Thursday, January 22, 2004

Grandparents, chickens, and a modem

I’ve now switched locations to my Dad’s house, and unfortunately the only connection to the net that I now have is a dial up modem and a computer that I strongly suspect is powered by coal (or maybe koala bears). I don’t know how I survived life with a dial up modem. Heck, the software on this machine is so dated I can’t download file attachments at one of my mail accounts.

I did get to visit with my grandparents today – they’re neat people. I’d heard from my folks that they weren’t doing too well, so was worried about how they’d be when I visited. However, they were as perky as the last time I saw them when they were well (the last time I saw them my grandfather was coming out of triple bypass surgery), and my step-mom said that she hadn’t seen them this perky and chatty for a long, long time. My grandfather used to work for NASA/AMES as an aeronautical engineer, and we chatted for a while about some of his old work. Both he and my grandmother have some great stories, so it was a fun afternoon.

My grandfather knows that I’m a biologist, so at one point we were comparing the design of bird and plane wings. Interestingly (and also intuitively) he mentioned that a lot of early engineering work on plane wings was based on the analogous bird structures. Birds, however, played a much different role in some of his design work in wind tunnels. To test the ability of jet engines to withstand the impact of foreign objects they would throw frozen chickens into the running engines; not exactly the kind of real-world contributions ornithologists like to brag about :)

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