Testing Windows Live Writer

by terry 3/31/2009 4:00:20 PM

I thought I would test Windows Live Writer as a journal editing tool.

I have Vista x64 running as a virtual machine. I use the platform for testing new software and such. I figured it was time to make some effort again to see what I have been otherwise ignoring.

If you see this post, than Windows Live Writer was able to publish to my BlogEngine.net site with almost no issue whatsoever.

I can say there are a few things I don’t like about Windows Live Writer, but there are a lot that I do. I will have to install Word on my VM test box and see if the Windows Live Office updates are worth anything. Word as my journal editor would be a significant difference.

One thing Live Writer does do nicely is edit posts. I added this last paragraph after publishing. hmm…

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2008 Science Fair Pictures

by Terry 3/31/2009 2:30:00 PM

I thought I should post a few pictures of the Science Fair from last week.

I used a free hand to demonstrate the unstable nature of Nitrogen Triiodide.

 

A representative photo of the crowd around our table.

 

 

The display board Karen helped me assemble. I am not much for building displays. Without Karen I would have had nothing.

 

Minutes before the crowds arrive, the displays are set and we get ourselves ready.

 

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2008 Science Fair Complete

by Terry 3/31/2009 12:06:00 PM

It was a crazy evening. The crowds of children coming and going through the evening never slowed until the tables of displays were taken down. I rotated through experiments continuously for two and a half hours without a break. On the whole, I would say the evening was a success from my point of view. There are things I will do differently next time. For a first-time attempt at ‘demonstration science’, I am pleased.

I had help from my wife, Karen, making my display table – something I am terrible with and generally loath. Karen made sure what I had looked good and said what I felt was needed. In retrospect, the only thing I would add would be more information on who I am and why I was at the fair. Thank you, Karen!

I had able help from my daughter, Kaitlin, who attends the elementary school where the fair was held. A few of her friends thought that our booth was a ‘science project’ submitted by Kaitlin for the fair and felt bad when she did not ‘win’. Of course we were there for other reasons and not part of any judging, so Kaitlin was not bothered and her friends laughed it off after it was explained to them.

My other assistant for the evening, Elizabeth, is a middle-school and martial-arts student with a deep interest in forensic science. She was invaluable during the science fair and she worked well with Kaitlin. If I ever When I get my act together, I hope to have her and Kaitlin be the nucleus of my Science Club. The only thing holding me back is scheduling. I need to figure out how to test my hypothesis that the hours in a day and days in a week shorten as a person ages…

Lessons Learned

Having now done it, I have a much better idea of what does and does not work for demonstration. At least where there are large, youthful crowds.

  • Kids like seeing the apparatus used in demos
  • Kids like hands-on experiments (not a surprise)
  • Kids like action
    • Big change over a relatively short time keep kids attention in the large crowds
  • Have more information on who I am and why I am at the fair
    • Parents like to know who their kids are talking to
    • It helps to address the common questions that can distract
  • Do Not Forget Your Notebook
    • Yes, I forgot my notebook. I ended up doing every experiment from memory
    • Practicing every experiment over the two weeks prior to the fair helped overcome my error

One demonstration which worked very well for the conditions, and was able to cycle through repeatedly, was boiling water in a partial vacuum. I used a 1000 ml Florence Flask with stopper and 750 ml of water, my propane stove, ring stand, a bit of sand and a tub of cold water for the demo. I boiled the water, with a pinch of sand for boiling chips, in the flask on the ring stand. While waiting for the water to boil, I made a few jokes. Science requires patience and we know a watch pot never boils… When the water reached a rolling boil, I removed the heat source and quickly capped the flask.

As the flask cools, it continues to boil. Carefully placing the flask in the tub of cool water causes the water to boil more vigorously for several minutes. When the flask cools enough, the kids around the table can touch the flask, play with it in the tub and see how the temperature of the glass around the air-pocket could be manipulated to cool or warm the trapped air and affect the rate of boil.

Finally, when boiling was almost done, I removed the stopper and showed how the water had cooled to a safe-to-handle temperature.

The display is quick to setup and repeat. I was able to put this display aside and come back to it for a different crowed of kids as the evening moved on.

I used the Detonation of Nitrogen Triiodide, suggested by the folks at HMS-Beagle, for a demo. This was cool on many levels. The early-arrivals to the fair watched us make and prepare the apparatus and chemicals for the display (the ammonia smell both attracted and repelled the kids). The final detonation at evenings end worked perfectly.

As I mentioned, I forgot my notebook with my demonstration cheat-sheet. This was a mistake and the results are predictable. A couple experiments I tried from memory where slightly in error, but I used that as a talking point, so it was not a complete loss.

Slime works. The only issue with slime was assembly. I could not make the stuff fast enough. I will work on that for the future. Also several parents and kids wanted the recipe. I will make sure I have handouts for next year. This was also a great activity for Kaitlin to do and be able to interact directly with her classmates.

Helpful Resources

Robert Bruce Thompson has been an inspiration with his book and Home Chem Lab forum. The Home Chem Lab forum has been indispensable. The suggestions from many threads allowed me to find a good footing and make my efforts a success.

HMS-Beagle helped me get the equipment and chemicals I needed in short order and made several good demonstration recommendations.

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Fun, Frustration and Fatigue

by Terry 3/19/2009 12:48:00 PM

Life with Tyler, our new puppy, is still evolving. His sleep patterns change each week, which is good and bad at times. We are still trying to keep him in the crate at night, but it is clear that Tyler likes companionship in the wee-hours of the morning. During the day he is still just a big (27 lb/12.3 kg) puppy that likes to play, eat, sleep, poop, play and play more.

Karen and Kaitlin have been sick this week, which puts extra pressure on me. I have to work and help take care of everyone. Naturally, Karen and I are getting none of our tasks met this week, which is exceedingly frustrating at times. I am trying to run through my lab demonstrations for next week’s science fair at Kaitlin’s school and I am having a hard time getting the time and energy to pull it all off. I am pretty well fatigued by day’s end.

I recently made several purchases at HMS-Beagle for my science fair materials. The people there have been very helpful. I wish their online ordering system were a bit more search and sort friendly and would take credit cards. They take PayPal, which works for me – if I have the funds in place. This turns out to be trivial, for the most part, as I can call them with my order number and pay by credit card on the phone.

My only complaint so far (and not really HMS Beagle’s fault) is with an order of Erlenmeyer Flasks I made. The flasks all have a larger opening than I expected (based on the flasks I have already) and the number 6 stopper is almost too small and number 7 stopper is almost too big. I only discovered this after I received my flasks. I made a follow-up order for a range of stoppers and am making it work out. The solid number 7 stopper and the number 6 with glass tubing in the holes do not fall into the flasks. I wish I could have ordered size 6.5 stoppers, but that will have to wait for another day.

Now I just need the time to have some fun with the science fair projects…

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Too busy to keep up – The Dog, Taxes and a Science Fair

by Terry 3/9/2009 6:11:00 PM

I have been lazy. I would like to say I have been too busy, any in truth I have been, but it really feels like laze from exhaustion. Most notably I have been deprived of sleep as we have a new family member.

Tyler, the Dog

We adopted Tyler, our new puppy, three weeks ago. Tyler, estimated to be born around Christmas of last year, is a mixed breed Terrier-Beagle-Cattle Dog-Somethingorother. Karen was a little uncertain about him for the first week. It turns out he is a darned good dog. Tyler almost never barks, is healthy, good natured, good to other dogs and kids and is basically the best dog our family could hope for. I have grown pretty fond of him.

The big surprise, other than we quite suddenly had an about face on the idea of having any pet, is that I really like having him. I have never been much of a dog person. I think I had too many roommates in my college years with ill-mannered and poorly cared for pets. I should come as no shock that a well cared-for and owner-attended pet will respond well. It definitely helps that I work from home most of the time.

The most significant impact at the moment is two-fold. Firstly, I am suffering a real lack of sleep getting up one to three times a night to ‘water the dog’ – a task that is exclusively mine, as Karen and Kaitlin seem to sleep through everything short of nuclear attacks. Secondly, as a family we are trying to adjust to a permanent toddler in the house. We have been a pretty spontaneous family, but our traveling days have changed. Fortunately our neighborhood has a good network of dog owners and I am slowly learning the ropes. It will be nice to have sitters should we travel.

Taxes

I have taxes to do. Not much to say. We all have to pay taxes. It sucks. Rather, the sucking sound from my paycheck never stops and I am further penalized by having to spend a dozen or three hours of my time to itemize the government’s abduction of my money.

The Science Fair

I have ordered the supplies and glassware for the science fair where I have been asked to have a demonstration booth. This is for my daughter’s elementary school. Not surprisingly, it takes a bit of thought and planning to put a show together. I need my theme, my props and supplies. All of this is different than what I have and need in my garage lab.

My family manager, Karen, also known as my loving and supportive wife, has scheduled time in the garage for me to work on stuff. I have cleaned up the garage (again) after the winter of abandonment, I have started to arrange and expand my chemical stocks on the new shelving I acquired around last Christmas, fabricated some glass tubing I hope to use at the science fair and started to plot out my experiments/demonstrations. I will report more on this later.

So, it is back to work I go.

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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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