Friday, April 07, 2006

Jane's Magnolia

I had two favorite teachers in high school. Mr. Cuicchi, my physics teacher, taught us--among other things--about fiber optics way back in 1986 before fiber optics were mainstream. To demonstrate how light could carry a signal, he rigged up his old record player, disconnecting the speaker and wiring it into a regular 12V flashlight. Then he wired up a Radio Shack light sensor into a 12V battery and a separate pair of speakers. Pretty simple circuitry; something every kid in the class could understand.

When he turned on the record player, all we heard was this annoying hum. As it turned out, he forgot that the fluorescent lights would disrupt the light sensor with their 60 Hz humming. We cut the lights, and lo and behold! Linda Ronstadt came scratching through the speaker. (It was better when the lights were still on.)

My other favorite teacher was "Jungle Jane" Lusk. Mrs. Lusk was about eighty years old when I had her in school, and she was still teaching there at least a few years ago, though I doubt she could still be there. She was absolutely sharp as a tack, though. Her classroom was like something out of a vintage horror movie. One whole wall was stocked with jars of various sizes, each containing some kind of nasty animal specimen. It was in Mrs. Lusk's class that I dissected my first earthworm, frog and perch.

She had this pond on the side of the school, more of a cesspool really, that she kept so she could grow various microorganisms. The pond was sticky with green algae and muck. Jane would bring in a jar of the muck, and we'd look at the euglena and amoeba under her microscope.

It was Mrs. Lusk who taught me to respect and enjoy all the flora and fauna nature has to offer. Here's a tree in my yard, called a Jane's Magnolia. It is blooming now, and it reminded me of Mrs. Jane Lusk. I think she'd like it.

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