One of the things about having a younger brother, if you are a scientifically-minded child, is that you have a guinea pig for many of your experiments. And Chris was a willing or unwilling guinea pig many times.
Let me tell you about one of those times. One day, we were down in the basement of the Nortons’ house, and Thane and I noticed that you got a little shock when you touched the knob of their TV. It was an old, black and white TV and there was something wrong with its circuits. You had to use a pair of vise grips to change the channel, actually, because the knob was gone. We thought, well, if you get a jolt touching it with your body, what would happen if you grounded the connection?
Fortunately, the furnace was right next to the TV. And for a conductor, we found a metal vacuum cleaner tube.
So we had a power source, a ground, and a connector. All we needed was someone to make the connection. Of course, neither Thane nor I were willing to do that. So we talked Chris into doing it. All he needed to do was to touch one end of the metal tube to the tuning knob and the other end to the furnace.
When Chris did that, there was a loud popping sound, a shower of blue sparks, and the picture on the TV dwindled down to a point. It never worked again.
Fortunately, Chris survived that experiment. (And for those of you who are small children: Don’t try this!)
It is possible that this experience contributed to his later lack of judgement. For example, a difficulty distinguishing between penguins and dolphins. And he did have some wild years in his youth.
After awhile, Chris wised up enough to stop being my guinea pig. Instead, he let me go first. I went to St. John’s for high school, and when that worked out, he did too. Then I went to Williams for college, and he did too. He even followed me into a useless major in Religion — although he added a far more practical Philosophy major to that. And he watched as I got married and had kids before he did.
Eventually, Leila came along. She was (and is) a woman of great beauty, excellent cooking skills, and sufficiently iron will that she was able to straighten Chris out.
Now I am very happy that Chris and Leila are getting married and looking forward to a child of their own. And I just want to say that, although there may be some sparks and loud popping sounds, it’ll be just fine and you’ll survive.
To Chris and Leila!
Also published on Medium.