if a writing spider writes your name, you’ll die. Or, if one sees your teeth, they’ll fall out. Writing spiders are bad luck to no one, though, unless you count the Pittsburgh Pirates, who also share their colors.
Know how you have to scribble with a pen to get the ink to start flowing?
I suspect this is the case with writing spiders. They have to get their butts warmed up to write with web. Probably, though, they’ve learned to put the zigzags in so that people on their i-Phone will hopefully look up in time to see the web before they walk through it.
4. Why does it rain?
Rainy days are God’s way of telling Rockies pitchers, “you’re still my children. We’ll save the shelling you’re expecting until tomorrow. Now go play cards in the clubhouse.”
To preserve Rockies pitching, of course. Rainy days are God’s way of telling Rockies pitchers, “you’re still my children. We’ll save the shelling you’re expecting until tomorrow. Now go play cards in the clubhouse.”
Rain is just the most impressive part of a process that includes words like “evaporation” and “condensation.”
I think you all have made the “chart” in school – you know, the one with the cotton balls glued to the page, and the note cards explaining the way water evaporates, rises, becomes clouds until it’s too heavy, then comes pouring down onto the earth again, in the form of sprinkles, thunderstorms or catastrophic news makers named Katrina and Sandy.
It’s also what kicks up the red mud in Carolina to make your soccer socks fun to wash.
It’s a good thing we have Amy Aaronson to give us good weather reports.
5. When do they kill the chickens? When they’re asleep?
Oh, Grace. It was a mistake to let you sit on the counter while I fixed dinner.
Where’s the chicken’s head, dad? Where are the chicken’s guts, dad? When will dinner be ready, dad?
I could see the questions bounding about in that 8-year-old mind. Where’s the chicken’s head, dad? Where are the chicken’s guts, dad? When will dinner be ready, dad?
One of my cousins was told at a young age that the fish he ate was actually “sea chicken,” so he wouldn’t freak out (he had pet fish.) I thought about telling you a softened version of this process.
I felt I somehow guarded you against the barbaric practices of a society still bent on carnivorous living (of which I’m a proud member) but who does so without the element of the struggle of the hunt.
I contemplated feeding you tales of chickens dying of old age, or some sort of volunteer program, or somehow relating it to a Hunger Games type of system, then I realized you watched “Chipwrecked” while the rest of us saw “Hunger Games” at the dollar theater.
I’m not sure Alvin and the Chipmunks have an adequate story line for this lesson.
For us, this was an important moment. What 8-year-old conscientiously objects to chicken nuggets? What would you eat when the rest of us ate “grown-up” stuff?
The truth I chose to tell you about chickens involved arguable humane treatment, and what I sensed would be a loss of innocence, a nightmare or two, and maybe a budding existence as a vegetarian.
Despite your sisters’ likely cheers upon hearing you’d given up chicken, therefore rendering more wings for them at the next sitting, I chose to tell you a version of the truth that involved quick death.
It involved arguable humane treatment, and what I sensed would be a loss of innocence, a nightmare or two, and maybe a budding existence as a vegetarian.
They never cease, from the kids; this keeps we dads mentally sharp. It’s sudoku without the math. Kind of.
One question came whistling in from left field recently – about whether girls can marry girls.
It came on mom’s watch, so she got to field that one, and did quite well.
The rest were mine:
1. Do animals ever have twins?
Technically, when I see a litter, I’m thinking, twins, triplets, quadruplets, and whatever sphere Kate Goesling and the Octomom reside. But technically, those aren’t twins, triplets, quadruplets, Goselingets or Octomomets. Twins happen only when zygotes split in half, says science. And the Internet.
See, when a critter has a litter, it’s the result of multiple female gametes being released. It’s like when they first open the doors at Wal-mart on Black Friday. Only far less deadly. Only one other animal – besides humans – gets to enjoy the feat of monozygotic twins: The armadillo.
And with the armadillo, you’ll sometimes get not twins, but quadruplets, from two binary fissions of a single fertilized oocyte. I know, I know, way technical. There’s a period of arrested development, too, just after the embryo develops to hatchling blastocyst, therefore …
Ah, heck with it. The trivia answer is armadillo. Let’s move on.
2. How can you tell if a person was a boy or a girl if all you have left is a skeleton?
Well, boys are tall, and girls are short, but apparently, this isn’t the fool-proof method. Plus, you know daddy’s skeleton will be shorter than, say, Kerri Walsh’s. (Let’s not think about daddy’s skeleton for now. Or Kerri’s. Or why they’d be found together.)
First, like with young, skinny Elvis, it’s all in the pelvis. We fellows have titled-forward sacrum; you girls’ are tilted back. Your ilia are also spread more, to give you a bigger pelvic outlet (presumably for birthing). Ours is all closed off, like our minds, sometimes.
So, what if the pelvis is out of the picture, and you have only a skull? (Let’s break here to hope that you’re never in a spot, unless it’s forensically or scientifically, in which you’re shifting through bones to identify gender. OK, back to the program.)
We guys have more pronounced occipital protuberance and mastoid process. Basically, thicker skulls. Also, our teeth are bigger, our jaws more square (yours are more gracile and beautiful), and our brows are heavier. This is to remind both genders that we’re more closely linked to Cro Magnons, somehow.
Man, these answers are getting heavy. Let’s just go with this: If the hips are narrow and the skull is thick and caveman-like, it’s probably a dude.
3. Can a dog get cancer from second-hand smoke?
Yes they can, especially pooches with long snouts (which ought to spur scientists to study whether people with big noses are more likely to get cancer this way). Dogs have other worries, too, such as toxins in their vaccines and the plastic used to make their food dishes. Not to mention electric fences and dog catchers.
(Studies are still being done on these threats, though. The food dishes, not the electric fences.)
Second-hand smoke will affect anything with lungs, and it’s a great way to spread the love if you’re a smoker. Like that lady in the car with the panting dog that brought this question up in the first place.
4. What are lightsabers like? Are they so hot they melt things?
OK, my little Padawans, I knew this question would come at some time. Every father should have the Jedi talk with his children, preferably before they’re old enough to join the Rebel Cause.
Lightsabers are plasma weapons, meaning that they are designed, in part, to cut metal. Therefore, it would be irresponsible for me to have one in the house. Despite how I vote, I’m fine with others keeping weapons in their home, but I’ll defer, especially with something as potent as a lightsaber. It’s one thing to keep the bullets to your gun in a separate cabinet; it’s quite another to have a lightsaber around kids (I don’t think they even have safety switches).
Yes, lightsabers are so hot they melt things. I was confused at this as a boy, when Darth Vader cut down Ben Kenobi in that fateful duel on the Death Star. When Vader’s lightsaber hit Ben’s cloak (Ben totally gave himself up), Ben vanished into thin air. This is a Jedi trick, not the science of lightsabers. In reality, a lightsaber is so hot that it will cut through anything – metal, marble, Jedi limbs, and, I presume, roast beef.
Did I really just spend three paragraphs explaining lightsaber safety? I did. And I couldn’t have done it without help from this very cool website.
5. How come a girl can get a taxi by lifting her dress like this, and a guy can’t?
Man. I think I’d rather have fielded the question about girls marrying girls.
Legs. Well, they’re sort of the universal language. Hmm. (shifts uncomfortably.)
See, I know you saw Nancy Drew on The Hardy Boys hail a cab by showing a little leg. (Grace even demonstrated the technique.)
I think I have terrific legs for a 40-year-old guy, but I know flashing them won’t get me extra sprinkles on my ice cream, let alone a cab ride. This has nothing to do with my musculature, a little to do with how hairy my legs are, and mostly to do with supply and demand.
You know how on really cold soccer mornings, you’d love to have hot chocolate? It’s appealing. So too is ice-cold lemonade on your hottest soccer days. People will do whatever they can to get it. But try to sell the chilled lemonade in the winter or the hot chocolate in July, and, well, you’re not going to beat down any doors.
So dad’s legs – and most guys’ – are like hot chocolate on the Fourth of July. Nancy Drew’s are more lemonade on July 4. I know, I know, we both need the ride, so why the difference? And why does this matter?
Nancy Drew did this in the 1970s, as actress Pamela Sue Martin, whose cuteness really tends to grow on you. To me, and to the cabbie. But in 2012, it still happens. The London Daily Mail recently ran a story all about actress Scarlett Johansson nabbing a cab by just looking fly in in a skirt. (I have a feeling you might ask me next what “fly” means.)
But because you’re 7, Grace, and because my “male feminist” card trumps any prior or expired “leg man” card in my wallet, I’ll try and be a little cautious in my response: Cabbies will break for women who show a little leg because … well, it comes down to this: You know how we saw that rainbow the other day, and couldn’t stop looking at it?
Or how kids always pick the doughnut with the brightly colored frosting?
Or how the girl bird always picks the boy bird with the flashiest feathers?
Well, it’s kind of like that.
Scarlett Johansson’s legs are prettier than your dad’s.
Hers are the brightly-colored frosting, the flashy feathers, that will stop the cab in its tracks.
They’re always asking. Inquiring. You know, wondering.
My oldest now has an i-Pod, so perhaps her days of inquiry have ended when it comes to dad. Why ask D-A-D when you can just type in G-O-O-G-L-E?
I take note, and each time I do get the privilege of being asked to explain something in our wonderful and complex universe, I’ll do what any (blogging) father would do – I’ll say, “good question, honey. Let me research it, and I’ll blog about it. I’ll send you a link.”