Here are some nonacademic highlights of my trip to Virginia, where I visited my sister, brother-in-law, and their “pet”:
On a lazy Saturday afternoon, we visited Frying Pan Farm Park in Fairfax County, a working farm that’s also open to the public (admission is free). Fortunately, it was lambing and pigging (?) season, so there were plenty of baby animals to pet. I’m not sure whether this action is Talmudically prohibited:
Twin lambs were born only two hours before our visit, and were still wet. Here’s mom and one of them inspecting the afterbirth:
But he proved to be a cupcake, staying around for petting, scratching, and purring:
I finally got to go through some of my possessions that were in my mother’s care when she died. Two of them were notable. The first is the very album I was listening to at the moment I became an atheist. Jeremy Manier explained in an article from the Chicago Tribune, reprinted at the Dawkins site:
One of the more colorful scientific de-conversion stories comes from Jerry Coyne, a professor of genetics and evolutionary biology at the University of Chicago. It happened in 1967 when Coyne, then 17, was listening for the first time to the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album while lying on his parents’ couch in Alexandria, Va. [JAC: it was ARLINGTON, Virginia].
Suddenly Coyne began to shake and sweat. For reasons he still doesn’t understand, it dawned on him at that moment that there was no God, and he wasn’t going anywhere when he died. His casual Judaism seemed to wash away as the album played on. The crisis lasted about 30 minutes, he says, and when it was over, he had left religion behind for good. He went on to study how new species evolve, and found the Darwinian view of nature perfectly in tune with his abandonment of faith.
The good news is that my mother saved the album! So here it is, a witness—indeed, perhaps even a cause—of my youthful godlessness:
And the ultimate souvenir of childhood, my bronzed baby shoes! Do people even do this any more?
Finally, I found a LOLzy photo of my two uncles (my mother’s brothers) taken some years ago. Uncle Bernie and Uncle Moe were partners in the auto-parts business in Pittsburgh, where they made a fortune. Here they are on the links (Moe’s wearing the convict pants). This photo makes me giggle, for it seems to be a poster for Jews Who Have Made It.