Posts Tagged ‘dinosaurs’

Bagels and Farts, Hold the Dressing

Monday, May 14th, 2012

By Bob Gaydos

Mr. Methane

“So you know how some people use religion to say that gay marriage should not be allowed and others say that as long as it doesn’t affect them they don’t care, that it should be an individual choice?”


“OK. So you know how people add dressings — Russian, Italian, ranch — when they eat salads?”


“So how come when I eat my salad with no dressing people look at me funny and tell me I’m weird? Isn’t that my individual choice?”

“Nothing at all?”


(Long pause for effect.) “No … you’re weird. That’s just messed up. A salad with no dressing? Dry? How about oil and vinegar?”

“I hate vinegar. I do put ketchup on my lettuce, though. And it’s tomato ketchup.”

“Eww. That’s disgusting. What’s wrong with you? This sounds like it might stem from some repressed childhood crisis.”

“But it’s tomato ketchup.”

* * *

The two Bobs have been meeting over coffee and buttered, toasted sesame bagels for some time, figuring out what’s wrong with the world, how it easily could be fixed if someone would only let them and agreeing that their sons were going to do whatever the hell they pleased, so it made no sense to worry about them. Although they did.

This particular morning, there was a shortage of weighty topics, though and having exhausted salads without dressing they moved on to dinosaur farts.

“So,” says the Bob who likes dressing on his salad, “I saw this report from the BBC. It says the dinosaurs, in effect, farted themselves into extinction.”


“Yeah. You know how cows produce an incredible amount of methane, which is the scientific name for cow farts, and methane is one of those greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming?”

“Yeah. OK …?”

“Well, some scientists in England figured if cows today produce 50 million to 100 million cubic tons of methane a year, which sounds like a s**tload of methane, the biggest dinosaur species, like the Brachiosaurus, must have created even more.”

“Seriously, they got money to study this instead of why boring soccer games cause riots?”

“Yeah. A bunch of scientists from universities in England and Scotland figured out mathematically that the big dinosaurs that lived about 150 million years ago created about 520 million cubic tons of gas every year, which must have really stunk up the joint. But they say it also made the earth much warmer — 18 degrees hotter — than it is today and that helped melt the ice caps and glug, glug, no more dinosaurs.”

“No s**t?”

“No. And if you remember your biology, those dinosaurs were vegetarians.”


“So it mean they were basically eating salads without dressing and farting themselves to death. A cautionary tale if there ever was one.”

“Eat your bagel.”

“Fine. Wanna hear some good news on the save-the-earth front?”


“OK, so some students and professors from Yale were apparently wandering through the Amazon rain forest on an educational expedition and found fungi that — get this — eat plastic.”

“Get outta here.”

“Really. There’s a paper on it. They gathered up a bunch of plants and snooped around inside them and found a couple of fungi that eat and digest polyurethane. In fact, they don’t need anything else to survive. And you know the greenies keep telling us we’re going to be buried alive in polyurethane. Maybe the fungi can save us.”

“Well, I guess that would be a good thing. But is polyurethane even a plastic?”

“I don’t know. I think so, but that’s not the point. When did you become such a science whiz anyway? The point is, it’s in everything we use and throw away. Maybe the fungi can be used to get rid of some of it. Cool, huh?”

“Yeah, great. But tell me this — what happens after the fungi eat the polyurethane?”

“Whaddyou mean?”

“It’s digestion, right? What do the fungi give off as part of the process? Are they putting more methane into the atmosphere?”

“Jeez, I don’t know. But how much could fungi fart in comparison to cows or dinosaurs? And it probably wouldn’t smell as bad.”

“Yeah, probably not. All right, gotta go. See you next week.”

“Right. Hey, maybe try a little honey mustard dressing on your salad next time, instead of tomato ketchup.”

(Part of the preceding actually happened. The rest was made up, but entirely plausible.)

Why Not Teach to the List?

Monday, April 16th, 2012

By Bob Gaydos

Memo from: New York City Dept. of Education

To: Makers of standardized tests to be used in the New York City public school system:

“There should be no mention of dinosaurs in the tests. No birthdays either. No Christmas, Halloween or Ramadan questions. No mention of divorce, disease or death. Politics and religion should be avoided. Also violence, poverty, junk food and homes with computers or swimming pools. Come to think of it, let’s also leave out television and video games, war and homelessness. Also rock and roll. In fact, we’ve provided a comprehensive list of words and subjects to be avoided in standardized tests because we don’t want the kids who grow up in the largest city in the country to feel uncomfortable or unpleasant while taking the tests.”

Relax. While that memo — or some version of it — may have been sent to providers of standardized tests, the list of banned words did not became policy in New York City. Yet.

The story, which broke a few weeks back, fortunately, had a short shelf life. After a couple of days of incredulous headlines, the city education officials responsible for putting together a list of suggested words to be banned relented and decided to let the test writers do their job.

That job, by the way, routinely involves avoiding words or subjects because of possibly justifiable geographical or cultural differences or wholly arbitrary decisions to avoid offending some group. And we wonder why American kids test so poorly when compared to those in other countries. Our tests may be standardized, but they omit a good deal of the actual lives our kids lead.

New York City’s list made headlines because it was long and, well, stupid. (It’s at the bottom of this column, so you can make you own judgment.) NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the intent was merely to give guidance to the test developers. “So we’re not an outlier in being politically correct,” he said. “This is just making sure that test makers are sensitive in the development of their tests.”

Good lord, many of them are already wary of including anything on dinosaurs (which kids love) on the tests because that would suggest that evolution is indeed a fact. Can’t have that in Tennessee. Halloween (and other topics that suggest the occult or witchcraft) is also routinely avoided, even though it is the second biggest holiday in the country after Christmas. Which is also verboten. And, of course, any mention of birthdays is off limits in many places because Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate them.

Maybe not, but they do know that other people do. And it’s not as if Christmas or Halloween are underground holidays, whatever one’s religious beliefs.

Rich? Poor? Married? Divorced? Healthy? Sick? Are these not universal topics? How are slavery and terrorism part of this nation’s history but not fit topics for a standardized test?

Children today are exposed to all of life on a daily basis as never before through TV and the Internet. It could be argued that kids who grow up in New York City are even more exposed to all of life because of the vastness and diversity of the city — things city officials like to brag about. So why hold that against the kids?

No, you don’t have to go out of your way to make kids feel uncomfortable with topics such as sexual abuse, bullying, addiction, suicide or even natural disasters. The people who create the tests should be skilled enough to know what those words or topics are. But they shouldn’t be pressured to go beyond common sense to try to make their tests so innocent of life as to avoid offending any possible group.

Children learn to make judgments and distinctions as they grow up. They meet new people and hear new ideas all the time. Learning to assimilate those ideas into their lives and to adjust to a world in which they exist is a major part of maturing. We could use more of it in America.

People die. They get divorced. Countries fight wars. Celebrities do stupid things. Politicians, too. There are people for whom poverty and hunger are primary concerns every day. Others vacation in Aruba. Children don’t need to be shielded from the “uncomfortable” facts of life. Instead, they need to be taught about them and how to deal with them in proper settings.

Chancellor Walcott should take that now-abandoned list and try to figure out how to incorporate lessons on each topic at the appropriate place in the city schools’ curriculum. Then he can test the kids on it.

* * *

 Here’s the list:

Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological)

Alcohol (beer and liquor), tobacco, or drugs

Birthday celebrations (and birthdays)

Bodily functions

Cancer (and other diseases)

Catastrophes/disasters (tsunamis and hurricanes)


Children dealing with serious issues

Cigarettes (and other smoking paraphernalia)

Computers in the home (acceptable in a school or library setting)


Death and disease



Expensive gifts, vacations, and prizes

Gambling involving money



Homes with swimming pools


Junk food

In-depth discussions of sports that require prior knowledge

Loss of employment

Nuclear weapons

Occult topics (i.e. fortune-telling)





Rap Music


Religious holidays and festivals (including but not limited to Christmas, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan)

Rock-and-Roll music

Running away




Television and video games (excessive use)

Traumatic material (including material that may be particularly upsetting such as animal shelters)

Vermin (rats and roaches)


War and bloodshed

Weapons (guns, knives, etc.)

Witchcraft, sorcery, etc.

*  *  *

What do you think?