Sunday, February 21, 2010

Food - favored and not

Here are the students favorite and most vile foods according to taste, texture, or appearance.

First papers: Favorite foods grouped to make a meal:

Things to drink:    Soy milk, coconut milk, green tea, coffee, coca cola.
Appetizers/spreads:    Butter, hummus, peanut butter, olives.
Fruit and veggies:     Blueberries, raspberries, pomegranates.
                avocado (2), sweet potatoes (2), eggplant, pumpkin.
Meat/main meals:    Bacon (2), stovetop chicken, cheese (2), shrimp.
Sweets/desserts:    Honey, ice cream.

Second papers: Dreaded, disgusting  foods, by category :

Vegetables:       Brussel sprouts, beets (3), carrots
Sallad stuff:      Avocados
Pizza toppings:      Mushrooms (3), olives, anchovies
Fruits:      Bananas (2), durian
Condiments:     Horse radish
Main courses:      Brie cheese, American cheese, liver, meat, beef, shrimp
Desserts:     White chocolate
Truly miscellaneous:     Rotten food.

And here is Noah, the boy who favors peanut butter, grape (or apricot) jelly, bologna, lettuce and mayonnaise all-in-one sandwiches, on bread or English, toasted or non, contemplating one of the first foods he was skeptical about.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dover Does Science

Dover visited my class in January, 2009, and he visited again this past January. Obviously he finds chemistry less to his liking than computer work!

We'll see how he likes class this term; the course is "Chemicals in Your Food: The Good, the Bad,and the Indifferent." As far as I can see, there is no food that Dover doesn't automatically classify as Five Star Lovely. That goes for food in his dish, stuff he finds along our morning walk that high school kids have dropped on their way to school, and his food choices run downhill from there, finally reaching items that I don't even want to contemplate.

The first written assignment in "Chemicals in Your Food" was on foods the students had a passion for, and the papers I am now reading are on the chemistry of foods they detest. Both sets of papers have been a extremely well done and lots of fun to read.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Art and Science of Snowflakes

We were promised a dusting of snow a few nights ago, and sure enough, an inch of light and crunchy snow fell in the night. Dover couldn't even wait for sunrise to get outside and make dog snow angels on the terrace. The previous snow cover had been around too long - it was old and worn, melted and refrozen, and had tufts of dead grass showing through the surface. Our yard was so troden upon by Dover's relentless pursuit of tennis balls that it was treacherous going for non-dogs. 

Decades ago, a graduating student gave me a copy of a book that contained 2543 pictures of snowflakes. They were all taken by a Vermont farmer, W. A. Bentley; the book of his photographs (see the bottom photo) was published in 1931, the year he died. I have used the book and photographs in classes and given it, in turn, to many other people. The photographs are unbelievably beautiful.

More recently. I have come across the web site of another photographer of snowflakes, Kenneth Libbrecht, a physicist at CalTech. He also has gorgeous books - picture upon picture of snowflakes (left). I particularly recommend his children's book - The Secret Life of a Snow Flake - which, like the Bentley book, has photographs that are drop-dead gorgeous.

All snowflakes are based on six-fold symmetry, I don't think anyone has ever seen an eight-sided snowflakes except on knitted winter hats. The local science store hangs a mixture of 6 sided snowflakes and 8 sided pseudosnowflakes from the store ceiling in the winter. Both Tom and I, separately, talked to the owner about their error, but our words fell on deaf ears. His defense was that if he couldn't have 8-sided snowflakes, he wouldn't be able to sell dragons.

There is an exquisite precision about the 2453 photographs in Bently's book. Page after page, snowflakes based on six fold symmetry demonstrated in 2453 different crystalline patterns.

As I write, the snowfall of a lifetime is pelting down on Washington DC - buckets of snow in the night, as one news source put it. Up here in New England - we have only the old snow, old ice, and the pittiful pieces of old brown grass peeking through holes in the thin, patchy and slick ice and snow cover. 

[These snowflake photos are used according to the guidelines posted on the websites linked above. Visit the sites, and buy the books! Dover gave his okay to use the picture of his snow angel and tennis ball arrangement.] 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Oh for a nose cozy!

A quick glance at the NOAA web site for our town this morning greets me with the cheery news that sometime this week the outdoor temperature will climb all the way up to freezing. Last week, when I was finishing one class, starting another, working as an assistant on a mediation visit through the diocese, and with Tom working at the train show at the Big E in Springfield, I was left as sole morning stroller for Dover in the close-to-zero weather and the well below zero wind chill. One morning I counted that I had on 19 pieces of clothing, and since my face was feeling the weather, I ruefully regretted not adding a 20th, an extra scarf.

Each Christmas vacation, decades ago, we trekked to Minnesota with our small children. Minnesota - where Tom grew up, where my daughter and her family now live and where the kids don't know what a snow day is - the local inhabitants would think zero was child's play in the overall economy of winter endurance. 

One memorable Christmas, maybe even the one when I broke my knee skating, one of my then teen-age sisters-in-law knit my father-in-law a nose cozy. I thought desirously of this piece of outer wear last week as Dover and I crunched along in the new snow bitter cold, feeling keenly the cold wind on my one remaining exposed body part.

GrandDog Random asks to come in from the cold.