Monday, March 22, 2004

Ah Children...

...gotta love 'em! My son, who recently celebrated his eleventh birthday, pointed out that one of the hairs that fell out of my slowly shedding head had a white root. It made me realize that I am now old enough that my own child is pointing out that I am old. This happened as we were getting in the car to head out on a whirlwind tour of stores in an attempt to gather the supplies he needs for his school science project that is due in two weeks.

He's known about this project since the end of January. On the cover of the packet they gave him it says in bold letters "Work Hard! Don't wait until the last minute!" That makes me chuckle. If my son has inherited anything from me, it's my talent for procrastination (you'll notice I don't have a new comic for today). I'm sure part of that message is for the parents as well. Yeah, that'll work. I should call them and say "Who do you think he got it from?", but I'm too lazy to dial the phone.

So, here we are at near-zero hour. About a month ago I gave him an idea for a psychology experiment. It would have been pretty fun. But we totally ran out of time for that one. So the fallback experiment involves magnets, mineral oil and iron filings. It took some shopping to find some decent magnets, we still haven't bought the mineral oil and no place we went to sold iron filings. So, on to plan two. Gather them ourselves.

I guess not too many people are aware of just how abundant iron filings are in dirt and sand. I say this based on how many people stopped beside us while we were running some of the spare magnets through the dirt to ask what we were doing. So, it's abundant, but damned time consuming to collect this way. We spent about three hours on Sunday filtering through dirt. At the end of it all we had about 3 tbs of filings (and dirt...this is key). At about the two-hour point when I was feeling delirious from the heat (I had gotten sunburned the day before when we were out flying kites, and was STILL too stupid to put on sunblock) my son said "I'm glad we didn't buy any filings because this is fun!" And I actually agreed.

It got me thinking back to my own childhood and my father. He wasn't the kind of guy who would have spent three hours in the dirt helping me look for anything, much less ingredients for a school project that I had put off too long. I'm not meaning to imply that he didn't love me. There have been times in my life where I don't know what I would have done if he hadn't been there for me. He just didn't relate well to children. At all. So it was a good feeling that I was there to help out my son when he needed it.

After we got home at 5:30-ish, he collapsed in front of one of the game systems while I decided to try to separate the filings from the clinging dirt.

At first I just tried magnetism, but I could still see a fair amount of dirt mixed in. Then I tried water, which was a very good thing. It must have been a combination of sun stroke and fatigue, but I didn't consider that after the filings are mixed in with the mineral oil you need to be able to see what's happening in the jar when you apply the magnet. When I mixed in water it was like an instant mud cloud! So I spent another hour and a half filtering the filings through water in an attempt to get them clean. I pulled my son off his game to participate once I knew it wasn't going to be a quick thing. He had fun with that too.

Even after multiple filterings the water was still murky and I was quite tired of the whole thing. Today I went to an education supply site that I had the link of at work and ordered a 1lb bag of filings and had them sent 2-day air. If we actually get them on time and he doesn't wind up needing what we collected, I still won't regret the time we spent together working on collecting the first batch. I just really enjoyed spending time with my son.

Even if he likes to remind me that I'm old.

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"Boring a hole in the patient’s head creates a door through which the demons can escape, and - viola! - out goes the crazy."