Friday, January 22, 2010

Update on Nettie

Lily has posted an update on Nettie over on her blog. Please go read it, and continue with us in prayer for Nettie's complete recovery from her birth trauma.

And don't neglect reading the little story Lily links to in her blog entry. You will be super-encouraged and rejoice at what GOD can do!

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Legend of Mr. Holmes

We all had a teacher or two that impacted our lives in a significant way. I remember Mrs. Gloman, opening up my biology world. We had her for two years (advanced biology as well, you know...) and every one of my close friends in her class majored in Biology in college. Talk about turning on the lightbulb....

Even though I wasn't the biggest literature-lover, my senior English teacher, Mrs. Raison, made it wonderful. She was just so Excited about the whole thing. If the idea was to have a job doing something you love, she personified it.

Though I homeschooled all-but-one of my older six children for a longer or shorter time, they all went to public high school. And they were all blessed to have Mr. Holmes as a teacher.

Mr. Holmes teaches only one subject: Honors U.S. History. He had a career in the Marines before becoming a teacher. He is a two-tour, front-line, down-in-the-trenches infantry Vietnam vet. He allows no monkey business in his class: he expects ladies and gentlemen, and gets what he expects. You know the saying of living up to the expectations set for you...

My children have said that Mr. Holmes is the only teacher that truly prepared them for college. They've told me about the can of Diet Pepsi on his desk. Mr. Holmes brought it to school the day he began teaching. He didn't drink it that day; it is still on his desk. He says he'll open it the day he retires.

He covers the period from the Civil War through Vietnam. He spends nine full weeks on Vietnam. When you come out of his class, you know the Why we were there. The horrors that were over there. The Way things were at Home. The final is a blank Blue Book: Tell me about Vietnam. The final is held at 6:30 am, because it is 90 minutes. Mr. Holmes brings the donuts and orange juice. And the prize?

The T-Shirt.

Everyone who survives finishes Mr. Holmes class gets a t-shirt. The front says Honors U.S. History 2010, the back has an inspiring Mr. Holmes/Marine/inspirational quote of some kind. Now, Violet took Mr. Holmes' class before the t-shirts; her prize was a Marine sticker. Hard to earn, proud to own, even today.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Mr. Holmes was still teaching--he could have retired since my last Mr. Holmes-student graduated in 2002. And now it is Blackeyed Susan's turn.

This weekend she is working on the *three* assignments due the first day of class. (this gets you ready for the Large Workload to come.) Oh, she knows what she is getting into. I know that Mr. Holmes will grow her character. If I can't be her teacher, I can be confident handing her over to him for ninety minutes a day.

I told Mr. Holmes at the beginning of the year that he needed to postpone retirement until Alvin Fernald takes his class in two years. Then all eight of my children would have the privilege of being in his class. Now our school corporation is trying to get Federal money in the form of the new Race to the Top program. If you are a target school (troubled), these are the requirements:
1. Fire the principal. 2. Fire all the staff. 3. You may re-hire up to 49% of the staff.

No options. No accounting for individual cases. Isn't this like the federal government? The rumor is that Mr. Holmes isn't going to deal with the whole thing, that he'll just retire. Though I can't blame him at all, I'm sad. Sad that a truly GREAT teacher can be treated in this manner.

So, Susan may be in his very last class.

Oh, well. Maybe she'll get a sip of that Diet Pepsi.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Closing Out Another Project.

I have a custom of beginning a new project the day after Christmas. Something for *me*, after the three to four months of crafting gifts. This year, I wanted to finish a quilt I had put down at the beginning of September. I was able to finish it on January 3rd!

This quilt is called Barbara Star, and you can read about it here and here.
I quilted it in diagonal rows, as did my grandmother with the original. The squares were hand-pieced. I did put the rows of squares together by machine, and then hand-quilted. It looks like it took me a total of about nine months to do, not bad for such a large project.

And this one is for our own bed! How exciting is that?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Poison Green, and other lovely things.

Wow. Two posts in one day! This one, however, is for quilt-y types, especially if you are interested in reproduction Civil War-era fabrics.

I always wondered why they called a certain color "poison green," often paired with "cheddar yellow (or orange)", a color that I *do* understand. If you are interested, read this little thing about fabrics in the nineteenth century.


But that is not to say that today's fabrics are worry-free. You may know that formaldehyde is often used in the manufacture of clothing. As well as other nasties of which I'm not aware. You should always, always wash anything you buy before you wear it. Those of us who sew usually wash our fabric before we begin sewing.

You can get some further information by reading the comments under the blog entry. Lots of good stuff there.

ooh. One more thing. The article referred to in the blog post is from the Massachusetts State Board of Health, Lunacy, and Charity. Gotta love that...

In Praise of Avogadro

This is related to yesterday's post, but Jen, you'll be able to understand this one!

Avogadro is famous in chemistry for Avogadro's number, the number of atoms or molecules in a mole of any chemical element or compound, based on the number of atoms in 12 grams of Carbon-12 (the normal carbon). He proposed this principle in 1811.


Does it seem weird to you that anyone was interested in something like that, 200 years ago? The value of the number was indicated later, in 1865, by a man named Johann Loschmidt, who estimated the average diameter of molecules in the air (I ask why? HOW??) by a method equivalent to estimating the number of particles in a given volume of gas.

So the value of Avogadro's constant (as it is officially called) is 6.022 141 79(30) x 10-to-the-23rd. (abbreviated for us high-school chem types as 6.02 x etc etc.)

I am in awe of the mathematicians and scientists who have come before. I remember Gregor Mendel, a monk who invented the entire field of genetics by observing the plots of peas that he tended at the monastery. Blaise Pascal, who, living in a time when you didn't start your math education until ten or eleven years old, invented his own math system at age seven or so, including geometric proofs. Euclid (for whom geometry is named) goes way farther back. How did they come up with the number pi? They even measured the size of the earth back in the Greek civilization.

I could name names for a very long time here, folks.

Now I love poetry, and literature, even growing in my appreciation for Shakespeare. History has become a love of mine, ever since I got OUT of school (too bad it didn't come earlier...). But I am a science girl at heart, and that means I must be a math girl, to an extent.

The advances in science and technology have come at an exponential rate, beginning in the last three decades or so of the nineteenth century. Remember, the electric light and telephone came in the 1870's, radio and flight in the 1900's. We make little comments about the size and capabilities of our cellphones compared to five or ten years ago. But I don't think we're in *awe* anymore about these things. I just wanted to take a moment to honor those upon whose shoulders we stand. Those who began with nothing but an idea. Certainly their ideas were God-given. Which reminds me of my favorite definition of Science: discovering what God has already done.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


Go on. Say it.

You know you want to.

Stoichiometry, if you have forgotten, is the "math" part of chemistry. Balancing equations is the first thing you learn. Later, finding out how much of this-n-that you need to produce so much product. This is why you can't take Chemistry until you have had algebra.

Last night, Blackeyed Susan asked for help with her homework. At first I stared at the page of problems. I referred to her textbook. (have I told you before how inferior her public school text is compared to my beloved Apologia science books?) The practice problems were so easy you could actually do them in your head, so those were no biggie. We worked on the next problems for awhile, and then the lightbulb went on for me. The answer was in the Unit Multipliers.

You remember unit multipliers, don't you? You actually use them every day. Say you want to find out how many feet are in three miles. You multiply 3 feet by 5280 feet Per mile (imagine that as a fraction, I don't know how to type math symbols...) and get 15840 feet.

Here is one simple problem: How many moles of ammonia are produced when .60 mol of nitrogen reacts with hydrogen?

Here's the equation: N2 + 3H2 = 2NH3 (except that in chemistry the = sign is really an arrow)

This means that you need 1 mole of nitrogen combined with 3 moles hydrogen to make 2 moles of ammonia. All you need to know is the ratio. If you need 1 mol of N2 to make 2 mol of NH3, then to find your answer you multiply .6o mol of N2 by the unit multiplier 2 mol NH3 *over* 1 mol N2. Cancel, multiply, and your answer is 1.2 mol NH3.

We also did mass. Calculate the number of grams of NH3 produced by the reaction of 5.40 g of H2 with an excess of N2. (equation: N2 + 3H2 =2NH3)

This required three unit multipliers to get from grams of H2 to grams of NH3. Or how about this one? How many molecules of oxygen are produced when 29.2 grams of water is decomposed by electrolysis according to this equation?

2H20 (arrow with the word electricity over it) = 2H2 + O2

Hello. How many molecules? Yep. Easy-schmeasy with Avogadro's number, the number of molecules in a mole of anything: 6.02 x 10-to-the-23rd. It becomes your final unit multiplier.


Oh. You want the answer, don't you? Here's your math:

29.2 g H20 x 1 mol H2O (0ver)18 g H2O (you get the mass of one mole of something from the periodic table) x 1 mol O2 (over)2 mol H2O (your ratio) x 6.02 x 10 to the 23rd molecules O2 (over)1 mol O2. Cancel, cancel, cancel, multiply. Your answer (and I know you'll do the math because you can't resist):

4.88 x 10-to-the-23rd molecules of O2.

We also did gases (mass is 22.4L per mole) so it got pretty complicated there. But it got so exciting for me that I wanted to just take the book from Susan and just do the work myself!

Gee, I miss homeschooling.

(and did I tell you that it has been 36 years since I have had any chemistry?)

Have a fun-filled, math-filled day!

by the way, if you care, I blogged on my other blog today as well!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Michigan Whites.

That looks funny in print. Maybe it's a pig, like Chester White. Or a sheep--Suffolk White. Or a chicken: Rhode Island Red?

Naah. You prob'ly know it's Potatoes.

I grew up on Michigan white potatoes. Staple of the American table. We had potatoes five or six times a week. Nine times out of ten, boiled. Most days, after I got home from school, I had my cookies and milk, then it was my job to peel the potatoes. "One for each person, and one for the pot," my Mom advised.

I used Michigan whites in my own home for probably the first ten or fifteen years. Then I branched out: Idahos. Russets. I found Idahos, though the choice of steakhouses and Wendy's ("the largest purchaser of 70-count Idahos in the world!") grainy and without a lot of flavor. I needed a LOT of butter to get those babies down. Russets were *okay,* though I did not like their thicker skin.

Later on I discovered potato heaven in the form of Red potatoes. My sister told me they had the most nutrition. I knew they had the most flavor. Their thinner skin made them, in my opinion, better for baking, as well. You could eat them with just salt and pepper. We got so used to the flavor, that my family could tell if I used a different kind for my potato salad. Altogether, a very good thing.

I made a stab at that other fairly new specie: Yukon Gold. Supposed to be so good "you don't need butter." Yeah, they are yellow, so you might think so, Grainy. Taste-free, in my family's humble opinion. I found five-pound bags one day for $1.49 apiece, so I bought four. Cooked one panful, and gave the rest away. Family just would not eat them.

Isn't it funny how you think of something, and then it happens? Last week, I had the thought, "I haven't seen Michigan White Potatoes in the stores in years." Of course, you know what happened when I went in the store yesterday. There they were, right on an endcap in the produce department. And on sale! Can you beat $1.99 for *ten* pounds?

Now, I'm not sure how they will compare to our fave red ones, but I'm going to give it a go this week. I'll let you know how it turns out...