The browser or device you are using is out of date. It has known security flaws and a limited feature set. You will not see all the features of some websites. Please update your browser. A list of the most popular browsers can be found below.
I am missing a gene, the warm gene for pets. It’s probably nurture over nature. During the formative pet bonding years, I had no positive reinforcement. We had a couple of painted turtles that my sister fatally squished when we were toddlers. When I was 8, we had a parakeet named Schwartz that I deemed to be a dirty bird. I scrubbed him — apparently to death. The next morning, he was in full rigor. Dad put Schwartz in a shoebox, and I pretended to cry.
That is the sum of my experience with pets. Now when my friends coo about their pets as if they were adorable newborns, I just see smelly, slobbery dogs and arrogant cats. Even when my boss took his “adorable” puppy to work, I put up a force field of indifference. Apparently boss-dog noticed that and took her first big (and baaaad) office poop right next to my desk. Message received.
So when I was assigned a story about spider silk — and the transgenic goats that produce milk containing silk proteins — I didn’t have any particular emotional reaction. I was a little worried about spider nightmares, but who isn’t? In fact, spiders and me? Not great friends, especially after I discovered why my burglar alarm was mysteriously going off when no one was in the house. After the cops charged me for excessive false alarms, I called in the ghostbusters (OK, the alarm repair guy). It seems there wasn’t a bug in the system: There was a bug on the system. A spider had draped her web in front of the motion detector, and every time she headed home, she triggered the alarm. I solved that problem with a big can of Raid and a shoe.
We started with a visit to Cheryl Hayashi’s spider lab at the University of California at Riverside. She is so cute and so personable, she almost made me feel comfortable around her black widows. And Phil Torres was giddier than a kid with free rein at a Lego store, especially when he took part in the silking process. To do that, he got to tape down a knocked-out black widow for study under a microscope. Studying spiders is impressive once you can look at their spinnerets spewing several types of silk — from the safety of a computer screen attached to a big microscope, of course.
After we spent the day in the lab with Utah State University’s visionary spider man Professor Randy Lewis, he took us to where the real action was: the barn where they milk the goats. Phil was looking forward to milking a transgenic goat. Me, I just wanted to get it done and then get room service at our hotel. But …OMG! Yes, it’s worth an OMG. The baby goats were off-the-charts adorable.
Yes, this is the same cranky pet-loathing gal. The kids are positively enchanting. They don’t smell. They make the cutest “baaaaaa” sounds and love nuzzling up to you, without all that icky tongue slobber action. And their poop comes out in cute little pebble-like pellets. I can’t help myself: I LOVE THE BABY GOATS! People at work were shocked when I posted photos of those kids and me. Could goats be the gateway animal that lets me like rest of the animal kingdom?
Not so fast on the spiders. Two days after I returned home, I had another false alarm. And you know why. And you know what was to blame. Spiders ain’t goats. Sorry, Phil. It’s shoe time.
Watch “TechKnow” Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT.