Save Our Rails

by Terry 4/14/2009 4:32:00 PM

I am flattered that I have readers to share this with.

Hi Terry,

The Woodman Lodge, Snoqualmie's historic steakhouse and saloon is hosting "Save Our Rail," for the Northwest
Railway Museum in Snoqualmie, WA on Thursday,
April 30 from 5:30-8:30 p.m.

We're going to try and raise $25k to help rebuild tracks that were washed away during the flooding earlier this year. The dinner also includes a train ride through the valley. For more information, go to http://www.woodmanlodge.com/railway.htm.

I would appreciate your help in letting your readers especially those in Snoqualmie know and come support your local Railway Museum.

More information is attached. If you have any questions, please feel free to email [contact info removed, TDL]. A short blurb in your blog will be extremely helpful. Thank you in advance!


Best,
Veronica

I have never visited the Woodman Lodge. I expect I will someday. I periodically enjoy the Railway Museum in Snoqualmie. It is slowly improving over the years, in part because of increased funding support and the growth of the city over the last decade. About a year ago I briefly stopped at the museums Conservation and Restoration Center. I would love to have space like this for a garage/lab/shop. I was impressed. I hope the Railway Museum continues to grow as a local attraction. It is a fun walk through history, particularly the technical changes.

The city of Snoqualmie, like many towns in western Washington, sustained a fair bit of flood damage over the winter. I am glad the museum and downtown in general were not to heavily damage. It could have been much worse.

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“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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Kaitlin Dissects a Frog, Tyler has a Bath

by Terry 4/2/2009 11:27:00 AM

Midweek is always busy. Yesterday, Karen and I met Kaitlin after school to join her in an after-school science class. Kaitlin dissected a frog. We had a great time. Kaitlin, at age nine, surprisingly had no issue with the work at hand and dug in enthusiastically. I was terribly hungry by the end of the class and the smell of the preservatives for the frogs made dinner afterwards interesting. The smell sticks with you.

Afterwards, Karen, Kaitlin and I took Tyler, our pup, to training class. Tyler got about an hour of puppy play time, while those people-who-like-to-think-of-themselves-as-owners underwent training. Tyler has been very good at training us to give him treats. All things considered, Tyler is making it easy for us to learn how to be good dog owners.

Kaitlin and I gave Tyler a bath when we arrived home. Tyler does not like bathing, but we are slowly getting better at it. The only problem we had was bribery and reward. Tyler had buckets of treats at the training class and Kaitlin hand-fed him dinner when we got home. By bath time, Tyler had no interest in being bribed into or rewarded for enduring the evils of fresh, clean water. Somehow we managed.

Tonight is Tae Kwon Do for Kaitlin and me. I help in her class then bring her home and attend my own class (as a student, not to teach). We are practicing with the Sai for the first time in about a year. It will be fun to see what I remember. Of all the weapons we practice with, the Sai puts more holes in the mat than any other. I have heavy, steal Sais and I have fortunately not dropped them on my feet – yet.

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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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Take a Sock Day

by Terry 2/2/2009 9:23:00 AM

Apparently February 2nd is Take a Sock Day. I received an email this morning from a coworker saying she was out of the office – taking a sock day. This explains the abundance of missing socks and mismatched pairs.

In high school a friend of mine postulated washing machines, or their evil cousins clothes dryers, were secret portals to a dimension he simply referred to as Lost. Socks would only go missing when processed through the laundry, but never go missing when anyone was looking. Naturally this cannot be fully falsified and therefore proves the existence of a higher power. The ID folks should rejoice in the miracle of the missing sock.

I personally think the notion of Take a Sock Day is far more plausible. An entire day dedicated to absconding with knitted foot coverings.

Another coworker points out the real question is, “What happens when the Ground Hog sees a mismatched pair of socks?”

Obviously, he requires six weeks more sleep before returning it.

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Global Warming is Irreversible – We are so going to die

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

Wow. It is official. Our society is doomed to collapse in an overheated dustbowl, no matter what we do. The only solution is to throw more resources at stopping the inevitable.

“I guess if it's irreversible, to me it seems all the more reason you might want to do something about it”
- Susan Solomon, ‘who is among the world's top climate scientists’

Actually, what really scares me is the stupidity of this and other recent news releases. This is more truth by repeated assertion than science. Science proposes theories based on observable facts and repeatable experiments. News agencies, no longer journalists I think, have apparently lost the ability to fact check, or differ between a statement of opinion and verified data reality.

For example, New data show much of Antarctica is warming more than previously thought.

Which is refuted here in Antarctica warming? An evolution of viewpoint and Despite the hot air, the Antarctic is not warming up.

The common thread in the initial statements of impending disaster is the underlying theories are presented as unalterable truths when they are really weak theories bases on unverifiable models using admittedly manufactured data. This is not science but a show – shriek for more funding.

Frankly, I could care less if there is global warming or cooling, although I would prefer warming, as it is easier to grow food in a desert than on a glacier. What I do care about is the shrieking call to Do Something, particularly when the something to do is not defined, or is wrapped in vague statements.

We must reduce carbon! Ok, by how much and in what form? How do you know this? Can you account for natural variation? How do you know you have? How do your models change with different assumptions? How do you know your assumptions are correct? What is your margin of error?

In 1999 I was asked to evaluate the compliance with ‘Year 2000’ computing requirements with the company I worked for. I was creating a legal document to verify our company had done its darned best to thwart the specter of a Y2K disaster. My evaluation of the data showed a 60% margin of error. That is, we were likely as bare naked as we were dressed for success. My employer said to me, in no uncertain terms, that I will show that the company is 90% compliant. Sure. That is easy. I will tell the truth. And I told my boss as much, to her great displeasure. My final document said the company was possibly 90% compliant. It also said very clearly that errors were so large we may only be 30% compliant, we may know with greater certainty in January of 2000 and the only way to actually know was to reduce uncertainty.

What is missing from our ‘top scientists’ are actual statements on what is fact and what is fiction. By fiction, I mean what are assumptions and not real data. What our top scientists need to start saying and our news agencies need to start reporting are the truths about the weakness of a reported theory and what in the theory is falsifiable. We need to stop believing in truth because someone said it is so. Maybe I should say this more often.

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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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