Monday, October 12, 2015

Bug collections...

Yesterday, Bill made a roasted red pepper and Brie soup for dinner.  Afterwards, we sat on the couch and finished our wine.  Bill noted that a couple of the local kids in our neighborhood were outside.  It looked like they were collecting leaves for a school project.

I suddenly had a flashback to ninth grade, when I took a first year biology class.  We had to do a leaf collection.  We also had to do a bug collection.  I didn't do well on either project, but I did especially badly on the bug collection.  If I recall correctly, the teacher gave me a 50.  When I went up to complain, she conceded another ten points, which brought me up to a 60, but still left me with a failing grade.

My leaf collection earned a low C.  I think it got a 76.  In our school district, there was a five point grading scale, which made getting decent grades a challenge.  I wasn't a particularly good student, despite all the useless higher education I ended up with later.  I was often alright with Cs, though I would have liked to have gotten better marks.

The bug collection project was especially annoying to me, though.  It's one thing to pick leaves.  Leaves don't move and acquiring them doesn't require killing.  There's an element of luck to collecting bugs, though, especially if you don't live in a particularly buggy area.  We actually did live near bugs, but I had a hard time finding the ones I needed and killing them in such a way that didn't damage them.

I remember having one lucky break when I attended a 4H meeting at a friend's house out in the country.  Her father happened to catch a bumblebee for me.  He took a little sample sized jam jar and captured it mid-flight, quickly screwing on the lid so it was trapped.  I took it home and stuck a cotton ball with nail polish remover in the jar.  That was supposed to give it a quick death.  Of course, I am told that killing bees in Germany is against the law, so the girls we saw collecting leaves probably won't ever have that experience.

Once I had my bugs, I had to assemble them on a display.  My dad wouldn't help me with my project, so I was left to figure it out for myself.  I ended up using a styrofoam insert for an electronic game I got for Christmas one year.  I covered it with wallpaper leftover from when my parents redid their kitchen.  Then I set to work pinning the poor dead bugs to my display.  I had to use straight pins and because my fingers lacked dexterity and delicacy, ended up damaging a few specimens.

This Texas sized flying cockroach from San Antonio would have made a nice addition to my bug collection...

By the time I was done with my bug collection, it truly looked like a half assed effort.  And yet I had put time and effort into it.

When it came time to turn it in, I could see that a number of my classmates had beautiful projects.  Some of them had wooden cases with a pane of glass protecting their bugs and moths.  Of course my project looked like it deserved an F, but at least there was no doubt as to who did the work.

Interestingly enough, as much as I hated both the leaf and bug collection projects, I do think I learned from both experiences.  I can still identify a number of trees that I couldn't identify before I made my leaf collection.  I probably can't identify too many bugs, though I have killed quite a few of them since I was fourteen.  

I later made up for my shitty leaf and bug collection grades when I somehow managed to draw a beautiful likeness of the human digestive system.  It was colored and everything and took a long time to finish.  It scored a 94 (B+), because when I identified one of the organs, I drew an unsightly line across the otherwise beautiful poster.  The organ was properly identified, but there was a failure in the artistic side.  The teacher loved the poster, except for that one little flaw.  She actually wrote that comment on my poster.  I probably should have complained, given how much time and effort went into it.  Ah well.  In the grand scheme of things, it didn't end up mattering.  And at least I know where the gall bladder is in the human body.

Maybe I should take an art class.

In other news...  

Bill says that back in the early 80s, his high school was in the snooty part of Houston.  It has since become a lot more urbanized and no longer caters to the rich.  Frankly, I wish Bill had gone to a different school, since he was not from a wealthy family and high school is where he met his ex wife. But then, if he hadn't gone to the school he went to, he would have probably married a nicer woman the first time and I'd still be single.  And I also wouldn't have this story to share.

Bill related a story about a friend of his from high school.  I'll call the guy Mark.  I didn't know him, obviously, because I didn't go to high school in Texas and I'm about eight years younger than Bill and his high school buddies.

Anyway, Mark fancied himself a theater geek.  Unfortunately, the drama club at the high school he attended with Bill was full of rich, popular types.  They wouldn't let Mark join in any of their reindeer games.

Mark happened to be a talented artist with a keen wit.  When the drama club had a production of Fiddler on the Roof, Mark somehow got ahold of the posters used for advertising and altered the artwork.  The poster depicted a man dancing on a roof while playing a fiddle.  Mark drew a silhouette of another man on a distant rooftop, crouched down in the shadows pointing a gun at the fiddler.  Because of the way the fiddler was dancing, it looked like he'd been shot.  Then Mark changed the title of the play to Sniper on the Roof.  Somehow, these posters got distributed around the school.

For another show they did, Scapino, Mark changed the title to Scapenis and drew a penis in the lead character's hand.  Naturally, since this was the early 80s, Mark never got in any trouble for his shenanigans.  Today, he'd probably be interviewed by the police and possibly arrested.

Damn, I'm glad I'm done with high school.


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