The Blue Angels are in Town

by Terry 7/31/2008 4:38:00 PM

The Blue Angels are in town and I happened to be in Seattle all day for a meeting. Seattle’s I-90 floating bridge across Lake Washington closes twice a day while the Angles practice. Fortunately I managed to escape my meeting early and chanced crossing the bridge. I made it across only a minute or two before the bridge was closed. This saved me about two hours of waiting in traffic or elsewhere until the freeway opened. Not that I would have minded too much, but I used the time to run some errands. Now I do not have to make any special trips for basics for a few days at least.

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BlogEngine Bugs

by Terry 7/30/2008 11:15:00 AM

I updated to BlogEngine 1.4.0.0 last week. That was more work than I hoped but overall has been a good move, not because BlogEngine is any better, but because it forced me to update my web hosting accounts. Now that the host updates are complete, I can look at using BlogEngine more. So far the 1.14.0.0 version has annoying bugs in the posting control. I lack the time to research it all, and I am only slightly tempted to use the intermediate build versions.

The most annoying defect is that none of the script-driven methods work correctly on the posting pages (Add_entry.aspx). The HTML view and link add/edit functions do not work. It is painfully difficult to edit or format my journal entries. This morning I resorted to updating the post with the plain text, then editing the XML data file and inserting the content in the way I like. Ugly.

I have research and fixes to implement and no time to do it. I am not sure if it is a permissions issue on my host or bad script in the pages (I suspect the later). Double ugly.

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Progress at Last

by Terry 7/30/2008 9:38:00 AM

I have finally made some progress on my home chemistry lab. I set a rough target for having everything ready to go by the end of summer (really the start of the school year), around the end August. So far I am on track, and maybe ahead of my plan because I am just plain overeager. I took pictures of the currently clean and fully assembled workbench, which is the mainstay of my plan. With everything coming together I will be able to run a few labs sessions to establish a routine ahead of working with others in my ‘science club’ scheme.

My inspiration for a home chemistry lab and creating a science club where I can tutor my daughter and a few neighborhood kids came from my interests in the sciences, teaching and the efforts of Robert Bruce Thompson and his book, Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments. I am ready to act on that inspiration.

I spent a portion of Sunday afternoon with my friend Richard working in my garage leveling my workbench and attaching the melamine counter tops. The counter tops are nothing special, just quarter-sheets of melamine-coated particle board. Years ago, when I managed a SCUBA equipment service center, I built my work bench out of the same material, which held up for years of abuse. Now, like then, I want a cheap, easily replaceable and chemical-resistant work surface. I am compromising pretty for pure function.

My lab-bench is another compromise. At one point I acquired some industrial steel shelving, rated to hold something like 400kg. These can be assembled in various shapes, including a bench-height configuration. I bolted three of these benches together rather than building or buying cabinetry. It is not precisely pretty, but it works. I can also remove and relocate the entire bench quickly, although I have no reason to do so at this time. The downside is there are no cabinet doors to protect what is stored on otherwise open shelves; more on that in a moment.

Leveling the bench in the garage was not difficult. Most garage concrete-slab floors have a gentle slope so fluids drain out of the garage (like a water dripping off a wet car, which happens a lot in the Pacific North West). Conveniently, the foundation wall of the garage is level and has a three-inch lip on the inside of the garage wall along the floor. Richard and I perched my bench on the concrete lip, helpfully leveling the far side of the bench, and attached the metal frame to the garage wall. We shimmed the front legs to level the near side and then extended the front legs with some scrap wood. We finish it off by attaching three panels of melamine to the top, leaving a slight overlap on the front edge.

A trip to the discount store supplied the plastic tubs and drawer sets for storage, my compromise for cabinetry. I unpacked the lab equipment and glassware last night into the bins, with room to spare. I have some minor storage issues still to work out, like where to keep the 50ml glass burette. The pipettes fit into the drawers well enough for now, but the burette is too long. At the moment I have it clamped on the ring stand. I would like to find a suitable way to protect everything from dust and mishap, so leaving the burette on the stand is not ideal. The thermometer comes in a nice triangular clear plastic tube. A source for similar plastic tubes would be ideal. It protects the glassware from damage and dust, does not roll and can be stored in a larger, sturdier cylinder either standing upright or on its side.

I still have extra bins and drawers for chemical storage. The draws are basically bins in plastic frames; no holes in the sides or bottoms of the drawers. This is great to capture any inadvertent leaks if I store stock here. I will spend some time this week sorting out what should go where. (Kaitlin likes to help with this too. She already stocked one drawer with our lab notebooks and a supply of pens and pencils.) I have a large lidded tub and space on the garage floor under the bench for bulk storage which I have not utilized yet. It is a bit cramped, but not hideously so.

Temperature is a minor issue. Snoqualmie, 25 miles east of Seattle, has a maritime climate. Not too hot, not too cold. We get cold spells in the winter below freezing for a week or more. I plan on storing some items in bins I can bring into the house and store in the pantry during the winter. If I do lab work in the winter, I do have a space heater and halogen work lights to help warm the area, but that may not be a good mix if there are fumes and odors and I cannot open the garage door for ventilation. Winter may be the off-season. Not that Karen would complain too much about that. Such is life.

Lastly, I am trying to keep in consideration having a couple kids working with me (there are two interested at the moment, in addition to Kaitlin). Counter space is limited, but one advantage using the garage is that I can move the car to the driveway. I have several folding chairs and tables in the garage, easily accessible, making for an instant classroom or extended work area.

The lab is ready to start working in and working it will identify and address remaining, some perpetual, issues. Conducting experiments in the future will likely create new issues, requiring new equipment, time and new supplies too. I look forward to the challenge. I need to start through the labs. At the moment time is an issue. I have martial arts practice and teaching several times a week in addition to my ‘paying’ job to work around and I need to create a schedule Karen and Kaitlin will be happy with. Patience is the key. Equipment is not the only recurring issue; time and family are more important and perpetual. Progress sometimes comes in inches.

Pictures
My workbench
 

Drawers of equipment and glassware

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A Screed on Autism, ADHD and the Martial Arts

by Terry 7/25/2008 3:56:00 PM

I posted a short screed on Autism, ADHD and the Martial Arts. It really is just a rant of my opinion and observations. Some people may disagree. All I can really argue is if you have doubts or concerns about having an autistic or ADHD child try martial arts – do not let your doubts prevent trying martial arts. Whether or not the child can keep up is not the issue. They may take longer to reach proficiency in some areas, but the benefits on self esteem, self control and long term mental and physical health are tremendous.

I won’t argue there are extreme cases. And those are just heart wrenching in there is often little anyone can really do. Or rather much that can be done but little to heal the grief and pain. And if this is the condition you face, I am not professing any miracle. But, I am not arguing for the extreme cases, only the cases that are quickly called autistic or ADHD which 30 years ago would have been considered high-energy or short-attention children. I was once one of those.

I was seriously failing school until I figured out I could manipulate the system to alter my curriculum to make it interesting. I had a GPA of 2.4 as high-school freshmen and turned that into a 3.5 GPA by the time I graduated. I earned my BSCS with honors and a 3.9 GPA. In elementary school the teachers wanted me in the remedial programs, where I simple got bored. I required too much effort to stay interested in what was being taught. I learned from that and use that knowledge now. I try to keep kids interested in what they are doing.

I am trying to figure out how to do that with science. I am on track to starting a science club by end of summer. I want kids to see the fun in science. The sciences (and, frankly, reading science fiction by authors like Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven) are what drove me to succeed in school. I have the same passion for martial arts. I just ordered Kono Magazine for Kaitlin with keeping here interested in the martial arts as the primary reason (Roland Osborne is enacting the same idea with Kono Magazine, http://www.konomag.com/Kono_AboutUs.pdf). I will use my garage chemistry lab to keep her interests in science alive as best I can too.

Hmm, that was a lot more than I expected to rant on about.

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Birthday and Belt Test

by Terry 7/25/2008 3:15:00 PM

Tonight is another belt test and another birthday; mine, I am 0x27, 21+18, or 39. I am not much on birthday celebrations, but there is always a dinner gathering at a local restaurant after the belt test and with 70 of my closest martial arts acquaintances I am sure there will be some celebratory activities. I am just happy to be able to do so many of the things I like and have the people in my life that I do. I do not wish for any other gifts. I have fortune in moderation.

Last night, in the ‘youth’ belt test, instructor Leni and I had the younger kids demonstrate the Bo Staff form we have been learning for the last server weeks. The parents were suitably wowed, which is cool. It always surprised me how many parents do not stay to watch any of the classes. The belt tests offer an arena for the parents to see their children’s progress.

After the kids’ demonstration, Leni and I performed the same form in unison, out of visual range of each other. This requires audio queues, which we are still working on, to stay synchronized. The affect came off quite well nonetheless, considering we execute the form at much higher speed than the children and have only practiced synchronization a few times. Afterwards at dinner that evening, the parents paid us nice complements on our teaching skills and on how our own martial arts skills have improved over the last few months. What could be a better gift than being told by a parent you are appreciated for how you teach their child?

Tonight we do the same thing again, but with adults and a small group of the youngest children. The five and six year old kids (mostly) have never seen the adult best test, and tonight they will do their test at the side-by-side with the adults. This will be great fun for everyone. I love to hear the kids’ excitement and see the look of awe on their faces. The adult group really includes the teen-agers too. The teens have the energy and flexibility to wow the kids with high jumps and fast kicks. There is also Instructor Steve, 6’4” (193 cm), once a Marine, and high-intensity. He usually does some feat or another that makes the kids both laugh and shout “wow!” at the same time. I think between all the adult talent the young kids will be thoroughly jazzed. There is always cake at the end of the belt test too. I am sure a lot of parents will have fun putting their kids to bed tonight.

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Belt Testing This Week, Practice Tonight

by Terry 7/23/2008 5:00:00 PM

Thursday and Friday evenings are belt-testing events and DMW Martial Arts. The school's Black Belt Club members who will be testing will show off their Bo Staff skills they have been practicing for the last two months. Having watched two classes of students (children in one class and teens and adults in the other) and seen the classes go through Kamas, Sais, Nunchaku and Bo practice segments, I have to say that the Bo has been one of the most difficult for people to become comfortable with. We have practiced with the Bo twice as long as any of the other weapons for approximately the same apparent level of skill by the students.

For me, the Bo has been difficult. I have been practicing with the staff off-and-on for a year and I am only now looking competent in my first Bo-form (part of Roland Osborne’s Millennium Curriculum). Tonight I will practice one more time with the younger class. I am not sure how we will have the classes demonstrate their talents Thursday night’s test. This will get worked out tonight, I hope. Instructor Leni and I have been trying to put together our own demo and I hope to work on this tonight as well. At least I feel like my own skills are coming together.

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Air Show at McChord Air Force Base

by Terry 7/23/2008 10:34:00 AM

Karen, Kaitlin and I attended the air show at McChord Air Force Base last Saturday. Our nephew, Anthony, enlisted into the Air Force and had his swearing-in ceremony on base during the air show. Afterwards we watch the Thunder Birds do their thing. If you plan to attend an air show at McChord, come very early and expect to be treated more strictly than if you were about to actually fly on a plane. The bureaucracy for parking and admittance is frustrating. At least the soldiers are polite and understanding; even if they know some of the rules are ridiculous and insulting. I think Karen likes to see the soldiers more than the planes, however, so that makes up for some of the hassle. Anthony leaves for basic in a week or two. Stay well young man.

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If you have nothing good to say…

by Terry 7/23/2008 10:29:00 AM

As kids we have all been told, “If you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all.” I have so much to complain about since Saturday that I am almost at loss for good things to say. But, I will breathe deep and try.

If you read my posts or subscribe to my feeds, my apologies for the garbage posts. I periodically check my hosting provider to see what is offered. I upgraded my web space with better features and services for a substantially reduced cost yesterday. This is great for me and everyone. Apparently my hosting provider made an error and updated the DNS settings to the new site before I had actually built and configured the new location. If you see this post I have corrected the issues and you are looking at the new site. It was not the smooth transition I have executed many times before.

This was all really kicked off when I upgraded my site to use BlogEngine 1.4.0.0. My hosting provider has some odd configuration settings on some of their platforms. BlogEngine has an ‘Admin’ folder for blog management (I hate the term blog, and use “Journal” where I can). To implement BlogEngine on my site I had to rename the Admin folder to a ‘safe’ folder name. I chose ‘journal_admin’ and updated all the source code to use that folder structure. Not a difficult task, but annoying when I want to apply an updated.

By changing my host platform I no longer need to make this change to the ‘admin’ folder in the BlogEngine source. The new platform allows me to have folder names of my choice, which is as it should be. The garbage on my ‘new’ site was test code to make sure I could fully implement BlogEngine source without any change. No one was supposed to see that, however. Such is life.

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Rooto Household Products

by Terry 7/18/2008 10:18:00 AM

Yesterday I went to lunch with Karen and Kaitlin. I stopped at the pharmacy to ask if I could order various supplies for my home chemistry lab through them. After lunch I ran down the block to the Carmichael’s True Value hardware store. There I found several products I wanted to add to my lab.  Ammonia (with no coloring or other additives) and 100% sodium hydroxide drain cleaner. I forgot to look for root killer (copper sulphate) which I believe they carry. Oddly, Home Depot and Lowes, the nearby big-box stores, do not seem to have these products in concentrated or mostly pure form. I will have to go back and get the copper sulphate at a later date.

True Value sells products from Rooto. I called Rooto to see if they had MSDS files for these products. They happily said yes and asked where they could fax them. I never bothered to setup a fax receiver on my home PC, email is my preferred method. No problem, for the products I am looking for, they have electronic MSDS documents. Apparently not all their line is available in electronic format, but they have what I need. All is good.

The home chemistry lab is slowly moving along.

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The Work and Teach Death March

by Terry 7/18/2008 9:48:00 AM

Last night marked the end of my evening teaching for the week. I am still working my regular fulltime job during the day, and taking my workout at lunch. I still have two classes to teach on Saturday morning, but my evenings are free again. Well, free in that I do not have to be at DMW Martial Arts to teach. I have to spend time with my family so they will not disown me. Last night was the end of the death march. Today and Saturday are like maintenance sessions by comparison.

I have been slowly incorporating material I learned from the 2008 Martial Arts Super Show. I have tried to add at least one thing from every session I took at the Super Show into at least one class. The wealth of info is spectacular. Three good sources of information I recommend, sans being able to attend the Super Show, that anyone can draw from are Kimber Hill, David Kovar and Roland Osborne. Through DMW Martial Arts I have access to various materials from their training programs. The Super Show has been great to help focus me on material I want to add. Part of my death march this week is because I am trying to incorporate material so I will not forget it as easily; hear it, say it, do it. My last class yesterday was the Leadership class. I surprised myself on how much I recalled just reading from my hand-written gibberish. Now it is not only better seated in my head, but I have a class full of students who will remember bits and pieces and hold me to it. If that holds true, I will have succeeded.

I am still happy the death march is over. My voice is raspy from yells, talking over parents and general use. I otherwise don’t talk all that much, as my wife, Karen, would likely and frustratingly agree.

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About Terry Losansky

Terry Dee Losansky

I am a software architect, actively practice and teach martial arts and live in Snoqualmie, Washington. I have an amazing daughter who is the jewel of my life.

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