Friday, January 10, 2014

Always picked last

 I write a weekly column called “Neighborberry.” If you would like to see "Neighborberry" in your local paper/website, please tell the editor to email me at

Thanks so much!

Always picked last

By Kris Kolk

Our family holiday functions are not complete without the playing of board games.

Sounds like fun, but for me, it’s not. You see, many in my family are scientists. Since we usually play teams on trivia games, I end up sitting in silence while watching my teammates avoid the arts and entertainment categories.

Here’s what happened on Thanksgiving:

“Oh! We’ve landed on a green square. Read us the science question,” we demanded of the other team. Here was the question:

“What is the manner by which an amoeba’s contractile vacuole releases water to the systole?”

The entire table of players (except one) groaned, because the answer was so obvious. Our team almost took another turn without even answering such a simple one; but our opponents insisted on playing by the rules.

Everyone looked to me while shushing one another. They agreed to let me go solo since I’m rarely able to contribute. Unfortunately, the answer did not occur to me so easily.

“I have no idea,” I admitted.

The house rumbled as nine people chanted in unison, “Exocytosis!” Banter ensued regarding my negligence on pursuing all matters amoeba.

“Well, she’s had a long day,” someone justified for me.

I routinely petition our team to land at any pink or purple square to prove I’m not as dumb as they think. I just enjoy different topics than they do. Bach was a composer during the Baroque period. I also happen to know what a lute is.

But they don’t even pause at my favorite categories, not as long as a science question is within reach. The game is plagued with spicules, quantum electrodynamics, and molecular orbitals. I must admit, though, I’ve learned a lot from these mandatory lessons, I mean festive recreation. I now understand what makes popcorn pop, the names of the bones in the hand, and that lemurs purr.

The Thanksgiving game wrapped up as our opponents silently read the last question of the game before agreeing the card must have been misplaced from the Junior edition. I thought perhaps this would be my moment.

The question was: “What is the transformation rule for a pseudovector?”

The answer, “v’=(det R) (Rv)” was stated almost at the same time as the question.

The game ended quick as a wink (approximately 1000 picoseconds). My hypotheses on pseudovectors were unnecessary. Fine with me.

All I really wanted to do was enjoy the season in a traditional way. Nothing beats biting the phalanges off Zingiberbread men and making angels out of chilly crystalline oxygen and hydrogen flakes.

Kris Kolk has been a writer and neighborliness promoter for more than a decade. You can also visit her at Email her at

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A serious new year's post and apple crisp

How is 2014 treating you so far? 

I can't help reminiscing about when I was a stay-at-home mom--about 10 years ago. We were able to keep the bills paid and even had extra money at the end of the month for music lessons, pizza outings, and savings.

Where are we today?

Well, to say the money doesn't go as far as it used to is an understatement. In addition, I see no reason to believe the economy will get better soon. 

How's that for a new year's sentiment from an otherwise "Pollyanna" blog?

It's time to get busy. Seriously.

Whereas frugality was a lifestyle choice for some, I believe it will become necessary for all but an elite few. But most of us will need to get super creative with how we live. Creative with food, creative with transportation, creative with recreation, creative with utilities. 

Frugality is but a distant memory.

The good news is that when we start thinking about life OFF the treadmill, we find unexpected joy. By eating the food we grow, our bodies become healthy. By working outside to produce that food, our lungs enjoy fresh air and our muscles tone. By pooling resources with our neighbors, our communities strengthen.

Hey wait. Maybe this is still a "Pollyanna" blog.

How about a dessert recipe?

Apple Crisp

8 medium apples from your backyard orchard (Ha! Made ya look.)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup butter, softened

Butter a 9x13 baking dish.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Skin and slice apples.
Arrange apples in the dish.
Mix remaining ingredients and sprinkle over the apples.
Bake for about 30 minutes.
Serve warm.

It's up to us to keep spirits up. We've got a lot of work ahead, but we can do it!

Have a neighborly day! (I'm serious) 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Funny joke, 2014

Even the Little Weirdo isn't amused. And he's always up for a good laugh.

Too much snow. Too much cold.

But this isn't fun anymore. Someone's going to get hurt. It's time to thaw out so we can all drive safely on the roads and get the mail without paramedics on stand-by.

Our area got about 10 inches of snow during the early hours yesterday. Temps are around -10.

Let's contrast the seasons, shall we?

Remember the yard sale last summer?

Here's a photo of that same yard today:

Oh young 2014. You're just full of peas and vinegar*, aren't you?

*A note about peas and vinegar: My grandmother used to say "pee and vinegar," which I think is vulgar. Funny thing is, she was always so proper. When I was about nine years old, I told her I didn't have enough guts to put contact lenses in my eyes. She told me straight away that ladies don't say "guts." 

But "pee and vinegar" on the other hand...

Stay warm (and try not to say "pee" or "guts.")