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Thursday, April 27, 2006

I think we forgot the particle accelerator.

Well, I have no idea where Stew is. The last time I saw him was Tuesday at lunch, and before that Sunday at church, and before that Saturday on the links where he was using a Callaway demo driver to launch drives down the fairway the way the U.S. Air Force launches Delta rockets. He was literally hitting drives in the 285 - 300 yd. range and throughout the subsequent meetings listed above would occasionally drift off into thought, muttering something about installment plans, bank loans, and cashing in his life insurance equity.

So I imagine his absence here is due not to the dreaded ISO 9,000,551, or whatever it's called, but instead is the product of desperate attempts to raise cash or to sweet-talk Mrs. Miller into taking a second job to support his new habit of impersonating Tiger Woods with a 3-Wood.

In the meantime, I've hardly had the time to tell you much about my week, other than the bit about the software collapse and my subsequent nervous breakdown. Fortunately, the local off-licence had some Fat Tire ale available last night and my nerves have calmed considerably. (It only took one beer. Earl Fando drinks responsibly!)

However, for all the stress of that, which I'm sure I will unload on you in due time as this is much cheaper than threapy, the most complex task of the week was The Littlest Fando's school presentation on ice cream. Mrs. Fando and I helped our loveable bairn prepare for her big day and let me just say it was a completely rewarding and memorable family experience.

I am of course leaving out the living hell which is our modern American schools' insistence that elementary school presentations be of the quality of those at an Apple shareholders' meeting. The expectation is partly fueled by a insanely overinflated sense of competition amongst the parents themselves, all of whom seem to be attempting to compensate for their own feelings of diminished self-esteem by demonstrating that their child is the brightest and best of all humanity because they can convince their parents to work like maniacs on a project that will be briefly viewed by 20 disinterested children and one very bored teacher, feigning utter smarmy fascination.

In fact, the general image one gets of the school project is like the penultamate scene of an old A-Team episode, that of one or two parents hammering and sawing away at display boards, soldering metal frameworks together, spray-painting backdrops, armouring the tank, jury-rigging a flamethrower, and agitatedly typing away at extensive Presidential-length speeches on the eating habits of Lewis and Clark (and Sacagawea)... all whilst their children look on bemusedly, wondering whether their parents are secretly overdosing on caffeine while they're away at work each day.

The results usually look as follows:

Then the kid says something like, "Oh, I was just going to show the class this Sacagawea dollar and pass out some Teriyaki beef jerky." Well little Billy, just what am I supposed to do with this flamethrower?

However, being the highly ethical parents we are though, we insisted that The Littlest Fando carry her fair share of the load. She helped look up the pictures, laid down the first coat of paint for her sign (All right, I finished it up, but it's one of the rare chances I have to put my art degree to work), and filled out all of her note cards for the speech that she wrote (and Mrs. Fando extensively edited). We also made her rehearse the speech, only without the portable microphone, PowerPoint presentation, and formal business attire.

Then came the part where TLF and Mrs. Fando put together the ice cream making demonstration involving a pint of cream, a large quantity of salt, ice, and the owners of Ben and Jerry's dancing the polka in lederhosen. I'm not sure whether they ever managed to get that last bit, as I was vigourously painting at the time. I could have sworn I heard accordion music, though.

The display board was the most challenging part as everything has to be glued or taped to the board. Those who know me are well aware that glue and I, in some bizarre defiance of universal laws of adhesive physics, do not go together.

As an aside, my mum is quite skilled with sellotape. Inside of 120 seconds, she can tape a package so securely that it takes the jaws of life to open it. (This makes Christmas quite exciting, what with the first responders, fire lorries, and all.) Each year, the nice people at Scotch tape company sit around in their brightly-colored, faux-Gordon clan tartan kilts, waiting for the 350% increase in tape sales the moment my mum hits the Hobby Lobby. I have occasionally suggested that she would be an ideal sellotape quality control inspector for them, but then she would blow her entire annual salary in an afternoon in the company shop.

Anyway, as I therefore have a natural, DNA-provided affinity for tape, that always strikes me as the way to go. Mrs. Fando though insists on glue, because damn it, that's what we do in public schools...we glue things! So afterwards, instead of tape stuck all over our bums and elbows, we have numerous flecks of dried Elmer's glue that turn up around the house for weeks on end. The other downside is that the glue smears on the board if you put too much, which I always do, subconsciously applying me mum's sellotape strategies to the paste. While on the positive side this does provide an interesting bright sheen to the board, it also makes the teacher incredibly paranoid that my child's fellow students are surreptiously wiping their bogies on The Littlest Fando's presentation.

So, all in all it was an extraordinary, electrifying, excrutiating experience. I'm just glad it wasn't a science project. I just know I'm going to wind up with burns from one of those.

Next week however, she's presenting on Eleanor Roosevelt. This leads me to one inescapeable question:

Does anyone out there know if one can easily recreate the White House Dining Room using toothpicks and construction paper?


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