“If I can get one kid to say, ‘ooo, science is cool,’ my job is done.”

by Terry 4/2/2009 3:17:00 PM

See the article:

Cascade View students enjoy fun-filled night

I got more press than I had hoped, and the quote expressed exactly my thoughts, considering all the activity and distraction, I am happy it came out as clearly as it did. I will need to figure out how to follow up on it.

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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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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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Science Fair Demonstrations

by Terry 1/20/2009 3:50:00 PM

I have been asked to make a stage presentation on chemistry at my daughter’s elementary school for the school’s annual science fair. Fortunately, I am not shy on stage, so that is not much of an issue, but I have no experience making a show of chemistry publicly. The PTSA President-elect, who happens to be a good friend, suggested I make a large volume of hydrogen and blow it up. That is all well and good. However, I am open to suggestions for possible demonstrations. There will likely be several hundred parents and children, so some interactivity would be fun.

I considered filling balloons with oxygen and hydrogen, enough to represent giant model atoms in the shape of a water molecule, then using a giant model of a 9v battery to separate the atomic bond.

I also am thinking about building a primitive fire-extinguisher from a 2L cola bottle, water, vinegar and sodium bicarbonate. Like a large version of the experiment in the Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments. The point being chemistry is used to make useful things.

Overall, I want to impart that science and chemistry, is fun, practical and good for society.

Suggestions welcome!

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Christmas Coal, 2008

by Terry 1/9/2009 4:27:00 PM

On Christmas Eve Karen braved the snow and wind to retrieve the mail from the box at the end of the street. She was fully expecting to find a packet of genealogy documents she had been waiting for. She was delighted to find a large box from Pottsville, PA, from a friend who runs the local historical society. Ok, she was a little annoyed carrying a sixteen pound box back to the house through the drifts of snow and wind, but the shear enjoyment on opening the box was worth the effort.

Imagine our surprise when we opened the box to find it full of Pennsylvania Anthracite Coal. To me, this is one of the most humorous Christmas gifts ever, real, big, heavy box of coal.

Karen has been researching her family roots, many of whom settled in Pottsville. Pottsville is an old coal town. Coal is central to the town history. While the gift was not the packet of documentation she was looking for, the gesture and double entendre gave it a brilliant spot in our hearts.

Last weekend Karen and I found a nice glass vase to showcase the chunks of coal in our living room. This left me with two large pieces of coal and some small bits and dust I have since placed in my lab. The irony, for me at any rate, was I was looking at some labs that call for bits of coal only a couple weeks ago. I have no idea where to get coal. Washington State has no coal resources that I know of. The timing of this gift was perfect.

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Thanks for 35mm Film Containers

by Terry 12/1/2008 9:11:00 PM

Thanks to Karen’s tireless ability for research and efficiency, I think I have probably 1400 35mm film containers. Karen printed the Puget Sound area Walgreen and RiteAid addresses and phone numbers. As we travelled about this week we would call ahead and stop at their various one-hour photo processing centers, if they were reasonably convenient. Many places would set aside the stock for us. I do not have an exact count of what we collected so far. I will need to estimate with a scale in the near future. Either way, it is one less thing I need to gather. Karen is a master of task management and research. If it were up to me alone, I would have about 50 containers and no organized plan to get more. Thank you, Karen. Smile

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More 35mm Film Containers

by Terry 11/18/2008 4:47:00 PM

On her way home from a doctor’s appointment, Karen stopped at another film processing place and acquired another bag of 35mm film containers. I now have, I am guessing, a couple hundred little black and opaque containers. I think Karen is really enjoying her “container drive”. Now I am running into a problem. How do I wash and dry all these things?

I am collection an impressive mass of bottles of all sizes for my lab. This is recycling at its best, re-use freely available stuff.

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A Busy Weekend, Errands, Yard Work and Little Pieces

by Terry 11/17/2008 3:53:00 PM

I had a busy weekend with lots of errands, some yard work and time to see the new James Bond movie last with my friends Richard and Joel.

The new Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, was, well, another Bond movie; but certainly better than any of the Bond movies with Rodger Moore. Daniel Craig is pretty good in the role. Many people have been saying this for awhile, so there is not much to add there. If you like James Bond movies, Quantum or Solace is entertaining. I would recommend catching the matinee showing instead of the full-price ticket.

Two summers ago I hired a local teen to mow my yard. I have a small yard and his price is hard to beat. I have gotten used to not mowing. Nevertheless, I broke out the mower and attacked the lawn Sunday morning. I was surprised to have to do this, as typically October is usually the last time the lawn is mowed for the year. We have had a bit of warm ‘banana-express’ rainfall followed by lot of sun keeping the lawn from going completely dormant. I am hoping I do not have to mow again before March. The real downside is the short days and low-angle sun mean much of my yard is turning into moss. It looks like I will have some work ahead of me this spring.

Karen and I ran errands Saturday. Karen, who at times is happy to exclaim she is an outstanding secretary for our household, arranged for me to pick up more 35mm plastic film canisters. I now have the local Costco, Walgreens and Bartell Drugstores saving them for me. I have several hundred I will have to wash and put to use. I think I am formulating a plan for what to do.

A couple friends with the local PTSA have indicated I should put together an after-school program of some kind at the local elementary. That could be fun and I need to give this some thought. It could be a great way to entice a few kids to pursue a science career in the future. Most of the after-school programs are about an hour long, once a week over four to six weeks. What I would like to do is figure out some way to have the kids walk away with a ‘starter kit’ of some kind.

In previous years, a group called Mad Science ran after-school courses. These were extremely popular, filled to capacity. To my knowledge they have not had this program this year. The ‘science’ taught was not so exciting and the kids walked out with little to take home or much in the way of an understanding of science and the scientific method. I will need to quiz my daughter and a few other kids who attended last year to see what they remember and learned from the experience. This will shape what I decide to do.

It is also time I get my ‘science club’ in gear. It would be nice to work these together somehow. Things are beginning to come together quickly; I just do not know exactly what it will look like yet.

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Would you like fires with that?

by Terry 11/12/2008 4:02:00 PM

I had a brief email exchange yesterday from a good friend, Charles, one of the brightest people I know. The email dialog was written while we were both at work, and is a bit choppy; nonetheless, I decided to leave the spelling and grammar errors intact as it adds a bit of ironic humor considering we are both literate and bright people.

From: Charles
Sent: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 8:51 AM
To: Losansky, Terry D
Subject: Thought you would be interested, given your hobby

http://science.slashdot.org/science/08/11/11/150231.shtml 

Charles


From: Losansky, Terry D
Sent: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 9:16 AM
To: Charles
Subject: RE: Thought you would be interested, given your hobby

Hello Charles,

Thanks! I happened to read the source article, http://pubs.acs.org/cen/science/86/8645sci1.html, yesterday. I am glad it is making the rounds.

It is interesting to observe the fear and suspicion people have at first learning about my little lab. The remarkable part is that once the knee-jerk reaction is past, the curiosity and encouragement come out. Reading the Slashdot comments tell the same story.

The two local pharmacies in my town, owned by the same family, at first were kind of hesitant to talk with me. After a few months of getting to know me, and learn that I am not a criminal, I have established a legal supply chain through them for chemicals, glassware, used storage bottles and possibly arranged a tour of their compounding lab.

I just finished reading a series of books on the history of science. I am saddened at how scientific studies have gone from something akin to civic duty in the 1800’s into criminal precursors today. I am thinking on how to contribute to changing that mindset.

I recently learned about the ‘science cafes’ which are slowly gaining popularity. I am researching starting one in my neighborhood. See Seattle Science on Tap, http://scienceontap.org/.

Take care,

Terry Dee Losansky


From: Charles
Sent: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 9:22 AM
To: Losansky, Terry D
Subject: RE: Thought you would be interested, given your hobby

The comments from slashdot that struck me the most were the ones how the neighbor said "you are allowed to do that" to both the chem lab and to making bread. I grew up doing physics and chemestry experiments with my uncle. Formed a major part of who I am today.

Charles


From: Losansky, Terry D
Sent: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 9:30AM
To: Charles
Subject: RE: Thought you would be interested, given your hobby

“I grew up doing physics and chemestry experiments with my uncle. Formed a major part of who I am today.”

I am not surprised to hear you say that. I hear similar things from some of the smartest people I know. What the next generation of smart kids will say is what concerns me. “I grew up playing DS. Would you like fires with that?”

Terry Dee Losansky


Know I right good! Indeed. Would you like fires with that?

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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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