Archive for October, 2008

Drought is over

31 October 2008

In 45 minutes we were down to 4 pieces of candy left, from two bags full.  Well, full minus the one piece I ate and the two my husband snagged.  This is our 6th Halloween in this house, and for the previous five years we’ve had about 2 groups of 1-3 little kids come trick-or-treating each year.  This resulted in LOTS of leftover extra candy.  I contemplated buying only one bag this year, but I had a coupon for a dollar off if I bought 2 bags, so I did.

And I am glad.  So many kids!  Some costumes were very cute, others were clearly spur-of-the-moment.  A young princess was escorted by her dad, a knight in shining armor.  A ten-year-old came by wearing a rainbow clown wig and a Phillies World Champions t-shirt.  Most of them weren’t clear on the concept of saying “trick or treat” in order to receive a piece of candy, but on the other hand they were nearly universally clear on the “thank you” idea except for the extremely shy ones.  Once I stood by the door waiting what seemed like a full minute, listening to a parent and older siblings trying to convince a young child to knock on our door.

Is it the economy that has made the difference this year?  Or is it the costume shop that set up two blocks away in the defunct Buick dealership this year for the first time?  Or maybe something else?

Happy Halloween

31 October 2008

I wish I could take credit for the robot, but I only constructed the remote control.  That’s my colleague Ron as the robot.  And yes, that is really my hair.

Is there an entomologist in the house?

27 October 2008

I ought to just take these photos to the biology teachers at school.  I know one of them is having his classes make insect collections.

This big insect was found dead, on the back deck:

It was white on the underside, and at least 4 cm long.  Is it a cicada?  Most of the cicadas I have seen in my life are the shed skins of cicadas, which are an amber-brown color.

Then last week there was this tiny insect in my office:

This one was at most, one centimeter long, counting the wings.  It walked slowly up my wall, so I had time to pull out my tripod and take the photo on maximum zoom.  Unfortunately, it is still fuzzy—I don’t have one of those non-jiggly remote-shutter thingies I used to have for my old SLR camera, and of course I jiggled the camera while pushing the button.  It was unavoidable.  Is it a baby praying mantis?  It looks a lot like a teeny praying mantis to me.

Is there an entomologist in the house?

Fat jerk seeds

26 October 2008

Our CSA sent us a red kabocha squash a week and a half ago, and we used it this evening in one of our favorite recipes: penne with squash and roasted garlic.  A kabocha is also called a japanese pumpkin, and it is a very sweet squash.  Mostly they are green, but ours was the red kind, and it was a very deep reddish-orange.

After we had dinner, I roasted the seeds.  I used to only roast pumpkin seeds, but then I discovered you can roast the seeds of any winter squash.  The kabocha seeds were thicker and fatter than the usual pumpkin seeds, and took longer to roast than usual.

Normally I roast my seeds plain, but this time I sprinkled the seeds with “Jamaican Jerk” seasoning powder and  a dash of lime juice, in addition to the usual salt.  So, they are fat jerk seeds.  And they are yummy!

Mishmash of Stuff

21 October 2008

I spent today thinking that if I just stay cheerful and pretend the huge mountain of things I need to do is only a little bit, then I can get through the week without melting down.  I am also pretending that I am very organized and everything is all set for Physics Olympics on Saturday.

In reality, it mostly is all set.  I have the custodial staff all informed and ready to set things up and unlock doors, I have a photographer coming in (a hobbyist friend who happens to have some free time and who is interested, thank you very much you know who you are!), a bunch of kids volunteering to make and put up signs (well, volunteering for extra credit, that is), and I am not actually running any of the events.  I have to record the scores and provide some of the problem-solving problems, but I am not actually running individual contests, just the overall logistics.

But I haven’t written my problem-solving problems, I have a large grading backlog, and next week I’m giving quarterly exams.  But I will still smile, because everything is all right, and the world won’t end and people will cope if somehow things aren’t perfect.  Thank you anti-anxiety meds!

In the meantime, here are some cool things I saw on blogs in my hour of down-time on the computer between coming home and dinnertime:

I’ll report on Physics Olympics sometime after Saturday…don’t hold your breath because I will still be really busy afterward!


19 October 2008

So here I am, in my nice home office, with my nice bright light and my nice computer and my comfortable chair and my pile of work, and a teleconference for my online course coming up in about an hour.  And the grandchildren of the people next door are running around outdoors, in the dark, mind you, screaming.

Obviously, they must be playing some sort of game.  I’m sure they are having a lot of fun, and I’m not some crochety 80-year-old.  It just makes me wish I had some bagpipes and knew how to use them. Still, I’d rather live where I am or even in the city, as opposed to out in the middle of nowhere.

My news?

I’m still behind on schoolwork, planning for the big Physics Olympics meet that my school is hosting next Saturday, still have mucous in my sinuses from my second cold of the month, hoping to stay caught up on my online course, and hoping I can find the time to put together my props for Halloween.  Only one more weekend left before Halloween.

The Physics Teachers’ Demo Night went very well on Friday, and as usual I learned a lot, including what happens when you shine a green laser on something fluorescent and all the cool apps you can get for an iPod Touch, which has a built-in 3-axis accelerometer.  Accelerometers are useful because they can tell you if you crash your car, by deploying an airbag, but in the iPod Touch the main point is to know which way is down.  That way you can view your video right side up no matter how you are holding it, I guess.  But people have written little programs that take advantage of the accelerometer that turn your iPod Touch into a bubble level, or you can check the acceleration and braking performance of your car, or you can take it on a roller coaster and collect acceleration data (how many g’s did we feel in that dip?  Is the shoulder harness really necessary in the circle?) and then you can e-mail the data to yourself if you are in a WiFi area.  Now that is fantastic!  In physics classes we can get a 3-axis accelerometer which is housed in a black plastic box thicker than an iPod Touch and which has a long cable to attach it to another plastic box which is an interface that allows the data from the accelerometer to go to a computer and be displayed on the screen.  Now all that can be in one small package for a mere $300.  Not that we could ever get away with buying a class set of iPod Touches for school use.

Despite all I do, I found a few minutes to experiment with some photos I took and I played with the coloring, the “sharpness,” the contrast, etc, which you can do in iPhoto.  Here are two versions of a photo I took of the various squashes and guords that I made into a fall table decoration.  I actually kindof like the black and white version slightly better.  What do you think?

These are two photos that I took with different camera settings, within a few seconds of each other of the same edge of a wall.  They are so different!

Ah, a few minutes of typing and the screaming outdoors has stopped.  Time to get some work done!


16 October 2008

Here is a photo of naked vegetables (were you thinking something else?), peeled and ready to be chopped up and roasted.  There are two sweet potatoes, two white carrots, two beets, a disassembled shallot, and some garlic cloves.  All the veggies except for the garlic are from our CSA.

I had never seen white carrots before, and I confess that I am puzzled.  If they’re not orange, are they still nutritious and good for your eyes?  And if not, why bother?  They don’t seem to taste any better than the orange type of carrot.

Anyway, here are the veggies chopped up, dressed in herbs, olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper:

And here they are all cooked and ready to be eaten for dinner, filling a bowl my dad made with his own hands.  They were in a 450 degree (F) oven for about 40 minutes.

Physicists can make anything physics

15 October 2008

The last time I talked with my mom, she said she’d stopped checking my blog because I wasn’t posting anymore.  Well it is true that my posts are becoming rare as I am swamped with school.  Plus I have already had two colds this month, which is in my opinion very unfair.  It is usual for me to have a cold this time of year, just in time for the local physics teachers’ fall demo night, when we get together on a Friday evening and share cool stuff we do.  It’s coming up this Friday.

I do plan to go to the demo night, and I’ll show off some vPython stuff and pitch the graduate course I’m taking that I posted about before.  Speaking of which, I just finished taking, scanning, and e-mailing the second test of the semester, and I am going to go to bed as soon as I finish writing this!

Meanwhile, I wanted to point out that the blogroll to the right has been changing, as I’ve been discovering blogs that are very cool.  I haven’t added a link to Twisted Physics, but I might, and I plan to put the blogger’s book The Physics of the Buffyverse on my summer reading list for 2009—seeing as I am a fan of the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I usually have time to read in the summers.

Monday, Twisted Physics posted a video (see below) of a couple of MIT professors performing a song about special and general relativity.  Good physics, lots of real equations, but really long and set to a very recognizable tune that I’m pretty sure they don’t have the rights to.  If you are interested in physics songs (you must be, isn’t everyone?  I sure am!) then I recommend looking up Haverford College‘s Walter Smith.  He was kind enough to perform at our local physics teachers’ Spring Meeting a year and a half ago, and his song Ampere’s Law has been recorded by the band Broadside Electric on their Live: Do Not Immerse album.

By the way, all the lyrics to the song are posted at Science After Sunclipse.  The “8.033” refers to the number of the class—you know, those nerds at MIT have a number for everything.


5 October 2008

Here is an interesting game that tests how well you can “eyeball” things like angles and centers of circles.  Not lengths, though, which is useful too.  These are all geometric.  Try it!

My first score was 3.54.  A score of zero is perfect.

Video of the moment

2 October 2008

I don’t like going all political on my blog.  But I do think you should go vote.  And I think Sarah Silverman is very funny. Warning: some of the people in this video use the f-word.