Sunday, January 06, 2008

the time has come to talk of many things

It’s January 6th, the Day of Epiphany, and for our purposes we'll hook right into the pure definition of epiphany: "inspired understanding, revelation and enlightened knowledge."

In Central America this is the day when gifts are at last exchanged during the Christmas celebration, because King's Day commemorates the day the three Magi finally made it all the way to Bethlehem and laid their gifts down before the Christ child.

So it seems fitting to appropriate this day for our purposes, and announce a gift for Joe-Henry, son of AnnieMcQ, friend of this blog. (With the caveat that I’ve been slow to get them shipped off and it’ll be another week of so before the package itself follows in kind. Apologies: My bad.)

I’ll let the World’s Best Mechanical Engineer explain what this is all about:

Joe Henry,
A long, long time ago I was a small boy like you. I had a deeply ingrained interest in how things work. I would ask questions and dismantle broken toys and appliances. Slowly I started to forge a little understanding of machinery and science.

Then one day everything changed.

My mother mail ordered the Young People's Science Encyclopedia. At a time when our family had no money to spare, my mother miraculously bought this encyclopedia. I read and was amazed. No longer would I have to blacksmith my knowledge from the embers of broken toys. My Mom had bought a veritable blast furnace of science knowledge. I basked in its heat.

It was the late 60's or early 70's. These were heady times in American science. The space race was in full swing. America knew that going to the moon was dangerous... and we went anyway. The Science encyclopedia was steeped in this attitude.

Science was fun, exciting, and possibly a little dangerous.

The encyclopedia was full of experiments. I performed many of them, anxiously waiting for crystals to grow and seeds to sprout. I decided to either be a mechanical or aerospace engineer.

Many years later Suttonhoo and my brother b1-66er were meeting me for dinner in San Juan Bautista.[1] And then destiny intervened on your behalf.

Sitting in a dark corner of an antiques shop was a copy of the Young People's Science Encyclopedia. [Ed. Note: b1-66er gets full points for spotting it earlier in the evening, and for hauling us all back there. And for disapproving soundly at our inability to negotiate a good deal. I'm afraid our hearts led the transaction.]

I thought it might jump into my arms. Clearly this encyclopedia needed to get into the right hands: Yours.

Suttonhoo and I bought it as a belated Christmas gift for you. But in reality it could have just as easily been an Easter gift or a Veteran's Day gift. You NEED this encyclopedia.

This is the Guttenberg Bible of young people's science knowledge.

Here's a tip for you on the experiments: some of the experiment supplies have to be bought at a pharmacy. Take the encyclopedia with you to a mom and pop pharmacy (not a chain) when you try to obtain the supplies. That way they can see the experiment and know that you are not trying to wreak some kind of havoc.

Good luck.


Editor’s note: Ms. McQ, being a girl with an aversion to grime (on my books) I took some liberties and did my best to clean up each volume. It seems they sat somewhere very dusty for quite a long while. B1-66er & - 67er were a bit impatient with me for doing so: they thought it was of utmost urgency that Joe-Henry receive these volumes AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Please accept my apologies for the delay.

An apology too for the fact that volumes 14 and 18 are missing from the set -- I've found replacements through Abebooks and am having them shipped to you directly.

And, of course, before we go, an experiment, excerpted from the Young People's Science Encyclopedia:


  1. Follow the adjoining diagram to assemble a homemade steam engine.

  2. Find a tall, clear, heat-resistant plastic container with a cover. Drill a hole in the bottom of the container and one hole off center in the cover.

  3. Cut a circle of plastic from a second cover that will fit into the container.

  4. Cut slits in the center of the two covers to insert a tongue depressor, or apencil may be used to act as the piston rod.

  5. Insert the ends of two pieces of rubber tubing into a cork which fits snugly in the spout of a teakettle.

  6. Boil the water in the kettle. Push the other two ends of the tubes slightly into each opening on the ends of the container.

  7. Wearing a glove, alternately pinch one tube at a time to shut off the steam. Alternate the steam intake. This causes the piston rod to move forward and back. If the exposed end of the piston were attached to a crankshaft, work could be done.

p.s. Another Editor's Note: Just occurred to me that you might be needing this link »

exposed bulb

[1] Near the fabled Casa de Fruita.


Lolabola said...

oooh what a fantastic gift!! now I want to try.

(I think you need to re look at that date at the beginning)

mrtn said...

Some of us would even argue that it was January 6th.

suttonhoo said...

updated. thanks guys, and thanks to all the folks who emailed and txted to let me know I was an idiot.

clearly I should have observed "don't speak" provision for a few more days. ;)

anniemcq said...

Oh. my. I am speechless and the tears are flowing. We are all so touched here at the McQ household. Joe-Henry says "Thank yoooooouuuuuuu!" He's very excited because he is hoping to figure out a way to make his own light saber. He promises to only kill the bad guys.

When I think of the three of you (two of you we've never even met in real life) in that antique shop, the tears well up again (I'm a sap like that).

And D., you have something coming to you as well, and I've been slow at getting it in the mail too. Something you've wanted for a long time.... Perhaps now I'll send two more so that you can pass along the goodness to the Amazing B1 Brothers.

Thank you is not enough. But it will have to do for now. Sending big, sloppy, wet hugs and kisses your way.

Kari said...

what a lovely gift! what a lovely friend.

I, Rodius said...

Awww, that's sweet. Kids need good mentors. He's like J-H's Science godfather, helping to bring him up properly in the faith.

Anonymous said...

I hope you mean Godfather like Marlon Brando.


anniemcq said...

They arrived today! Well, two of them got here yesterday, but because we had company, I didn't get around to posting, but when I came in from work today there was another GIGANTIC box waiting. I am completely blown away. Hopefully I won't be literally blown away by one of the experiments! Love, love, love to you and the brothers B1.

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