The holidays are fast approaching. That term, by the way, speaks volumes on just how significant they are. We have other holidays in the year–Labor Day, Independence Day, Opposite Day. But when the word “the” precedes “holidays”, it’s understood what is meant…unless of course it’s Opposite Day and semantic rules get tricky. Or do they?

The holidays are like the Super Bowl. When someone asks, “Are you watching the game?” there has never been anyone who has replied, “My church’s softball scrimmage? Or…did you mean something else?” The game is THE game just like the holidays are THE holidays. They both involve friendly get togethers, genuine excitement, and if you’re lucky, the chance for a hot girl to accidentally expose her boobies.

Of course now is the time for us to be good Americans and go shopping. And you should do so thoughtfully, because let’s face it…your loved ones love you. Well, they do until you give them something cheap like your own homemade coupon book, good for things like hugs, backrubs, and random chores…all of which are written in a lovely font, including the December 26 expiration date.

No doubt, it gets tough to shop for the various people in our lives. So I’m going to make it easy on you. My father, Len Alberstadt, is by far the smartest person I know or have ever met. He’s an Emeritus Professor at Vanderbilt University in the field of geology, which means he’s not only intelligent, but when he wears his special commencement gown, he wields super powers. When he and the other professors convene on Vanderbilt campus, it’s like something out of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts, only with a worse football team.

I mention my dad because he is also an accomplished author, and his books are very gift worthy. He’s already written a novel titled Dragons of St. George, about the malevolent events within a private university that spill into the delicate landscape of international politics. It’s one of the best spy thrillers and suspense novels you’ll read. If James Bond were a scientist, he’d be at St. George, mixing martinis in a lab beaker, hitting on coeds, and trying to fund a college Baccarat team. Corporate interests and university politics make for a really intriguing plot, as well as act as inspirational tools–ahem, ask me how you can sponsor my website…

It’s a great read and would make an excellent screenplay, especially with the tumultuous environment the world is currently in. Not only is it a great gift, but you can avoid the jackassery that is mall shopping and buy it online:

After writing his novel, Dad delved into nonfiction. His latest book is called “How the Rocks Began to Speak: A Story for the Non-Scientist”. You can buy that online as well:

It’s an overview of Earth’s history, presented in a way that’s interesting to readers who are not well-educated in the field. He got the idea to educate “lay people” probably when I was young and in need of homework help. Whenever he mentioned a geological phrase, he no doubt noticed my confused expression–it’s the same look someone makes after hearing a Bon Jovi homage at open mic karaoke, minus the cold chills, panic attacks, and begs for mercy.

I could tell Dad was a brilliant man just by listening to him. He was always happy to help us with homework. However, he was also happy to throw in phrases like “tectonic plates” and “contact metamorphism” at random times, regardless of the homework assignment. We all had a laugh in 7th grade when I confidently told Mrs. Longhurst that x = magma. At that moment, I had a strange feeling that Pythagoras was possibly a man and not a dinosaur.

Dad was the go-to guy for sure, and I was privileged to have him. But having a professor for a father put a lot of pressure on me as a student. Asking him for help sometimes felt like going on a first date…I just did it, hoping I didn’t say anything stupid while trying to pick up on important information.

I had to keep two things in mind before asking Dad for help:

  1. I had to make sure I needed it. Nothing is more humbling than asking a scientist for help only to realize you failed to carry the 2, especially if that scientist is snoring in a recliner “watching” a baseball game. I had to go over my problem multiple times before asking Dad. Dad, now that I think about it, was my first search engine. Before Ask Jeeves, I had Ask My Dad. He was just like Google is now, only he never questioned my inquiry with a condescending attitude: “Did you mean…the Mesozoic Era?!?!”
  2. The second thing to remember was that as helpful as Dad was, he had a tendency to get so into a topic that he would automatically go into lecture mode. Which means I had to think ahead and form an exit strategy, a way to slip away after getting the data I needed. Usually this entailed calling my friend Justin… “Dude, call me in ten minutes and say it’s important. I have to ask my Pop about the Battle of Midway Island. This could take a while.”

I’m incredibly thankful that the Internet didn’t exist when I was in school, because having things like Wikipedia at my fingertips would have caused me to miss out on how special my father is. Besides, Wikipedia is sometimes proven to be incorrect. As far as I know, no rock or prehistoric plant has ever sued my dad for libel.

Especially considering how “green” politicians and celebs want us to be these days, not to mention the global significance of natural resources that accumulated millions of years ago, it’s a good time to read about why our planet is the way it is.

So if you want to get someone a little something to read, you should go to the above links and get one or both books. You won’t be disappointed, and you’ll most definitely show up that co-worker who made “coffee break coupons” for the staff. Enjoy THE season, everyone!!

Categories: Columns