Musings of a Dinosaur

A Family Doctor in solo private practice; I may be going the way of the dinosaur, but I'm not dead yet.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Right Tools

I am frequently struck with waves of nostalgia as the NinjaBaker goes about his college career. He is not technically pre-med, but occasionally sends me palpitating (in fear of the potential tuition bills) by breezily commenting, "I had an opportunity to take a practice MCAT." (He didn't take it, though. Bullet dodged.) However he is taking biology this year, and all you science types should recognize what that means for second semester lab in genetics: fruit flies.

Yes, exactly thirty years after I did it, my kid is doing the fruit fly lab. What makes this so cool is that I know exactly what he's doing and what he's going through. I spoke with him the other day to see how it was going. Fine, he said. They use a different method than I used to knock the flies out before counting them, but they're using the same dissecting microscopes to sort and count them to generate their experimental data. I asked him what they were using to handle the flies under the scope. He said they'd been given a paint brush with a single bristle to push the little buggers around. How was it working, I asked. Meh, came the all-purpose adolescent answer.

Then I came up with a brilliant idea.

One of the things I have at my office are disposable plastic tools with small loops at one end that I use to remove impacted ear wax. Actually, the ones I now prefer are the ones that look like tiny scoops; but that meant that I had a whole box full of the loops that I don't use anymore. It occurred to me that they were the perfect size and shape to manipulate fruit flies under magnification. So the same day I sent a birthday package off to the Jock, I sent another to the NinjaBaker containing a couple dozen earwax loops.

Today I got a call and a very sincere thank-you. They worked perfectly, and his friends were suitably impressed, if somewhat puzzled, by a parental package containing something actually useful.

The whole thing reminded me once again of something I've been saying for years in many different contexts: it is significantly easier to accomplish almost anything when you have the right tools. When I mentioned this to the NinjaBaker, he pointed out that I've told him that several times before, usually in the context of cooking and baking. Other areas I've noticed that it also holds true are woodworking, carpentry and surgery. Also home organization (storage boxes, folders, labels, filing cabinets, etc.); car repair (spark plug wrenches); the list is endless. There have even been times when I've picked up a new hobby just because I've seen a really cool tool.

Today's lesson for life: the importance of the right tools.


At Wed Feb 11, 07:42:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

The right tool can really help. What always amazes me is how many times the right tool was originally designed for another purpose and then shazam, someone discovers a real use for the beast.

At Wed Feb 11, 09:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you mean by "fruit fly lab"?

At Thu Feb 12, 05:25:00 AM, Blogger Clinton said...

Tools are great. Just as long as you don't become one.


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