Thursday, February 26, 2015

High Roller

On our last trip to Las Vegas, we were eager to experience the world's tallest observation wheel. The trip on The Linq at the Quad takes 30 minutes and each pod can hold up to 40 people. There were only five in our pod on a Tuesday afternoon. We paid $25 each for the ride. It was a spectacular structure and I don't mind heights, but now that we have done that, I doubt that we will do it again for a long time. We saw it during the day, but I suppose night views are very different. 

Each pod didn't seem large, but it could hold a lot of people. We were fortunate that we could move around and see each view in all directions. As we boarded, the wheel kept moving and we jumped on board through the open doors. I suppose they stop it if a handicapped person is boarding. 

It seemed quite roomy inside the pod because we only had five people in our pod.

The view from the top of the circuit looking to the north at the hotels on the Strip.

The structure to hold the apparatus was every superlative I could remember.

Cars and buses on the ground seemed tiny.

The view to the South along The Strip.

Pictures taken through the pod glass often had reflections. 

I like how they developed the new area that approaches the structure because it sits back from the main street, Las Vegas Strip. There are shops, restaurants, and hotel entrances along the two blocks that are pleasant to see as you walk toward the High Roller. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Pennies For............

The educator in me roars to the forefront when my grandchildren visit and I do my lesson plans to have activities for them, hoping we can spend some memorable time together. Thanks to a very bright lady's web site, I found an activity involving pennies.

We collect spare change in a plastic container in my kitchen, so I separated the pennies into two groups--the shiny pennies, and the dark pennies. I put them into different dishes and my granddaughter who is nine has a great curiosity about stuff so I asked her how they were different. She quickly saw that some were shiny, and some were dark. Then I asked her why they were different but she didn't know. So I asked her if we could make them the same. She thought that the dark pennies could be made shiny also.

I asked her how to make the dark pennies shiny and she said we should wash them in soap and water which we did, but it didn't change the pennies. I asked her if there might be other ways to change the pennies. Since her mom cleans things with vinegar, she suggested vinegar. We tried vinegar and nothing happened. She suggested that we separate them into two different dishes and try different things on them and keep in mind what worked and what didn't. According to my "lesson plan," salt should be added to the vinegar and I asked her if that might work. She thought that would be a great idea so we added salt to one container and let it soak several minutes. We had not measured quantities in either dish. We let them soak and some pennies became brighter, and some did not.

When I asked her why, the whole family got involved. My hubby was a metallurgist in grad school, and told her about the metallic content of pennies. My son was a chemist in grad school and looked online which showed us how that the metallic content changed with different dates of production so she started looking at the dates of all the pennies. He told her about the oxidation process and why the Statue of Liberty is green. Her mom was a business major, so she told her how much it costs to produce a penny and how it isn't worth what it costs to make it. Her younger brother played with the shiny pennies and counted them to be part of the event.

They had to go home before we finished the whole project, and she asked me to leave the pennies separated into groups so we can analyze the experiment and draw some conclusions. We will also go into some web sites that suggest other methods like Tabasco sauce, lemon, or coke for making pennies shiny and the chemistry gets really interesting when combined with a nail.

I had already printed some sheets listing the Scientific Method for elementary school children so when she returns, we will go through the process and she can see what we did and how to present the results. I did not want to introduce the paper in the beginning, I just wanted to get her involved in the process and analyze it later. She was very good at suggesting variables and we will recap those details later. She will be learning a new vocabulary based on a simple activity. She had a really exciting experience, and I loved how the whole family got involved. I enjoy working on these projects with her because she is so excited to explore new experiences. I like to make learning fun for her and kitchen chemistry is cool.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Klutz of the Week

It has not been a good week for my right hand. When I was sewing a new set of kitchen curtains, I had put pins in a hem, and caught a finger with a pin--still gives me chills when I think about it. I hate sticking myself with pins, but it happens when one has a sewing project.

Next day, another finger got a plastic cut like a paper cut, but it was from the sharp edge of a plastic bubble form that fits over my calligraphy box. I don't think of my self as a klutz, but stuff keeps happening. I always try to be careful, but I will have to try harder.

I reached over my desk to pull the cord to open the front curtain in my office this morning. My hand slipped and I impaled my thumb on a sharpened pencil in one of those cups where you store pens and pencils. The grandchildren like to use the electric sharpener to sharpen pencils, so every pencil they could find now has a very sharp point. I'm great with 20/20 hindsight.  I took them out of the cup and stored them in a desk drawer but too late to save my thumb.  I turn pens down with the points at the bottom, but the pencils were sticking up--not a good plan.

As if that wasn't enough, I returned from the gym and proceeded to make coffee in the coffee maker. I was washing the carafe before putting water in it when I started to move it from the sink to the counter top and caught the edge on the sink. It just popped a hole into the bottom where the glass curved. It wasn't very thick glass for sure, and the carafe is a pain to wash because the top doesn't detach. It fits against the coffee basket so it depresses it enough that you can remove the carafe enough to pour one cup of coffee before the whole carafe is full. I had another carafe in the basement with a different coffee maker that I didn't like and it is kind of similar, but not quite. It isn't quite as tall. It works, but I have to hold it up about an inch to get it to depress the coffee basket enough to drip the coffee. What a pain.

I will have to see if Mr. Coffee sells a carafe replacement. I got it at Target and have to return something else tomorrow. For that very reason, I refuse to pay tons for coffee makers because it isn't the first carafe that has been broken in this house and the carafe is the secret to their ability to sell so many coffee makers. They make them with lids that attach to the carafe which makes it harder to wash them and then they get broken more often. If you can't get a replacement, gee, you have to buy another whole coffee maker. Also the carafe is different shapes and sizes for all the coffee makers even if they are all 12 cup carafes. More than anyone wants to know about coffee makers. I had three old ones in the basement and not one had the same size carafe even though they all hold 12 cups. I gave one to Goodwill and it might have been one that would have fit--can't win. I may have to just buy another coffee maker because the carafe will cost as much as a new coffee maker. The coffee maker I was using is so new I haven't even cleaned it with vinegar yet.

So I hope my right arm and hand don't fall off from all my injuries. I often laugh at the Sunday column that Lisa Scottoline writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer, because she finds a lot of humor in all the crap that happens during her week, but I have a harder time writing about it in the humorous way that she seems to write. I haven't found the humor in it yet, but it must be there somewhere.

Monday, January 12, 2015

January: A Photo Essay

The photos chosen look best when viewed full screen. Click the double window to the left of the words "Make a Photoshow" to view full screen.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

An Art Show

Between snow storms, we attended an art show for Delaware Charter Schools, one of which is the school our eight-year-old granddaughter attends. It is astounding to see the variety and quality of works produced by student artists.

A shark vacuum.

I am encouraged to see that the schools continue working with students in this area along with the basic academic programs. Kids greatly benefit from the time they spend on these projects and learn incredible lifetime skills. It is all too easy to cut the arts programs first when school budgets falter, but it is at great expense to the future of students. Art shows give the kids an opportunity to show their work, but also to build greater support for the concept of learning through art.

Man on a snail climbs a mushroom.

Our granddaughter is in 3rd grade and she had three entries in the art show.  It was a large exhibition of student art work and I took a few pictures of some of it. The students were very proud of their efforts, the show was well-attended, and everyone was very supportive of their works. I wish I had taken more photos. We were caught up in the moment and enjoying it with our family.


When our grandchildren visit, we work on projects like mobiles, sock puppets, pinwheels and paper airplanes. They like to paint, but creating simulations of rocket ships or dioramas are more interesting to them. People learn in different ways and the arts give kids many choices to develop their creativity. We enjoy the time spent working on projects and talking about them. It is a great way to spend time with our grandchildren. Recently, my granddaughter and I created this aquarium diorama.

Friday, February 14, 2014

One Summer

One Summer by Bill Bryson was my blizzard book for 2014. It kept me amused, entertained and informed through a winter like we haven't had in a long time. I don't often look to nonfiction and especially a historical treatment of 528 pages for my reading material. I've enjoyed parts of his previous books so I thought I would try this one as it was available to download from the public library. I wasn't bored, but it was a bit slow in places. I enjoyed his sense of humor about the historical characters and how they influenced history. I will never again think about his cast of people in the same way.

After reading the book, I read a number of reviews of the work from Amazon, New York Times, Boston Herald, Barnes and Noble and others. I was interested to see how professional book reviewers reacted to the book. I wanted to get a reading on how One Summer would stack up as a "classic." To refresh my memory from my literature classes of fifty years ago, the web makes research extremely easy. I found some interesting discussions of the requirements of a "classic".

What is a Classic?

"A classic usually expresses some artistic quality--an expression of life, truth, and beauty.

--A classic stands the test of time. The work is usually considered to be a representation of the period in which it was written; and the work merits lasting recognition. In other words, if the book was published in the recent past, the work is not a classic.

--A classic has a certain universal appeal. Great works of literature touch us to our very core beings--partly because they integrate themes that are understood by readers from a wide range of backgrounds and levels of experience. Themes of love, hate, death, life, and faith touch upon some of our most basic emotional responses.

--A classic makes connections. You can study a classic and discover influences from other writers and other great works of literature. Of course, this is partly related to the universal appeal of a classic. But, the classic also is informed by the history of ideas and literature--whether unconsciously or specifically worked into the plot of the text."

It is my personal opinion that a "classic" provides inspiration or is a springboard to further interest in a topic. It inspires and is thought provoking. It allows us to learn something new about ourselves. One Summer certainly influenced my previously held impressions and assumptions on a variety of subjects. My notions about certain people in the America of the 1920 years were permanently altered. I suspect if high school students took the opportunity to view history through reading One Summer, they would find American History far more interesting.

As a retired research librarian, I can appreciate his bibliography spanning 119 pages. A lot of work went into One Summer. The importance of quality of sources is a major requirement of any respectable book of this genre. The resulting flow of information in his discussion seemed more than adequately objective to me. Even so, some reviewers disputed some of his statements. I haven't vetted every one of his sources, but it occurs to me that he consulted numerous primary source materials printed with copyright dates like 1917, 1920, 1925, 1931. I read through his list and the primary sources would have been the older materials rather than works with recent copyright dates. I was impressed with the number of respectable reference books he mentioned throughout the book. I have visions of him rolling through decades of the New York Times archives of microfiche. I hope he used the National Digital Newspaper Program archival materials from the Library of Congress for first hand accounts of events and interviews of witnesses to history as they occurred in the news. He has a discussion at the end of the book about visiting the Smithsonian Museum--National Air and Space Museum to look at The Spirit of St. Louis and his interview with the curator. His list of sources are available on his web site.

Even though One Summer (October 1, 2013) has not stood the test of time, I think it more than meets the other requirements of a "classic."

One Summer was a very exciting account of that historical summer of 1927 along with the historical background and followed by a "what happened to..." section. I enjoyed it so much, I am considering buying a copy and reviewing parts of it again. When reading the digital version, I missed all the pictures which are also documented and footnoted. Reading One Summer was more restful than shoveling snow.