Archive for September, 2009

“Angry Blog Post”

29 September 2009


I was driving home after a long, boring, mandatory meeting, and for some reason I was getting more and more tense.  I don’t know why.  I know I was getting a pain right over my right eyeball, the car behind me playing loud bass was LOUD, and I was heading toward homemade macaroni and cheese that I was going to make myself, despite the lateness of the hour.  I love macaroni and cheese, it is my ultimate comfort food, and I make it just the way I like it, of course.

I opened the door to find my wonderful husband waiting for me on the sofa, reading a biography of President Truman.  He said to me

“We have no gas.”

Let me take you back to July.  Late July.  We had a flyer stuffed in our door saying that work was going to happen starting in July to replace the gas main on our street.  No problem, it’s July.  On the designated date, our street got marked up with bright spray paint.  Nothing else happened.

OK, now it is September.  They start the work.  We deal with interesting parking, occasional street closings, dust, large machines parked on the street, big yellow pipes.  I’m very happy we did not have the workers’ porta-potty in front of our house.  That was at the far end of the block.

Today was the day they turned off the gas from the old main.  They came around to turn on the gas from the new main, but go figure, we were at WORK.  We had a nice little notice on our door with a 24-hour phone number that nobody answers.  My wonderful wonderful husband is trying to rearrange his schedule so he can be home tomorrow to call the gas company and then wait around for them to show up, since they have to have access to the house to turn on the gas and make sure that all the pilot lights work and the house doesn’t fill with gas.

Meanwhile, we have no oven, no stove.  No hot water heater, no clothes dryer.

No macaroni and cheese!


And I had to type this entire blog post twice because my computer froze up right after I typed it the first time!


Stuff I’ve Learned – Electric car wise.

20 September 2009

A week and a half ago I attended my first EEVC meeting, finally.  I joined over the summer.  It was a very interesting meeting and I look forward to more of them!

As a result of that meeting, I have also joined the Electric Auto Association (EAA).

So what did I learn?  I learned about some of the differences between alternating current and direct current electric vehicles, including differences in cost and in operation.  One of the members had brought in an alternating current controller for show and tell.  He is installing it in his Saturn station wagon conversion.  I learned about transmissions, like YES, I really need to pull out the automatic transmission on my Civic and replace it with a manual transmission…but I won’t need a clutch.  Really.  Also, I learned that lithium-ion batteries (Li-ion) need to be clamped together to avoid having them change their shape by bulging out on the sides.  That is not a problem with lead-acid batteries.

Then after the meeting, member Ken offered rides in his Mini-E, which he was lucky enough to acquire one of the 450 1-year leases available in this country (NYC area and LA area only!).  These cars can go over 100 miles on a full charge, are silent, zippy, and you can change the color of the LED-interior lighting scheme according to your whim.  I got to drive it around the parking lot of the school where the meeting was.  The Mini-E has much stronger regenerative braking than my Prius — take your foot off the accelerator pedal and you immediately slow down dramatically!  It seats only two, due to the fact that the entire back-seat area is taken up by 5,088 Li-ion batteries!

Here are my photos of Ken’s car:

Ken is in the passenger seat

Ken is in the passenger seat

Ken has number 466 out of 500

Ken has number 466 out of 500

Dashboard - the big circle in the center is the speedometer

Dashboard - the big circle in the center is the speedometer, and the display above and to the left of the steering wheel shows how much charge remains

The front grille of the Mini-E

The front grille of the Mini-E

Awesome Day

18 September 2009

Today I hopped out of bed, put on my comfy pants and one of my favorite shirts and my yellow sunshine necklace from NovaDesigns, and immediately solved a problem that has been bugging me for several years.

My comfy pants (Gramicci cotton pants with a built-in belt) are one of those items of clothing that I wear to school (we can “dress down” on Fridays if we contribute toward a fund benefiting needy students in the district) that have no belt loops.  A lot of these clothing items are skirts, but a couple are pants.  And the thing is, I like to hang my keys from my front right belt loop using a mini-carabiner.  If I have no belt loops, I hang them from a lanyard around my neck instead, and that is less desirable for two reasons: one, the keys swing in resonance with my step frequency so if I am walking anywhere I have to hold the keys anyway or else they swing wildly after a short time; and two, they weigh me down and make my neck hurt.

So this morning at about 5:30 AM  I realized that if I take a loop of twill tape and pin it to the inside of the pants in front and on the right side, I can pull it out of my pants to hold my keys, and tuck it into my pants on weekends or other times when I don’t carry my school keys!  You would think such a simple solution would have been obvious long ago.  Ah well, my next sewing project will be sewing the twill tape loops into pants and skirts!

But that was only the beginning!

I had students come to my class before homeroom to do work and get help!  Usually my conceptual-level kids just don’t care that much about their grade and don’t mind that much if they don’t understand something.  But this year there is something different in the atmosphere.  Another teacher I spoke to yesterday said she noticed it too.  There is a collective seriousness towards studying this year among the kids.  The other teacher speculated that word had gotten around that colleges are much harder to get into than they used to be, so you have to have better grades to get into less-competitive schools nowadays.  I don’t know that high school students generally think that far ahead.  And it is hard for me to believe that the president’s speech to kids really made THAT much of an impact.  Whatever it is, I am glad of it.  I love my classes so far.  My largest class has 20 students (!!!) and so far they mostly seem to be paying attention and trying to do the work and understand things.

Speaking of which, I had the BEST class first period today.  Well, all my other classes went well too.  But after first period, I was just flying.  We’re doing basic, beginning physics stuff–relating the slope on a position-vs-time graph to the velocity of an object, talking about having a frame of reference and a defined “start” or “zero” position, and the difference between graphs for things moving away from zero and things moving towards zero.  But I felt like everything went right, I was asking the right questions to bring the kids to realize what it would mean if two object’s graphs had the same slope, or how to tell by eyeballing the graph which of two objects is moving faster.  I asked questions, and then I asked the kids who answered how they knew they had the answer, and they explained it to me!

My other conceptual-level classes went well too, though I was a little giddy by 6th period and those kids clearly wondered what I’d been taking…nothing other than usual, I swear!  (actually, I forgot to take my usual vitamins, antihistamine, and anxiety meds this morning.  Oops!)  And then it came to my AP class.

Ah, my AP class.  Nice kids.  And one of them got into a giggle fit when I was jokingly suggesting reasons my random drawing of lab groups came out the way it did.  We were doing a projectile launch lab today.  It quickly became clear that goggles were a necessity!

This evening, I got to watch one of the funniest movies ever on TV, without commercials.  The Birdcage, with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane.  In case you haven’t seen it, it hilarious, and it is based on La Cage aux Folles, a French film that I am pretty sure my parents took me to see when I was a kid.  I remember that I liked La Cage aux Folles, but I don’t remember anything else about it.

Could a day get any better?  Yes, it would have been better if the music played over the PA system this morning had been better.  Every morning the kids come up with music to play over the school system for about 10 minutes before homeroom officially begins.  Today’s music sounded like awful incomprehensible anime theme songs, and then they played Sandstorm.  Without that, it would have been a perfect day.  Instead, it was only awesome.


I love my job!

The last night

8 September 2009

Tonight is my last night without grading.  At least, until June, approximately.  I will be collecting lab reports from all four of my classes tomorrow.

Tomorrow is a big day.

In addition to all those kids handing in lab reports (I am hanging out online right now in case they have any questions to e-mail me), tomorrow is the first meeting of the Eastern Electric Vehicle Club that I will attend, having joined over the summer.  I hope to learn a lot!  And, tomorrow is the day Beatles Rock Band is released, along with the re-mastered re-release of the entire Beatles catalog.  My husband is giddy with anticipation.  I am playing Beatles on my iPod to get the songs into my head, in preparation.  Oh yeah, I also have a meeting after school tomorrow and it is the day we’ll get out CSA delivery this week, since Monday was a holiday.

So what have I been doing with my “free” evening?  Browsing the internet for fun links:


Summer’s end

4 September 2009

We started school before Labor Day this year, since Labor Day isn’t until September 7 and that is kindof “late.”  So I just finished off a great first week of school, and am now having a last fling of summer as we have a four-day weekend, in honor of Labor Day.  I am not sure why we need four days off, but I am happily taking it.

Anyway, I have three Physics 1 classes, at our lowest level (“conceptual”) and one AP Physics C class, which consists of students who have all had one year of physics already and who should be taking calculus this year.  My physics 1 classes all have a really nice number of students in them (in the 17 to 20 range), where they all fit into the classroom well, I can make a reasonable number of approximately 3-person groups, and where they are still pretty manageable when I use my loud teacher voice.  My AP Physics class is adorable, enthusiastic, and split evenly between boys and girls, a first in my career!  I have 12 kids in that class and they all passed the first quiz (yesterday) and I am working on teambuilding with them.  My idea is that if we do teambuilding then the kids will all support each other through the tough bits and nobody will drop out of the class.  Of course, I have already had four kids drop AP Physics, one who I never met and one who shouldn’t have been in there in the first place among them.  But maybe nobody else will drop out!

As I contemplated the fact that I had Friday off this week, and having gotten my lesson plans for next week 75% done already (though now in need of some revision, as the president’s speech has been moved to noon instead of 1 PM), the following thought crossed my mind:  I wonder what they are picking at Mood’s this week?

Mood’s is the u-pick farm we’ve been getting our berries from this summer.  It turns out they are picking a lot: giant peaches (think giant like California Navel orange, not like the Roald Dahl book), pears, apples, plums, raspberries, and blackberries.  So I decided that I needed to make another raspberry pie.

I came home at about noon with 6.4 lbs raspberries, 5 lbs damson plums, an apple cider donut in my belly (they make the best donuts at Mood’s…but I have learned now to buy just one, not a bag of six!), and some garlic.  I picked up the plums and the garlic at their market, and 5 lbs plums for $7 still seems like a deal, even though I did not pick them myself.  I am thinking raspberry pie, plum-raspberry jam, and frozen raspberries…for future deliciousness!

Are these not the most beautiful raspberries?  If I were the swooning type, I totally would swoon over these!