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Last night, I took two snakes to the science night at the neighborhood elementary school. One was a boa and the other a milk snake -- one of those coral snake mimics. They were a big hit with the kids. I was surrounded practically the whole evening with kids wanting to feel and hold them. Which, of course, I let them do. Charlie came after a bit and interpreted for the little snake so I could let kids hold the big snake.

It was my fascination with snakes that first got me interested in science. It's hard to explain, but there's something simple captivating about the other-ness of snakes: the unblinking stare, the sinuous motion, and the flickering tongue.

When I was a kid, girls weren't supposed to like snakes and relatively few did -- people were starting to talk about "women's lib" and there was less pressure on girls then than there probably was 20 years earlier. But last night, it was the girls who were most engaged with the snake -- I was surrounded by girls the whole night. I think one girl would have been happy to sit for the whole evening wrapped in the coils of the boa.