Category Archives: Science

MMR

There was a small blurb  in our local paper yesterday about an outbreak of mumps in our city’s middle school. The city Facebook page has a number of antivac and provac responses to this crisis, as crisis it is, as there are several immune compromised students who cannot go to school because they are at risk for terrible infection.

I remember having Rubella, Mumps, Roseaola, and Chicken Pox. Husband had all those and Scarlet Fever as well.  Both our children had the Chicken Pox.  There are many individuals receiving Developmental Disability services in our region because they had mumps or measles or some other childhood illness in the 1950’s that resulted in intellectual disabilities.   Our grandson is now recovering from RSV, and I am thankful his parents are confirmed vaccinators.

What memories do you have about childhood illnesses?  How do you feel about vaccinations?

Surfing Pluto

It’s amazing what happens sometimes when you’re surfing the internet. I started with my daily dose of Sci Show Space, which led me to Gustav Holst’s Suite of Planets.  I realized that Holst wrote The Planets before Pluto was discovered, so he can’t be blamed that after 1930, he was missing a planet (of course now he’s OK again if you want align yourself with the Astronomer’s Union).  Over the years composers have “added” to Holst’s work with various songs about Pluto.

There are serious attempts like Pluto, the Renewer by Colin Matthews):

and very silly (yet funny) pieces, like For the Planet Pluto by the Music Tapes:

And I particularly like this one, Plutonian Nights by Sun Ra:

Then my lunch break was up and I had to get back to work!

Any unsung heroes in your life?

Cookie Mathematics

Wednesday night I made a second attempt at Schwarzweiss, German checkerboard cookies.  The ones from my first attempt  tasted good but I just didn’t get the process by which they miraculously look like checkerboards. They looked like mutated chocolate and vanilla strips.  I found another recipe with better instructions, and they actually turned out.

I never liked math very much. I really disliked geometry. The process to make checkerboard cookies is mathematical and geometrical, requiring the ability to visualize the process (which I could sort of see) and the patience to carry it out (which I really lack). I had to stack the two different colored layers, cut the stacks in half lengthwise, cut them again in half lengthwise, stack them again,  cut the stacks  in four slices lengthwise, stack them again, then slice the stacks into cookies.

It was intriguing to see a recipe that used three different colored doughs, as that seemed to make the process easier with fewer cuts and stacks. I am sure there is a mathematical explanation for that, but it makes my brain hurt to try to figure it out.

What are your feelings toward and experiences with mathematics? What makes for a good mathematics teacher? Is algebra or geometry easier for you?

Storming the Bastille

I have had problems with insomnia since I was a child.  My current sleep pattern is to fall asleep easily, then wake up at about 3:00 am and not get to back to sleep until just before my alarm goes off at 6:30.

I know all the “sleep hygiene” and cognitive tricks for good sleep, but they often don’t work for me. I was gratified to read a recent New Yorker article on insomnia which described insomniacs’ cortisol levels  as so high as to look as though they are getting ready to storm the Bastille.

I know that anxiety and worry trigger the sympathetic nervous system to pump out high levels of chemicals which hinder sleep.  My anxiety and worry are all work related,  and I am hopeful that they will reduce over the next couple of weeks.  Until then, I think I will see if memorizing the lyrics to the Marseilles and repeating them over and over when I wake up at 3:00 will lull me to sleep once more.

How do you deal with insomnia? What puts you to sleep? What keeps you awake?

Are You Batty?

I’ll bet you didn’t realize that October is National Bat Appreciation Month, or that October 24-31 is Bat Week http://www.batcon.org/ . I learned this when I clicked on Tuesday’s bing.com photo https://www4.bing.com/search?q=Common+pipistrelle+bat&form=hpcapt&filters=HpDate:%2220181030_0700%22 

 where I learned that bats:

– help us by devouring tons of insects and forest pests

– and by pollinating some of our favorite fruits

– are one of the largest and longest living species on earth

– the smallest bat – called appropriately enough Bumblebee Bat – has a body about 1 inch long

– white-nosed syndrome has decimated some bat populations since being identified in 2006

When I checked in my Mammals in Minnesota Field Guide (by Stan Tekiela), I found that Minnesota hosts both the Big and Little Brown Bats, the Northern Myotis, and the Red, Silver-Haired, and Hoary Bats.

– these live 15-20 years – females often gather in “maternity colonies” of between 30 and 75 bats, depending on species

– some species live in holes in trees or even under bark, and either migrate or hibernate in winter

– others make their summer homes in attics, church steeples, barns and other buildings; spend winters in caves and mines

– most Minnesota bats are between 1-1/2” and 4”, with wingspans between 8” and 16”

Bats are our friends. One way to help them is to build or buy a bat box, giving them a safe place to roost:

http://www.batcon.org/resources/getting-involved/bat-houses

Got any bat stories? What actor played your favorite Batman, or your favorite Count Dracula?

Death in a Jar of Salsa

I gave one of the nurses at my office a about 40 lbs. of tomatoes this year, since she wanted to make salsa. We had an abundance and I was glad to get rid of them. She said she got other tomatoes, too, and canned 60 jars of salsa. She gave me a jar earlier this week, and it was all I could do to smile and thank her when she handed it to me.  Once I got up to my floor, I flushed it down the toilet.

Perhaps I am overly cautious, but I would never can and process anything in a used Hormel ham hock jar using the original cap.  She hadn’t even removed the ham hock label.  I know that salsa has lots of acid in it from the vinegar, and that her salsa will probably be fine, but, still, this person is a nurse and there are some basic rules of hygienic food preservation that you just never violate. There was a story in the Fargo Forum a few years back about some well meaning woman in the eastern part of the state who invited people for Sunday dinner, fed them home canned peas, and killed half of the guests with botulism.  Those stories  stick with a person who does any home canning.

Tell about some gifts you would have rather not received.  Got any canning or food preservation disasters or horror stories? Am I being alarmist?

Fly Away

I don’t fly as much as I used to, so it’s interesting to see what has changed and what hasn’t at the Minneapolis Airport every time I travel.

Construction. I moved here in 1980 and I believe that some portion of the airport and/or the parking structures have been under construction every single minute.  Currently it’s the entrance to the parking shuttle area (and probably more, but that’s what I saw).

Check-in. If you’ve flown in the last few years you’ve experienced the little kiosks that guide you “gently” through the check-in process on your own.  Now you even get to put on your own bag tags.  A little embarrassing how long it took me to figure this out after watching ticket agents do this for 40 years.  And you get to put your own suitcase on the conveyor belt, unless you run into an agent who is chatty and willing to do it for you.

Security. This has changed and not for the better.  Long long lines (which I don’t understand – the only people going through security are ticketed passengers.  Certainly the airlines know how many bodies they are expecting on any given morning, afternoon or evening?  Why isn’t the security area ever properly staffed up?)   By the time they finally diverted some of us to the other security area, which had been closed earlier, the line went the entire length of the airport.

More Security. No more plastic bins to put your stuff in.  And no more taking your laptop, tablet, kindle, etc. out of your bag. But you still have to take off your shoes if you wear Birkenstocks that always make the security scanner go off.

Shopping & Eating/Drinking. OMG!  Considering that the only things I ever buy in an airport are bottles of water and the occasional refrigerator magnet, it is mind-blowing how many shops (and expensive shops at that) and restaurant/bars there are in the airport.  With the possible exception of rolls of toilet paper, I think you can get just about anything at the airport these days.

Connectedness (if this a word).  Well, there are a lot more places to plug in and get online at the airport, especially in the international gate areas, but considering that every single person that I can see from where I am sitting is online somehow, it’s still not enough.

The changes seem to happening faster and faster so I suppose in a couple of years, this blog will be completely obsolete.

What changes would you like in future airports?