A fish story

My students took the New Jersey Biology Competency Test last week, and I can't blame them for thinking we're done for the year. They might be, but I'm not.

We're talking about immunology this week. A few yukky photos, and they're hooked again, like fish dancing on a line. And so this week I will share a fish story.

Check out the dorsal fin spines.....


I have fished a long, long time. I'm reasonably competent, despite no certifying test.

I spent a couple of hours tossing a variety of lures into the bay, with no hits to show for it, but no one else had a hit either.

A gentleman strolled up on the rocks. No tackle box, no net, no shirt, no shoes. He had a pole, a shocking pink bucktail jig, and more cigarettes than sense. He announced he was from Florida, and started fishing on the wrong side of the jetty, happy as a clam just to be out there.

And within 5 minutes he had a two foot bass.

I landed the bass for him, I unhooked the bass for him, I held the bass for him, and when he was about to toss the fish back like a wet washcloth, I released the bass for him. A few of the jetty regulars left in disgust.

I noticed some blood on the tail just before I released it, an unusual place for bleeding. Turns out the blood was mine. I caught my thumb on a dorsal spine, not the first time, and likely not the last.

And now I got me an nice little infection, perfect for class tomorrow.


Friday we talked about the "itis"-reviewing signs of inflammation. I showed a photo of an infected foot, and let the class figure out what made inflammation look like inflammation. It takes a bit more time than flashing up a slide with the 5 signs of inflammation, but I'm more interested in the process than in checking off the curriculum.

And tomorrow I will show them my thumb. I will project it up on the big screen, in all its oozy, red. swollen glory. We will talk about pus and pain, and then we'll revel in a "who had the worst infection ever" discussion. We will talk about the mechanism, and when we're done, inflammation will be more than a list of words to be memorized. Dolor, calor, rubor, tumor....

The bigger lesson may be this. A half dozen seasoned fishing experts all cast from the same side of the jetty, using essentially the same plugs, confident in our methods, confident in our conformity. We must have made close to a thousand casts among us that morning, and nothing to show for it.

Except a swollen red thumb and a good story.

Should I teach inflammation by just reciting the 5 signs?
Striper photo by Associated Press, found here.

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