Monday, November 26, 2012

Making Science Fun

It’s been many years since I visited the Exploratorium in San Francisco.  I loved that place. It was designed for discovery.  No instructions. Just interesting things placed in proximity to each other and a tacit agreement from the museum designers that you could do anything you want without risk of blowing yourself up.

There was a huge powerful and heavy magnet near an old television set.  Nobody could resist touching the magnet to the screen and watching the distortion in the picture.  There may have been something else to do, but I was satisfied by sliding that magnet around on the screen and observing the crazy pictures it created.

There was a human-sized bubble cage.  And if you were in-the-know, you dipped your hands in soap water before entering the cage.  Soapy hands can go through a soap bubble without popping it.

And most startling of all, you’d be walking along and out-of-the-corner-of-an-eye, you’d see a glowing flower or a word.  You’d turn towards it and see nothing.  Turn back and again – in the corner-of-an-eye, there it would be.  Something lit-up that can only be seen in peripheral vision.  I was really looking forward to seeing that again.  I asked a staffer about it.  He’d heard of it, but he said it used too much electricity.  I find that hard to believe.

The attraction of the Exploratorium is hands on experience and discovery.  Plus staffers who can give ideas or ask questions than aim you towards answers.  Now, the wonder is gone.  Every display has step-by-step instructions and explanations.  

Plus, there’s a whole section wasted with soft-science.  Two people are supposed to think of a a third person they both know and then use words on a list to try to describe that person.  You can do that on a computer screen on a website – it is not worth valuable floor space.  There’s a political section with political cartoons.  Visitors are asked to write their thoughts on scraps of paper. Most of the posted thoughts have nothing to do with the material on display.  Again, a website with comments enabled would be better.

The dimensionally skewed house is still there.  If they want an idea for better use of the floor space, I’d enlarge that house and make it more like the houses built at Mystery Spots where water appears to run up hill and brooms stand upright at what seem to be odd angles.

The magnet section still has most of the good material, including the hot metal display where a piece of steel still turns red hot and loses its attraction to a magnet.  There’s also the gap between strong magnets where visitors can drop washers and create a special effects bridge.

I know – there are people who like instructions.  There are people who buy hint books for computer games.  I wouldn’t object if the museum had a hint book for folks who want it.  But the way it is now – it isn’t fun any more. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Headlines from 1922

My mom is 90 this year. In honor of her birthday, I'm finding major headlines from the year of her birth and those of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  It amazes me that there are more headlines each year.  I originally found 18 pages of headlines from 1922.  I eliminated all the depressing ones, like Lenin's stroke, and assorted short-lived treaties.  I even eliminated the invention of the Charleston dance because further research said it didn't catch on until 1923.  So, here's the 4 page version.  I hope to cut it down to 2 pages before I present it at her party.  Nobody will stay awake  much past 1 page anyway.  I'm trying to have only half-a-page each for her generations.

1922 Headlines

 Jan 11, Insulin, then called isletin, was 1st used to treat diabetes on Leonard Thompson (14) of Canada.  
 Jan 24, Christian K. Nelson of Onawa, Iowa, patented the Eskimo Pie. The product reportedly saved Iowa's dairy business during the Great Depression.
 Feb 2, James Joyce's novel "Ulysses" was published in Paris with 1,000 copies.

 Feb 8, President Harding had a radio installed in the White House. 

 Feb 15, Marconi began regular broadcasting transmissions from Essex.

 Feb 21, Great Britain granted Egypt independence.

 Feb 27, The Supreme Court unanimously upheld the 19th Amendment to the Constitution that guaranteed the right of women to vote. 

 Mar 20, The 11,500-ton Langley was commissioned into the U.S. Navy as America’s first aircraft carrier.

 Mar 23, 1st airplane landed at the US Capitol in Washington DC. 
 Mar 28, The 1st microfilm device was introduced.

 Apr 3, Stalin was appointed General Secretary of Communist Party.

 Apr 15, Senate investigation of Teapot Dome oil reserve scandal begins.

 Apr 16, Annie Oakley shot 100 clay targets in a row, to set a women’s record.

 May 5, Construction began on Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

 May 25, Babe Ruth was suspended for 1 day and fined $200 for throwing dirt on an umpire. 

 May 29, Ecuador became independent.

 May 30, The Lincoln Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C.

 Jun 14, Warren G. Harding became the first president heard on radio, as Baltimore station WEAR broadcast his speech dedicating the Francis Scott Key memorial at Fort McHenry.

 Jun 16, Henry Berliner demonstrated his helicopter to US Bureau of Aeronautics.

Jul 15, 1st duck-billed platypus was publicly exhibited in US at a NY zoo.

 Jul 31, Ralph Samuelson (18) rode the world's 1st water skis in Minn.

 Aug 28, The first-ever radio commercial aired on station WEAF in New York City (the 10-minute advertisement was for the Queensboro Realty Company, which had paid a fee of $100). 

 Aug, The last California grizzly bear was shot by a Fresno cattle rancher.

 Sep 13, In El Azizia, Libya, a temperature of 136.4 degrees Fahrenheit (57.8 Celsius) was the hottest ever measured on Earth.

 Sep 21, Pres Warren G. Harding signed a joint resolution of approval to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

 Oct 3, The 1st facsimile photo (fax) was sent over city telephone lines in Washington, DC.

 Oct 8, Lilian Gatlin became the first woman pilot to fly across the United States. 

 Oct 18, Little Orphan Annie, comic strip character, was born.

 Oct 28, Fascism came to Italy as Benito Mussolini took control of the government. 

 Nov 2, English archeologist Charles Leonard Woolley began excavating the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur, located between Baghdad and the Persian Gulf.

 Nov 4, The US Postmaster General ordered all homes to get mailboxes or relinquish delivery of mail. 
 Nov 5, King Tut’s tomb was discovered.
 Nov 6, King George V proclaimed Irish Free state.

 Nov 15, It was announced that Dr. Alexis Carrel discovered white corpuscles.

 Nov 21, Rebecca L. Felton of Georgia was sworn in as the first woman to serve in the U.S. Senate. 

 Nov 26, Charles M. Shultz, American cartoonist who created "Peanuts" starring Charlie Brown, was born.
 Nov 28, Capt. Cyril Turner of the Royal Air Force gave the first public skywriting exhibition, spelling out, "Hello U-S-A. Call Vanderbilt 7200" over New York’s Times Square. 47,000 called.

 Dec 30, Vladimir I. Lenin proclaimed the establishment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

 The Constructivist group of artists in Russia issued a manifesto calling for the defeat of art, which they regarded as the enemy of technology. Alexander Rodchenko (1891-1956), a painter turned photographer, was founding member of the group.

 Walter Berndt premiered his comic strip "Smitty" in the New York Daily News. It was about an office boy and his annoying kid brother named Herby, who made his own debut in 1930.
 Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) published his novel "Siddhartha," a short lyric novel of a father-son relationship based on the early life of Buddha and inspired by Hesse’s travels through India. In 1951 it was translated to English.

 Franz Kafka (1883-1924) authored his novel “The Castle.”
 Sinclair Lewis (1965-1951) published his novel "Babbitt," a small-town saga of a real estate agent.
 Emily Post published "Etiquette," which became a best-seller.

 Lewis Fry Richardson published "Weather Prediction by Numerical Process." He proposed to setup 64,000 people to work together in a vast installation to formulate global weather forecasts.

Upton Sinclair self-published "The Goose-Step: A Study of American Education."

 "The Velveteen Rabbit" by Margery Williams was published. The book was illustrated by William Nicholson.

T.S. Eliot wrote his long poem "The Waste Land."

 Sid Grauman created the concept of the Hollywood premiere by throwing a glittering opening for Douglas Fairbanks Sr.‘s "Robin Hood" at his new Egyptian Theater. Its d├ęcor was inspired by the recent discovery of King Tut‘s tomb.
 The 1st arc-welded structure in the US was a 245-step, freestanding, steel staircase into the Moaning Caverns of Calaveras, Ca.

 Otto Meyerhof (1884-1951), German doctor, won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his discovery of the fixed relationship between the consumption of oxygen and the metabolism of lactic acid in the muscle.

 The Hollywood censorship regime known as the Hays Office was set up. It established that no two people could be filmed in the same bed and helped to popularize twin beds.

 Washington made a Naval Treaty with Japan.
 James Dole, a Boston businessman, bought 98% of Hawaii’s Lanai Island for $1.1 million and planted 16,000 acres of pineapple. He imported plantation workers from Japan, China and the Philippines.

 Tinker Beads began to be produced. A full set contained 144 wooden beads, cord and a blunt needle.

 Vitamin E was discovered in when Evans HM et al. described a "substance X" that was essential to maintain rat fertility. After obtaining similar results, Sure B called the substance "vitamin E" because vitamins A, B, C, and D were already known.

 Vegemite, a salty, slightly bitter spread made from brewer's yeast, was introduced by Australian chemist Cyril Callister for the Fred Walker Cheese Company in Melbourne.

 Their was a rainfall of spiders over Hungary.

 In India civil disobedience demonstrators killed 22 police officers and Gandhi called off his campaign of disobedience.

 Scotland joined the United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
1922-1928    Dolly Rekords were made during this period by the Averill Co. They were played on a small record player inside the body of a Madame Hendren Doll.
1922-1981    H. C. Westerman, American artist. He is recognized as the pioneer of the Chicago Monster School of grotesque comic art. His work included the watercolor "Mohave" (1966), and the box sculptures "March or Die" (1966), and "The Evil Force" (1962).

Friday, November 9, 2012

Getting Free Stuff on the Web

I like free stuff. When my yoga teacher has free samples, I take them.  When my gym has member party events with food, I go and eat enough for dinner.

I attended a writers’ workshop and a woman there had a combination pen and camera. It could even do optical character recognition and turn her cursive into text that she could then copy to her computer.  When I asked about the pen, she said she was a member of – a website that gives free and discount samples of new products in trade for buzz. In other words, you get free stuff but you have to agree to talk to people about the products.  It’s okay not to like the free stuff – you just have to agree to talk about it.

I’ve turned down free make-up and free sauces.  I liked the free yogurt.  This week, the freebie was an oven-ready Purdue package of cornish game hens or chicken.  I’ve only bought cornish game hens once before. They cost a lot and tasted like chicken.  My local store only had the game hens. I had the coupon.  So I got them using a free coupon from bzzagent.  There were two in the bag.

The game hens were in plastic bags, complete with a bit of soup and spices.  All I had to do was put them in a baking dish, cut a 1" hole in each bag, and pop them into the oven for a little over an hour.  The instructions suggested a baking thermometer, but I have no idea where mine is.  I bake fowl until the leg breaks easily.

I’m a big fan of baking in plastic bags.  They cut the baking time in half, and you never get a dry bird.

My opinion: they taste like chicken.  Good chicken. Tender chicken. The spicing is mild. The bags didn’t leak, so I didn’t even have to wash the baking pan.  So, it was a minimal effort to serve a tasty and attractive dish.  To serve, you have to cut the bag open, put the game hens on a plate and carve.  Free was a great price.  The regular price is about $12.  I think that’s high. It’s about 4 lbs of bird.  I don’t know about game hens, but chicken does not cost $3 a pound.

I have some discount coupons for $2 and $3 off.  I’ll take them to my Toastmasters meeting for anybody who wants them.

My main recommendation is for 

They may have something you want at a discount or for free.  The woman who had that fancy pen, said she paid $30 for it. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

My Election Rant

This is my election rant.

On Facebook, somebody posted a picture of a pretty 20-something woman, wearing summer clothing, holding a neat, clean diaper-clad baby on her lap, and a remote clicker in her hand.

The caption read:

Receives Monthly Welfare Checks
Feeds Child With Foodstamps
Child’s Medical Care Provided by Medicaid
Hates Obama Because He’s a Socialist

I thought the point was supposed to be that this young woman doesn’t appreciate the help that our government is giving her.

But then I read the comments from other Facebook users, most of whom I’ve never met.

These users speculated about why this woman is a single mother. They mostly accused her of promiscuity and a plan to live on welfare for as long as she can get pregnant. None of them responded to my statement that welfare is only for 2 years – not 2 year per baby, but 2 years only.

These users said they don’t think this child (who looked barely old enough to sit up) shouldn’t be sitting on his rear end while other people work to provide food and clothing for him.

They accused me of misguided naivete when I commented that I think all children his age should be fed and clothed with money they didn’t earn themselves.

These users wanted to punish this child for something they imagine his mother did.  When I pointed out that all children have two parents and there are many reasons why a child might be raised by only one, they continued to hurl insults at this child’s mother for actions they could not possibly know. All they had to go on was this photograph.

These same users oppose birth control and abortion, and Obamacare. Some oppose public schools, and public roads.  They think it is okay if this child starves to death, or dies of a treatable disease that his mother can’t afford to have treated.

I see this child, and all children as the future.  We have to take care of them, so they will take care of our planet and our future. 

Something went wrong in the education of these Facebook users.  Something has gone wrong in our society, our culture. We need to elect people who want a future in which the children of all mothers are fed and clothed, given medical care, and sent to school.  And we need to teach all our children why we need to care for each other.

Vote Obama.