Archive for the ‘things I like’ Category

New Dance Shoes

10 February 2013

After dancing at Hogmanay Ball, my feet were in a LOT of pain. Especially my toes, which felt like I’d been mashing them against something hard for hours. Which I had. My toes were mashed against the ends of my dancing shoes (ghillies) and then mashed against the floor.

That week, I saw a review in the travel section of the paper about nufoot shoes, $10 neoprene slippers. So I bought a pair. After all, they were only $10. Last night, I wore them dancing for the first time, at the Swarthmore English-Scottish Ball. Perfect. They are form-fitting, so I could show off my pointed toes while dancing Scottish. They have non-skid spots on the soles so I could stop easily instead of sliding across the floor, but with enough slip that turn-singles were smooth and put no stress on my knees.

I have no idea how long the shoes will last. But I like them, and I recommend them for dancing!


World’s Largest

16 August 2011

Miyajima Island, in addition to being the home of the iconic “floating” O-torii gate and the source of momiji manju, is home to the world’s largest rice paddle. I would never have known this if our tour hadn’t included a stop there, but I am really glad it did! We spent two nights on Miyajima island, climbed to the top of Mt. Misen, and avoided the ubiquitous deer who love to beg for food. While we were there, there was a typhoon hitting parts of Japan and the island experienced  some strong winds and a little light rain.  The winds prompted the operators to close the ferry to Hiroshima and the ropeway up the mountain, and most of the restaurants and shops were closed as well.  This was nice, because there weren’t crowds of people and it was quiet and pleasant, but on the other hand there was not a lot of choice for what to have for lunch.  The two places open for lunch both served Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, so that was it.

Map of the side of the island that faces the mainland.

Keiko walked out at low tide to get a close-up view. Can you spot her?

At high tide, it does look sortof like it is floating.

Momiji manju are cakes (manju) filled with yummy filling and shaped like maple leaves (momiji). But one shop sells them with Hello Kitty on them.

This rice paddle is over 7.7 meters long (over 25 feet) and is made from a tree over 200 years old. And no, I've never been to the largest ball of twine.

The view from Mt. Misen. You can just barely see the ferry dock at the lower right.

A deer begs one of our tourmates for some of his ice-cream sandwich. The deer are not above chewing clothing and snatching pocketbooks.

Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki include pancake, cabbage, noodles, and omelet (invisible on the bottom.) There may be meat inside, too.

The finished okonomiyaki has been flipped so the omelet is on top. I got mine with oysters, another specialty of Miyajima. It was so big though, I could not eat it all.


One Piece Away

29 June 2011

The kitchen is one piece away from being finished.  Today I went to Home Depot to send back the piece they’d sent, which was wrong, and had them order the correct piece, which will take who knows how long to come in.  But the kitchen is FUNCTIONAL!

The key thing making the kitchen finally functional is the sink.  I picked out a stainless steel double-bowl sink with a lower-than usual center divider.  When I washed the dishes tonight I was thrilled that our largest skillet fits entirely inside the sink!  The handle of the skillet would have stuck out if the center divider went all the way up.

Check out the spiffy faucet!

Anyway, the end bit of the faucet, where the water comes out, pulls out to be used as a flexible sprayer, and can be used for spraying or streaming water, and you can pause the water with the upper black button.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  If you come to visit us, your first view of the kitchen will be as you enter the dining room from the living room, and as you turn you will see the wide opening into the kitchen like this:

What you see first

Open and inviting, I think!  We will probably get some sort of curtain thing to go on the window in the back door, but we need to think about what we want.

Ok, so in the sink photo, you can just see the edge of my tea kettle.  Here is the full view of the “sink wall” with the tea kettle, since I made my tea IN THE KITCHEN this morning instead of in the dining room!

At the lower right corner you can see where the missing piece will go.

I imagine that Greg’s coffee maker will go on the right like it was before.  I think I will get some shelves to go on the left, under the cabinet, for my tea tins and infusers and stuff.  Hmm, IKEA?  Also, we will probably put a curtain on this window to match the one on the door window.  And Greg suggested some sort of stencil or mural across the soffit, which could continue onto the stove wall.  Well, we will see.

So as you look around to the right, you will see the “stove wall”:

I've closed the basement door for the photo

We plan to put pots and pans in the drawers to the right of the stove.  To the left of the stove, as you may recall, is where the garbage and recycling go.  Somewhere along here we will put the spices, and the utensil bin on the counter, and you may notice that the under-counter lighting has been turned on.  When I cooked dinner tonight, I used the vent and light on the microwave oven!  It was so nice!  But again, I am getting ahead.

Continuing around to the right…


I took this photo kind of high so I could show the mini-fan again (see previous post) and our LED lights.  We’ll eventually put magnets back on our fridge, but for now we have only a timer and a beer-opener.

OK, so the final view is this:

Looking into the dining room and living room

Here you can see the back of the peninsula, and the phone, which we plan to replace.  The dining room table has been temporarily squished into a corner but will be moved back to the center of the room soon.  Where you see blank wall in the dining room, we’ll put the chest of drawers that contains the table linens and the wine opener, and we’ll hang the large Chinese painting.  We definitely have to do some thinking about where things will go, and maybe also about what things we don’t actually need.

The cutlery drawer!

I have already decided that our flatware goes in the top drawer nearest the dining room.  Greg hasn’t disagreed (yet) so maybe it will stay there!  I got one of those “expands-to-fit-the-space” organizer things from Bed Bath & Beyond.   But I didn’t stop there, I made dinner!  I made tofu and vegetable stir-fry, with the first of Greg’s beans from the garden!  Which reminds me I have to do a blog post on this year’s garden.  Greg has done a lot of planning and a lot of work on it.


Oh yeah, the other thing that happened today was I got a haircut.  The stylist blow-dried it straight, but once I wash it again it will be wavy again.  I like it, and I hope I like the salon enough I can keep going back there.  It made a good first impression, and was very inexpensive, so that’s a good sign!

As I was saying, however, here I am cooking, with a handful of beans that Greg just brought in from the garden.  And wearing an apron my mom made, and drinking red wine, of course. I am really happy now!

Maker Faire!

26 September 2010

My ticket and the map I printed out

I have wanted to go to Maker Faire ever since I first heard about it.  I’ve been a subscriber to Make: magazine for three and a half years, now, and while I haven’t done very many of the projects I have been inspired and enthused by reading about them!  Make: magazine comes from O’Reilly media and for several years has been sponsoring Maker Faires in faraway places like Texas and California.  So when I found out that there would be one in New York City (specifically, in Queens), I immediately made plans to attend.

Two-person pedal-powered ferris wheel

Well, that was yesterday.  I drove up with an interesting guy who does science parties and teacher trainings, Ken Fink of Wondergy.  He was a helpful navigator (it is always a challenge to find my way to a new place…can’t easily read my Google Maps driving directions AND watch the road!) and good nerdy conversationalist.  We arrived, presented our tickets, and entered wonderland.

Mathematica temporary tattoo

The first area I entered had tents with fabricators (shopbot, home plastic vacuum forming, CNCdevices (think home-accessible 3-D printing, though still pricey), instructional areas (lockpicking, soldering), and various commercial interests (Ford, Wolfram, US Patent Office).  MakerShed was there (the Make: magazine store, full of books, kits, parts, more learn-to-solder stations, etc) and there was a beer tent and a giant version of that old “Moustrap” board game.  Plus a two-person pedal-powered ferris wheel and a pedal-powered electric guitar windmill tower.  I got a Wolfram Mathematica temporary tattoo (almost gone now, actually) and entered a query into Wolfram Alpha to receive a deck of WolframResearch playing cards!  I did not bother to learn lockpicking.  It’s not something I feel I need to know right now.

Garden indoors with a setup like this in a window

I then wandered over into a large parking lot (for the NY Hall of Science) where I found an area of recycling/composting/indoor gardening booths, and a bunch of big tents set up.  I wandered through one, finding things like nixie-tube sudoku; beautiful brass, steel, and wood electrostatics demonstration equipment; musical instruments played by pulling on ropes or powered by arduinos; and Cooper Union students showing off their chemically-powered robotic vehicle.  I stopped at the booth where a guy from the UK was teaching surface-mount soldering on a scrolling digital name badge powered by arduino.  Free to learn, $20 to keep.  Of course I made one!  We didn’t use soldering irons for the surface-mount work, instead we used these nifty little butane-powered heat guns – I will have to get one if I ever get more into surface-mount work, though that seems unlikely at this time.  I have no particular need to work with components that tiny and hard to see (I didn’t even think to bring my reading glasses, though I had my own safely goggles!)

What a beautiful electroscope!

Every so often, it became impossible to hear anyone who was talking to you because of the rocket ponies ride from the Madagascar Institute.

I wandered a little more before deciding I was hungry, so I bought a plate of paella.  It was huge, and included huge prawns which I had difficulty eating.  My parents know I can’t deal with soft-shelled crab, the one time I had Maine lobster my friend Line kindly extracted the meat for me, and in general if it still has a head on it I can’t eat it.  But the rest of it was delicious!  I couldn’t finish it, though.

Windell, me, and Lenore

After lunch I found my way inside the NY Hall of Science, where I finally met Lenore and Windell of Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories.  I’ve been a fan of their blog for a few years, and once got a lot of traffic on this blog when they linked to my “Cheer Up” post featuring the fish-shaped ice cream sandwich.  I have made their bulbdial clock kit (lots of soldering – the normal kind – which I love) and I have placed their egg-bot kit on my wish list.

Some things an egg-bot can do

There were also a couple of guys with an amazing machine which shoots little balls through holes in rotating disks…amazing!  I met a Mexican guy who has set up a knowledge exchange (“Will trade my brain for info“) and who gave me a linoleum print, and bought a Nikola Tesla poster from the Tesla Wardenclyffe Project.  Woot!  Several people or groups had brought interactive art installations, like a ferro-fluid puddle with an upper and lower adjustable magnet, and a large screen which would display a splotch of spilled letters when hit by a thrown book.  And all over the place there were kids involved, learning to take stuff apart (there was a small room dedicated to deconstruction) and put stuff together and to be creative.  That was beautiful!

I should have taken a photo of the other side, so you can see how nice the stockinette stiching is

Then I went back outdoors and entered the Craft tent.  I was immediately asked if I knew how to knit or crochet.  When I answered no, I was asked which I would like to learn, and was seated next to a very patient woman, handed a thingy of yarn and a pair of 6.0 mm (U.S. 10) needles, and taught to knit and purl, do stockinette and make ribbing.  Wow!  Then, I was given the remaining yarn and the needles to KEEP!  Sweet!)  Later, I signed up to win a $500 gift certificate for personalized designed furniture, learned about using resin to make jewelry, and saw some people who were all about making stuff out of cardboard.  Just outside the tent was a car covered with a knitted “pseudo-sod” car cover, that had taken the artist a year to make!

Pseudo-sod car cover

Later, I wandered through a craft-vendor area, where I found everything from Martha Stewart Living to a woman offering crafts made from yogurt containers and plastic bags.  She let me make a little plastic skull with her stuff, which can be a magnet or a brooch, depending on what I decide to attach to the back.  There were lots of t-shirts for sale, jewelry, some pottery and ceramics, and even food vendors (artisan ice cream and chocolate).  I’ve been going to craft fairs since I was very young, and of course I bought things.  A barrette that spells out “NERD” in scrabble tiles, a headband of block-printed, layered and stitched felt, a print touting the “tofu revolution,” and some greeting cards made with the pages of an old children’s encyclopedia.  I did not go back for the chocolate because I decided to catch the last performance by ArcAttack at the end of the day.

Sweet! He's wearing a browncoat t-shirt under his chainmail!

ArcAttack?  They’re the guys who make music by vibrating the air with sparking tesla coils.  They wear head-to-toe chainmail so that they are protected by personal mobile Faraday cages.  If you ever get a chance to experience their performance, do it!

Note: more photos are on my Flickr.

Also, here are all the video links:
pedal-powered ferris wheel
electrostatics demonstration equipment
powered by arduinos
rocket ponies
amazing machine
ferro-fluid puddle


4 June 2010

As part of my training for the 3-Day in October, in addition to doing lots of walking I am supposed to be cross-training.  In other words, doing some non-walking form of exercise.  I have re-started doing Dance Dance Revolution, which I have not done very much at all lately.  I prefer one of the older versions, DDR MAX2.

This version has what is called “Endless” mode, though it does end as soon as you fail a song.  What it does is play a prescribed sequence of songs in batches of 5, without much pause between songs.  In the usual game mode, you play a song and dance to it, then you get a grade/score, and then you choose another song yourself.  In Endless mode, there is no choosing.  That is done for you.  Today I made it all the way to song 25 before failing.  Why have I had trouble getting that far, when I used to be super-good at this?  Well, not as good at it as my husband, but pretty darn good at the level I was used to.

It’s all in reading the moving arrows fast enough to put your feet in the right place at the right time, and knowing the music well enough so that it is obvious to you when the right time is.  And the arrows can move pretty darned fast.  You need to have a neural connection that allows your feet to move to the correct location on the dance pad without having to parse it out in your mind first.

I have some connections like that in other situations.  Reading English, certainly.  And in the past few years I discovered that I have a connection like that for doing jigsaw puzzles.  When I am doing a jigsaw puzzle I feel as though I am not even thinking, my eyes see the puzzle piece and my hand puts it in the place it belongs.  Touch typing is like this too.  You know what words you want to come out onto the page or screen, and your fingers go to the right places to form those words.  You may even find that if you DO start thinking about it, you start hitting incorrect keys.

Anyway, I’m having difficulty with getting my groove back in DDR because I haven’t been keeping up the neural connection that lets my feet go to the right place at the right time, and I haven’t been listening to the songs to keep the rhythms in my mind.

I was thinking that I really want to get to this stage with the hiragana and katakana in Japanese. Every so often I play a little game on the computer to match the symbols to their sounds, and I can generally match all of them in under 2 minutes, but I still take what feels like forever to sound out a word.  I remember sounding out words when learning to read, as a child, but I don’t remember how long it took me to be able to just read.  This process feels agonizingly slow, and I need to get it done so I can start learning kanji (the more complicated symbols that are usually used in place of spelling out entire words.)  Meanwhile I plod my way along, kana by kana, through words that usually turn out to be something like “com-pyu-ta” (computer) and I feel both proud that I got it and sad that it is a word borrowed from English instead of a “real” Japanese word that I might know.  Oh well, the words I know are most likely to be written as kanji instead of hiragana or katakana anyway.

I gotta go back to those flash cards.  Maybe after a walk.

Learning while listening Part 2

31 May 2010

I’ve been spending a lot of hours walking.  A LOT of hours.  I’ve walked over 150 miles in training for the 3-Day, and at three to three-and-a-half miles per hour, that’s between 40 and 50 hours.  Mostly, I’ve been walking without companions.  That’s dull.

To remedy the dullness, I have been listening to my iPod.  I know that this isn’t the safest practice in the world, but it is certainly accepted practice.  Why else would so many people have those arm bands to carry their music players?  Anyway, I am very careful and I always watch where I am walking and look both ways before crossing any streets, Mom.  It is OK, I PROMISE.

I don’t listen to music, for the most part.  Certainly music can be very motivating and energizing, but I have instead been listening to audio courses from The Teaching Company.  These people charge huge sums of money for their audio courses, but they do have very regular reduced-price sales.  I recommend you wait for a sale before buying any.

The first course I listened to was The Old Testament, and the lectures were given by Amy-Jill (AJ) Levine, a former Swarthmore professor.  I never managed to take a course with her in college (too many physics and education courses in my schedule, plus I wasn’t sure I was interested in religion, despite how much everyone LOVED her courses.

I thought the course sounded interesting, and there was a lot I had never learned about the Old Testament.  I never read it, for one thing, having been scared off by the language and uninspired by the plot.  I had a marginal understanding based on a children’s book of bible stories my mom bought for me to prevent me growing up in complete ignorance (the Unitarian Universalist Sunday School I attended taught us about childbirth and non-Christian religions and sharing and personal growth, but was lacking in catechism) of the basis of much of Western literature and art.  But the main things I remembered were the story of Jonah and the story of the writing on the wall.  Both of which are actually pretty minor.

I really liked this course, especially learning about the archeological and historical evidence for the various events, rulers, and battles.  I finally learned what is meant by “the twelve tribes of Israel” and learned WAY more about Moses than I ever did at friends’ seder dinners.  What is a prophet?  I never really understood that until listening to these lectures.

The second course I listened to was The Story of Human Language by John McWhorter.  This was absolutely fascinating, and I will probably put some of his recommended books on my summer library list.  There were sooo many fascinating topics, from ancient languages like proto-Indo-European, to modern pidgins and creoles (and what the difference is between them).  How do languages change over time?  Words are acquired from other languages, vowel sounds change, consonants fall off or change from difficult sounds to easier sounds.  Why do some languages have clicks, some have tones, and some have a zillion word endings depending on tense, person, location, or mode of information?  Can dying languages be revived?  Why do we spell words one way and pronounce them another way?

Now that I am out of lectures, I am considering whether I want to get some more.  I’m not sure.  They ARE awfully pricey, but I have a lot more hours of walking ahead of me.  In the meantime, I am listening to unabridged recordings of some really long novels…the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.  Each novel is about 3 inches thick, and the audio versions are over 33 hours each.  I’m on the second one, out of seven novels in the series (so far).  So, I can go about 110 miles per book.  Woo hoo!

[UPDATE 6/6/10: I have now purchased (at a great discount) the audio course “The Wisdom of History” and listened to the first two lectures on a 5-mile walk.  More learning!]

Learning while listening Part 1

29 May 2010

I am a long-time NPR listener.  I’ve been listening since 1989, or thereabouts.  I was hooked in college.  I love Morning Edition (and I still miss Bob Edwards) and All Things Considered.  On the weekends I used to fret every time I missed Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me.  I was annoyed that This American Life was always on after I went to bed or during church, as is the case with On The Media.  I have learned a lot from Marketplace and Car Talk.  I’ve had plenty of those “driveway moments” when I have to stay in the car and listen to the end of a compelling story.  One of those moments prompted me to purchase a cassette tape of the story: Remorse: the 14 Stories of Eric Morse.  It came on a tape paired with Ghetto Life 101 on the other side.  These two stories are from 1993 and 1994, so if you missed them I highly recommend them (click the links to get to the websites where you can listen).

In the past couple of years I discovered RadioLab, and my husband introduced me to Planet Money.  My favorite RadioLab so far has an interview with Brian Greene, famous from his books The Elegant Universe (available also as a NOVA DVD) and The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality.  My favorite Planet Money…well, I have several.

The thing is, I discovered RadioLab not on the radio, but as a podcast.  (Mom, you know what podcasts are, right?)  And Planet Money IS a podcast.  It is only occasionally actually on the radio, and when it is it is embedded in another show, either in This American Life which is where Planet Money originated, or in All Things Considered.  Through podcasts, I can also listen to This American Life and On the Media and Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me whenever I want to, and not just when they are broadcast on my local NPR station (which yes, I do still pledge to).

Anyway, the point of all this is actually so I can talk about Planet Money, which I think you should listen to.  Planet Money has two podcasts per week, available on iTunes or you can listen at their blog site.  They investigate all sorts of issues related to economics and finance, making a point of making the economic news clear and understandable for people who have never studied this stuff.  They translate the lingo and use simple examples to explain complex issues, such as using a $100 dollhouse to explain toxic assets.  Then the Planet Money team, all the people involved in making the show, put together $1000 of their own money to buy a real toxic asset, and you can follow it’s “death” on their blog site.

It helps, in my opinion, that they have really smart people on the Planet Money team.  One (the son of a college roommate of a friend of mine’s father), has a PhD in Physics from Harvard.  All are seasoned journalists who believe in delivering the truth to the public.  They explore a wide variety of economic topics, including copyright protection; the economy of Haiti; creating, marketing, and selling a great t-shirt; and how hedge funds such as Magnetar and Goldman-Sachs bet against their clients’ investments in mortgage-backed securities and profited hugely while their clients lost large sums of money.

That whole Goldman-Sachs thing was ridiculous.  It makes me wonder if any of these hedge-fund managers have a conscience.  I was glad to understand what was going on, but depressed by how horrible these people were to their own clients, fellow human beings.  I don’t consider myself a Christian, but there are a number of things Jesus said to do that I try to do in my life, like loving my neighbor.  I kindof think Jesus would have overturned the tables on Goldman-Sachs like he did to the moneylenders in the Temple, if only he had the opportunity.  And while Jesus said we should forgive, I find it very hard to forgive people who deliberately set out to screw the people who have hired them to manage their money well.

Anyway.  The point is, you should listen to Planet Money.  I like to download the podcast and listen while I am busy doing something else, like driving someplace, walking, cleaning up, washing dishes, etc.  Give it a listen, and tell me what you think!

Civil Engineering

9 May 2010

Last weekend I helped out at the 33rd Annual International Bridge Building Competition. It was held at a local high school, and our local Physics Teachers’ Association had helped to sponsor it. Students came from all over the country, having qualified in a regional competition earlier in the year.

While the Illinois Institute of Technology sponsors the competition, they try to hold the final event at a different location every other year, in between holding it in Chicago. This year our local Physics Olympics League had bid to host, and we won!

The goal of the competition was to build the most efficient bridge, materials-wise. Everyone had to use official competition basswood (which was specially dyed with a fluorescing dye detectable with UV light) and had to keep their bridge below 30 grams in mass. The bridges had to span a gap of 30 cm, and there were restrictions on height and the level of the “road” and there were requirements for the places where the load mass could be placed. Then each bridge was individually loaded from below with sand poured into a bucket until the bridge gave way. The bridge that supported the greatest mass of sand per gram of bridge mass would win.

The bridges were assigned a random order for testing, and as each student set up their bridge and started pouring sand the audience hushed.  The longer the time before breaking, the more sand and the more mass.  And the quieter the crowd.  Each crack of breaking bridge released a sigh and applause.  Then the mass of the sand was entered into a computer and the efficiency displayed on the screen above the stage.  The spreadsheet with the data was set up to display the rank of each bridge from most efficient to least, and the student with the number one bridge had to watch all the bridges after hers, hoping that none of them would be more efficient and displace her top score.

This is the winning design for this year:

The girl who made this bridge went home with an iPad and an offer of $15,000 per year for four years in scholarship money if she is accepted at the Illinois Institute of Technology!


14 February 2010

Remember reading over the summer that I learned to make pickles and jam?  Now I know how to make marmalade!  Several people have asked for the recipe, so here it is.  I made slight modifications to the recipe from the cosmic cowgirl, who credits Nigella Lawson (though I can’t find a marmalade recipe credited to Nigella herself on her website – maybe it’s from a book). I found her through the tigress’s “can jam” January citrus round-up of recipes.

The first step was figuring out which citrus to use.  Every year my parents have been sending us a box of oranges and grapefruit at Christmas and a box of Temple oranges at St. Valentine’s Day.  This season after a discussion we settled on ONE box of fruit, the yummy Temples and also grapefruit…usually we take a looonng time to get through all the fruit.  So my husband and I had a discussion and my wonderful smart husband asked me which fruit we take the longest to use up.  That’s the grapefruit, so that became the marmalade ingredient.


  • 5 pink grapefruit
  • juice of 4 lemons (I used the equivalent of bottled lemon juice)
  • about 7 cups of sugar
  • 1 cup of local honey (from Lancaster County)

Since marmalade involves the rind, I scrubbed the fruit very well to start with, then cut them in half.  I boiled the halved fruit uncovered for two hours (adding boiling water from a kettle once or twice), and drained the fruit and let it cool.  Meanwhile, I put a couple of plates in the freezer for gel-testing, cleaned my jars and lids, brought my processing water-bath to a boil with my jars inside, and readied my canning tools.

I used a mandoline to slice up the grapefruit halves, then removed some large chunks of membrane and large chunks of rind.  I chopped the large chunks of rind into smaller slices and added them back in, and then I used an immersion blender to make some pieces even smaller, but I did not chop it into such tiny pieces as the cosmic cowgirl did.

Citrus pith, membrane, and seeds contain plenty of pectin, and I saved a bunch of seeds from when I cut the grapefruit in half and put them and the large chunks of membrane I’d removed into a little cloth bag (one of those herb bag thingys for bouquet garni–you could also use cheesecloth or some clean muslin) which went into the pot with the shredded grapefruit, lemon juice, honey and sugar.  I brought the mixture to a boil and kept it at a low boil for a long while…I started gel-testing at about 10 minutes, but it took more like 45 minutes before I felt it was ready.

I filled and wiped my jars, and processed them for 10 minutes.  I got 5.5 pints of marmalade from this recipe, and I can attest that it is yummy on bagels with cream cheese, bread with butter, and bread with peanut butter.


11 February 2010

Last weekend, we had a big snowstorm.  Maybe you heard about it.  Maybe you were in it.  Maybe you listened to the NPR reporters going on and on about it, heard about the government shutdown, and thought, “what, for a little snow? What wimps!”

Anyway, by the time it was all over, we had about 20 inches (51 cm) at our house, but the airport reported 28.5 inches (72.4 cm).  Happily, the neighbors used their snowblower to clear our sidewalk, but since my husband was at his graduate classes on Friday and Saturday, I had to shovel the snowplow leavings from the end of the driveway on my own.  Then, due to the local transit system shutting down, I had to go drive into the city to get him, which was fine, since I know how to drive in the snow and hardly anybody else was on the roads.  I took it slow and steady, and even without 4-wheel drive, I easily made it.

So then it snowed again Tuesday night and all day Wednesday, and I didn’t measure this time since it is harder to measure when you already have snow.  The airport recorded an additional 14 inches (36 cm) but here it was enough to top off our compacted-and-sunken snow cover back up to about two feet (61 cm).  And this was heavy, wet snow, since the forecast of temperatures in the teens (Fahrenheit) had been completely wrong.  The temperature hovered around the freezing mark, and some of the precipitation was in fact sleet and freezing rain at times.  YUCK!  Happily, both my school and my husband’s work were closed today so we could shovel out together.  I have the added bonus of no school tomorrow either, for some reason, so I won’t be going back to school until Tuesday, since Monday is a federal holiday.  So I am in the midst of a 6-day weekend!

You might wonder why I have not been spending all my free time writing blog posts for you to read.  Two reasons.  Number one, I actually had class for my AP Physics students yesterday and today, via “Elluminate.”  They are the same company who once upon a time told me I had to re-format my computer.  No problems this time, though, and I was able to teach all about how to determine the electric field from a dipole (along a bisecting axis) and a line of charge and a ring of charge and from a disk of charge. All of this required advance preparation, including some complex equations that I typed into Word’s equation editor ahead of time.  I have been told that it might be easier to do my equation in LaTeX, but I have never had the patience to figure that out.

The other reason?  Reading.  On facebook a couple of weeks ago, a cousin had mentioned Diana Gabaldon’s latest, and I hadn’t realized it had been published last year, so I got it from the library.  If you are not familiar with Diana Gabaldon, she writes time travel romances.  An Echo in the Bone is her seventh novel  (all are 700+ pages) about the adventures of Claire, a twentieth-century-born physician, and Jamie, her 18th-century Scottish highlander husband, and their family.  There are several goings back-and-forth between the 18th and 20th centuries, lots of historical figures (An Echo in the Bone features my ancestor Joseph Brant, as well as Benedict Arnold, Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia, and major revolutionary war figures in Saratoga), and lots of sex.

Upon finishing An Echo in the Bone, I immediately started in on Connie Willis’s latest book, which arrived from last week.  Blackout is another time travel novel, featuring Oxford University historians studying World War II.  Connie Willis first introduced the history department of Oxford University, and its head of time travel James Dunworthy, in her short story Fire Watch in 1982.  Dunworthy is a major character in Willis’s novel Doomsday Book, in which a minor character from Fire Watch does her history practicum in the Middle Ages while Oxford suffers from an influenza epidemic.  Dunworthy appears again in the comic novel To Say Nothing of the Dog.  That one takes the historians to the Victorian era.  In Blackout, Willis returns to her favorite era and location: World War II Britain, and reintroduces one of the characters from Doomsday Book, Colin Templer, now seventeen years old.  Unfortunately, Blackout is only part I of two books, and the second half of the story, All Clear, is not due to be published until fall!

So there you go.  I have been keeping busy.  I have a bunch of tests yet to grade, that I gave on Tuesday, and I have some more work to do for my AP class (I want to send them some notes via e-mail, since we won’t be teleconferencing again tomorrow), and I am sure I can find plenty of other ways to continue to keep busy.  I have two netflix movies to watch, for example.  And I have some sewing projects to do.  And four more days before having to be back at school!