Early One Morning

This morning I received an email from Edmund Scientific. As is usual, the embedded pictures were whacked but this is evidently a commonplace occurrence as a web link was provided. [Link] I was rather taken to be presented with this at the top of the web page:

The message was, for one of my advanced age and efforts, a mixed one of nostalgia and perception of modern nincompoopery.

As a matter of background, Edmund Scientific – now Scientifics – is the treasured heartland of amateur nerds. One may, or at least might in past, obtain electronics gizmoids from Radio Shack, although in my youth Allied, now defunct?, was a better source as it was mail order and about half the price. But for the “true grit” of nerdish activities, one went to Edmund Scientific for magnets, optics, and similar building blocks of scientific endeavor.

The real scientific equipment houses were disdainful of dealing with individuals in those days although not so rabidly as they fear liability in fostering terrorism these days. So Edmund was welcome as a place to get nerdish stuff other than chemicals and electronics in my youth.

Such were necessary in my youth when science fairs were not the venues that they are today. This if anything, is the nostalgia part of this email/web page. From the days I left elementary shul the cornerstone of my shulish activities was the science fair which was usually held in the turbulent Southron boundary later between winter and spring.

The advertisement implies a “science fair time”, which is accurate, but that one should only now be considering it is ludicrous, an evidence of the depravity of modern education. In my day one began work on one’s science fair project the day after the last fair. I say last because if one went on to regional, or state, or even national fair from one’s local, shul fair then a balance between old and new was requisite.

The want of myself and my nerdish colleagues was to begin planning and library research in the spring. This was an economy of bother to parents since spring was also the time in shul when term papers were assigned and hence one, up to the age of sixteen in Alibam, was wheedling transport to the Carnegie library on the city square for that purpose. A piggyback was possible. As soon as shul was out in June the wheedling changed to trips to the local U library for real information of a nerdish nature and trips over the summer to acquire necessary components or more likely, make-dos on a local basis. The core components were obtained by mail order much to the complaints of the maternal parent.

Actual construction of apparatus began in mid to late summer with experiments commencing by the start of shul or just after, perhaps early September. If planned properly and fortune favorable, final analysis and presentation commenced over the christmas-new years shul holiday when the primary distractions were odious, uninterested, and unlearning bog relatives instead of tedious history, civics, and english homework.

Then when March came one was prepared to deploy the telling of one’s efforts. If one had picked not unwisely – to plagarize a bit – and toiled well and intelligently, and had the fortune of judges who were not justthe business bogs used today, then one’s efforts might be recognized and one would proceed to region, and perhaps to state. And even to natonal.

On which, I have to admit that in my time I have served several times as judge at national science fairs. I can admit to little of the awe and wonder that my colleagues express although I do wonder if it is genuine or just a requisite social noise. Rather I have obtained an appreciation of the role of stochastic chance in the culling process. In all, I see little diffference in excellence between region and national, only the foibles of the judges and resonance of presentation. There is a large difference between local and region, evidence that most students are the slug-a-bed, project from a kit or how-to book so indicated by the Edmunds advertisement.

Indeed, in this matter, I am taken by the time limit on free shipping, as if this is some viral infection to be endured and recovered from. Perhaps for them it is, their equivalent of H & R Block in April?

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