Monthly Archives: December 2011

Wonder-Counselor

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; upon his shoulder dominion rests.

They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father Forever, Prince of Peace.

His dominion is vast and forever peaceful,

From David’s throne, and over his kingdom, which he confirms and sustains

By judgement and justice, both now and forever.

-Isaiah 9: 5-6

A couple of my favorite, most inspirational lines in the Bible are in these passages from Isaiah. “For a child is born to us” and “They name him Wonder-Counselor”.

Hearing the name, “Wonder-Counselor”, alone, can give one goosebumps.

Merry Christmas!

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BioTechniques – The Invisible Mouse

Every so often, doing science professionally gets dull and mundane. The daily grind of developing and implementing molecular diagnostic assays often overshadows just how cool the stuff I get to do for a living really is. It turns into a “can’t see the forest through the trees” kind of a thing.  I always seem to fall into this rut and, inevitably,  I run across an article or report that just blows me out of the water and gets the science juices flowing again.

Here is an article from BioTechniques last week which reports the use of one of the most common laboratory chemicals to scatter light, act as a tissue clearing agent and make the tissue appear “invisible”.

Kind of gets the old imagination brewing now, doesn’t it?

Click the link below to read the original article:

BioTechniques – The Invisible Mouse.

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Sharing is Caring: Football Version

Coaching freshman football with Coach Eric Burks was so much fun. He was the perfect guru for a novice coach, like I was, to start coaching with.  EB was the head freshman coach and coached offense; I was the freshman assistant and did the defense. His offense was simple and effective, but his real talent was connecting with the players.

The kids used to love that he called our best offensive play, 34 Power, “Bread and Butter”. EB told the kids “Bread and Butter” play is the one “go to” play everyone trusted and could execute in dire situations. 34 Power was ours for dang sure. Last summer, at a couple of wedding for kids who played on those teams, I could still walk up to the majority of those players ten years later and say, “Bread and Butter” which to a man would respond, “34 Power.”  Folks, in the coaching world, that is staying power.

Freshman boys are not the most responsible or most aware beings on the planet. I know this is a shock to parents, but it is true. We actually made a list we posted in the locker room to remind freshman football players of the equipment they would need to practice or play. Helmet, shoulder pads, pants, shoes, etc. etc. etc. all essential equipment to play organized football all had a reminder so the young man would not forget.

One Monday at a freshman road game, we unload the bus, dress out in the locker room, and get ready to take the field for warm-ups. At the very last minute, one player walks up to us two coaches and reports the obvious. “Coach, I forgot my pants.”

“Uhhh. Really? I couldn’t tell.” was the official coach reply.

Player number two slides up. “Uh, Coach. I forgot my shoes.”

Coach Burks lays into a soap box rant about responsibility, etc. He tells the two players to sit down and shut up, he will deal with them later, then we go out for warmups.  EB is po’d during warm-ups. Toward the end of team period, right before we go back into locker room for final meeting before the game, he breaks out a huge smile and elbows me in the ribs.  “Watch this” , he says as the team jogs to the locker room.

Coach Burks addresses the team. “Player One, you have shoes, right?”

“Yes.”

“Player Two, you have pants, correct?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, then Player One, you will wear the pants and shoes while playing the first half. Player Two, you will wear the pants and shoes and get to play the second half. Any questions?”

“Nope.” They say collectively and join the team breakdown huddle.

“Let’s get after it then, boys! One, Two, Three…”

“Tigers!” The team yells and runs onto the field.

As I walk with Coach Burks across the field to the sideline, I say, “You, my friend are a freaking genius.”

We had to deal with a couple upset parents, but after explaining the situation, they just shook their heads and walked off. I think we won, maybe we didn’t. Who cares, though, this far down the road? In the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter much because what I will always remember most are the lessons I learned on that fall autumn day:

1. Sharing is caring and a beautiful thing (unless one player has pants that fit his 6’2 frame and the other player who must wear the same pair of pants is 5′ 6″).

2. Sometimes one player plus one player does indeed equal only one player.

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Sheep and Goats

I work at one of the finest land grant institutions in North America. Every night when I leave work and head north out of town, I drive past the Sheep Teaching and Research Unit. The Unit is a group of older barns that sit a ways off the road. The section of land around the barns is surrounded by your standard barbed wire fence. The sheep, mixed with a handful of goats, graze the grass around the Unit.  It is always a pick-me-up to drive by and see the animals in the pasture, especially after lambing season when the lambs are turned loose on the world. I could watch the lambs run around all day, kicking, bleating and acting like little bad-asses.

A funny thing, (and I wish I had a picture of this) is when there is a breakout from the pasture. If you know farm life at all, you know that almost how hard you try to keep animals in, they will find a way out.  So on occasion, an animal or two will get out of the fence.

In the Bible, it says something about sheep going to heaven and goats going to hell. I know now this may be true, at least in the context of animal intelligence. Sheep, they don’t escape very often, but when they do, they use their limited smarts to make the best of the opportunity and hit the good, fresh grass across the street from the Center.

Goats, on the other hand, are dumb. They escape on a frequent basis. In fact, those goats are almost always out of the fence. That’s not dumb, you say? Being able to escape sounds like real intelligence, you say? Not so fast, my friend. Sure the goats can get out of the pen, but you know what they do? Instead of finding greener pastures, the goats will stand on the outside side of the fence and stick their heads back INTO the pen in order to eat the very same grass they just spent all day trying to get away from.

Folks, that’s animal stupidity.

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Fire Baton Dad Duty

Once upon a time, one would find me roaming the sidelines as an assistant football coach on a Fall Friday night at Otto Unruh Stadium.  Unfortunately, beginning in Fall of 2009, personal decisions steered me from the sidelines and into the stands. My plan was to show up, sit in the stands and watch the football game. But, as with most things in life, (especially with one’s parental slice of that life) plans often change without consultation and without notice.  One night early in that 2009 season, I came home from work on a Friday night, to find myself recruited by Twirly-Girl Daughter #2 (see this for example of Twirly-Girl baton skills) to prepare the fire batons for the fire baton performance that night.

The first thing I did was laugh because I had no idea where to even start. I was a football coach, which meant I was pretty much oblivious to anything else which occurred outside the white lines on a football Friday night in America. Patiently, even though she was desperate for help, Daughter #2 quickly taught dear old dad the process. From there, it has been game on.  With her instruction and the help and guidance of fellow Baton Dad Jeff L.,  I became the proud stage/equipment/pyrotechnic manager in charge of fire batons.

So here it is, the top secret protocol describing the preparation of the fire batons for action. I thought it important to document how this is done as I retire from active baton dad duty. I though it important to pass this down for future generations of dads; for the fathers of those little girls who sit on the front row of the stadium and watch the twirler’s halftime performances.

It’s not really hard, but it was a pain in the ass at times.  Some Friday nights after work, I really did not want to work on fire batons.  I often would get hands covered with tiki torch oil to the point where I did not sit in the stands during the game. Plus, I would always worry about making a mistake and having one of the girls spin burning oil onto themselves and get hurt. But all the work, all the discomfort and all the worry melted away when I would watch the girls perform then turn around and see those little girls faces magically light up and jaws drop open as the twirlers did their thing.

Preparation of Fire Batons.

1. Place one of the ends of the fire batons completely into standard tiki torch oil. Allow oil to soak in for 30-45 minutes.

2. Shake out the excess fluid by flinging the batons over the oil container and let drip for several minutes.

3. Place on a large piece of aluminum foil.

4. Fold top half of foil over the soaked end of baton

5. Fold one side of foil in.

6. Roll foil around to get a good seal around end of baton.

7. Turn batons over and repeat the process:

Soak

Wrap

8. Done with both sides, then put in over sized plastic bag and take everything  to the stadium.

9. Before performance, shake out any excess fuel from the ends and light the ends with a lighter.

10 Showtime!

Click here for a link to a short performance video.

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