Science Patrick’s Day

A young lad conducting an experiment

Otto, Donna, and I spent the afternoon of March 17 at the McWane Center in Birmingham, Alabama. There were several special events and exhibits at the science center to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day including how beer effects your body, the biology and physics of vomiting, and how alcohol poisoning affects your ability to lead a productive life.

Here’s a few photos from our visit:

Scene from the movie Hysterical Mourning

The IMAX movie was some kind of avant garde science feature called Hysterical Mourning. Above is a scene featuring a flaming flyswatter and a frightened testicle.

Otto and his friend are terrified

Speaking of frightened, I snapped this photo as Donna startled Otto and Ulrich the Sea Urchin when she crept up behind them and banged two hubcaps together.

Brainstem balancing game

Here’s Otto learning about mind control and hand-eye coordination by manipulating his friend’s brain stem to balance a blue ball on his friend’s head. His friend tried to do the same experiment on Otto, but his arms were too short to reach through Otto’s thick hair.

Squirrel taking a permanent sleep

Otto was sad until we told him the squirrel was sleeping after a hard day of hauling his nuts.

A squirrel taking a permanent nap

It’s a good thing we haven’t taught Otto to read.

Watching vivisection demonstrations

While Otto and I watched one of the vivisection demonstrations, a little boy’s head suddenly sprang a leak. The other little boy to my left suffered a temporary case of face fade after staring too long into the center’s death ray.

Seagull in beach shape


Hungry turtle

I was a bit dismayed about the emaciated appearance of the animals in the beach life exhibit. I don’t think they feed the animals enough. I decided something had to be done. I bought a five-dollar foot-long Italian B.M.T. at Subway and, after eating half of it, I had Otto help me tear off pieces of the rest of the sandwich and toss it to the starving creatures. They were so weak, they couldn’t even move to retrieve the food. Soon, security came by and chased us away. I’m thinking of calling PETA; or buying some pitas to make more sandwiches. Just thinking about those poor animals makes me so damn hungry.

Ernie the Eel is wasted again

Here’s Ernie the Eel, a colorful character we met in the aquarium. He was having trouble swimming straight, explaining he was suffering a hangover after partying all night with some flounder. After describing his drunken exploits in explicit and disgusting detail, I reminded him this was a family place and he should be more discreet and refrain from the salty language. He apologized, but later offered to set me up with a couple of kinky beluga whales that were into humans.

Otto lost a mind game to his mother

One of the exhibits is Mindball, a game where you use your mind to push a ball into your opponent’s goal. Otto learned a painful lesson playing against his psychokinetic mother. The ball kept zooming off the table into his face at blinding speed. He is a stubborn little trooper, though, and insisted on going best of five. But he’s not that good with math, thus losing seven games in a row (maybe the ball shots to the face hindered his mathematical ability).

The McWane Science Center is a fun and educational place for adults and kids alike. Otto can’t wait to go back.

Update: Otto is making remarkable progress since returning home. He only loses consciousness in the presence of spheres, loud noises, and his mother. He can identify most nouns and still has hope of regaining most of his sense of smell.

Yadda, Yadda, Yaddo

Woman Wanting More


I arrived at Yaddo, the prestigious artists’ retreat, in the summer of 1941. With America’s “day that will live in infamy” several months away, my own day of infamy began the second morning of my residency. That was when I saw her frolicking about the grounds, her gorgeously gawky six-foot body clothed in dungarees and a man’s white shirt, her brown pageboy hair swaying about as she clumsily tackled Katherine Anne Porter to the dewy grass. So this was Lula Carson McCullers, the delectable wunderkind whose first novel, published when she was twenty-three, had been a critical and financial success. I decided I must have her and she must have me.

I introduced myself to her later that night as we sat down to dinner at the mansion. My sweet Lula scampered to a vacant seat beside Katherine while I gently shoved Newt Arvin to the floor to procure the chair next to my beloved.

I tried to engage the lovely Lula in some small talk, but she was so shy and demure she could not bring herself to even look at me for fear of falling deeply and hopelessly in love. She sat staring at Katherine, hiding from me the love and admiration in her gaze. Oh, but I see, Carson, my sweet Lula C. I see.

Ultimately my precious Lula turned her soft, doe-eyed glare to me after Katherine slapped Lula’s face around in my direction. The contempt in Lula’s eyes only masked the awe and arousal she felt for me. Finally, my lover spoke. “What are you doing here?”

At last we began a sensual dialogue; we were two literary lovers discussing the craft with an undercurrent of sexual tension.

Continue reading “Yadda, Yadda, Yaddo”

Shuffling Cards at Work – Deal Me Out

Shuffling Greeting Cards

In a recent scientific survey, all Americans said they would rather be attacked by a rabid badger than sign greeting cards at work. Granted, the sampling size of the survey was a bit small (me and Max, my coworker and racquetball partner), but I think the results represent a fair assessment of the situation.

Every week, I am inundated with cards for every conceivable occasion: retirement, birthday, sympathy, get-well, acquittal. Last week, I signed a card for someone’s second cousin’s godmother’s pug for graduating obedience school (valedictorian no less!).

I never know what to write on the accursed cards, either. Most of the time, I don’t know the person (or animal) that well, if at all. Usually, I play it safe with the standard phrases: “Wish you well,” “My condolences, “or” Good luck with that.” Once, when I discovered a card on my desk one morning, I quickly scribbled “Congratulations” and passed it on. That afternoon, Lance from sales came to my office, jerked me out of my seat with a firm handshake, and pulled me close for a spine-crushing embrace.

“Thanks man,” he whispered in my ear. “You’re the only one who knows how I really feel.” Later, I discovered I’d signed a sympathy card acknowledging the passing of his mother-in-law.

Some people have no problem writing heartfelt passages. One disgruntled coworker wrote on the retirement card for one of our managers:

“Having reached the twilight of your mortal existence, please accept my congratulatory sentiments as you prepare to leave this ennui-inducing hellhole and make your way to paradise and your seaside condo. I remember well our initial acquaintance–sitting in orientation one score and five years ago, two young, creative lads lactating ambition and motivation galore, until all was slowly suckled from us by this godforsaken bureaucracy, a bureaucracy that nursed relentlessly, leaving our teats of aspiration depleted and withered, never to plump anew. Anyway, good luck and watch out for hurricanes.”

The disgruntled worker was also a bitter, failed novelist.

If I know the person well, I may add an encouraging personal note such as I did on a recent get-well card for my friend and racquetball partner, Max:

“Sorry about the mauling. Don’t worry; my Aunt Melvina suffered a similar fate with a raccoon. She regained most of her mobility and her scars are barely visible in low light. Hang in there; I’ll reserve a court for us.”

Max had landed in the intensive care unit after simply sticking his hand in his mailbox, retrieving a package of Gevalia coffee, and flinging it at a rabid badger weaving across his front lawn.

I visited Max in the hospital to deliver his card and conduct my survey. Though he was completely bandaged, in traction, and unable to speak, I could see in his eyes he was enjoying his respite from having to deal with the cards at the office. Thus, I am confident in the accuracy of my survey’s results.

The Hammy



This weekend is the annual Burt family ham decorating and sculpting contest, otherwise known as The Hammy. I don’t like to brag, but I won The Hammy Award last year. I carved up my ham to look like Curly from the Three Stooges, but with a mohawk (hamhawk?). I think what gave the sculpture added panache was the two small cranberries I used for eyes.

My youngest son, Otto, made his ham into a pig, which I thought was cruel at first, but I eventually learned to appreciate the meta-style of his design. I questioned him about the theme and concept of his project, but he just made snorting noises and laughed.

My wife, Donna, created a game with her ham, inserting toothpicks until it looked like Pinhead from the Hellraiser movies. We hung the ham on the fireplace mantle like a stocking and took turns tossing pineapple rings at the toothpicks, scoring points with each successful “stick.” Donna won the ring toss ham game and was rewarded with an impromptu prize the rest of us agreed on: she got to clean up the mess. But, honestly, we let her win.

My teenage son, Dustan, submitted an entry that looked just like a half-eaten ham, which, by the way, it was. He just sat there, eating ham and playing video games while the rest of the family competed vigorously to win the succulent Hammy Award. He still finished second with little effort because of his natural ham skills.

We always buy way too much ham every year for the contest, so we end up making a charitable donation of the leftovers to our dog, Buddy. Last year, Buddy couldn’t even finish it and we caught him trying to give some away to a couple of stray cats. We admonished him, confiscated the meat, and took the rest to the nursing home to give to Grandpa. Grandpa always appreciates the very little kindness we show him, unlike our spoiled mutt and what’s-his-name we keep locked in the dungeon beneath our detached garage.

I’m really looking forward to this year’s ham contest. Don’t tell the rest of my family, but I think I have another winning idea this year. I’m going to drape the meat with Lady Gaga voodoo dolls. And, as an added twist, the Lady Gaga voodoo dolls will be wearing little ham dresses.

Have a Happy Hammy!

Third Grade Vocabulary Words and Example Sentences


My eight-year-old son asked me to help him with example sentences for his vocabulary words. I think I may have caused further confusion with the following sentences. He eventually created his own examples and submitted them.

—launch, v, to throw or propel with force; hurl.

“The mechanical bull launched Jimmy into the wall of horseshoes.”

—double, adj, twice as much in size, strength, number, or amount.

“Steve experienced double vision after being hit on the head with a frozen ferret.”    Ferret

—plunge, v, to thrust or throw forcefully into a substance or place.

“Troy plunged his hand into the public toilet to retrieve the mood ring.”

—tractor, n, a vehicle having a powerful gasoline or diesel motor and usually large, heavily treaded rear tires, used especially for pulling farm implements or machinery.

“The chimpanzee lost control of the tractor in the graveyard, causing monkey mayhem and chaos by plowing down mourners and headstones.”

—single, adj, not accompanied by another or others; solitary.

“The bar was full of single guys like Clay, seeking partners to engage in long, exciting sessions of Scrabble™.”

“The single most erotic thing Dave owned was his collection of Gumby memorabilia.”

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