Category: Teaching

Pique the Geek 20121021: Reflections on the Genus Carya

Today was a splendid day in the Bluegrass.  The temperature was in the low 70s, only a very light breeze, and not a cloud in the sky.  The Woman had gone to birthday party for a relative, but when she got home I took over the pumpkin pie that we had baked together last night and we each had a piece.  The crust, described here, was perfect.

I left a generous portion of the pie, and she gave me a big hunk of the pumpkin roll that we also made last night.  I knew that she was going to be busy later in the day, so I went nutting.  My target today was hickory nuts, getting ready for holiday baking.  There is a tree that is a reliable cropper just about half a mile from my house, in the yard of some very nice people who always tell me to get as many nuts as I care to pick up, and so I did.  Within an hour I had enough clean nuts for all of the holiday cooking, and then some.

Popular Culture 20121012: Rituals for the Deceased

I originally was going to write about the new Dark Shadows motion picture, but circumstances have intervened.  It turns out that my dear friend’s mum’s twin brother died either late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, alone except for his little dog.  My friend called me around 9:30 Thursday morning to go next door and try to comfort her mum, and I was honored to do so.

Her mum was a basket case.  She and her brother were Christmas Day babies, 65 years ago Christmas past.  I have a brother, but not a twin, and my brother and I are separated by 14 years.  She and her brother were separated by fewer than 14 minutes, so they grew up together.

I did comfort her, and she cried in my arms.  I could not do much except to try to let her know that I really care, and she appreciated that.  Now for the culture part.

Pique the Geek 20101007: More about Sodium

Last time we started our discussion about sodium, and tonight we shall continue it.  We have pretty much covered the quantum mechanical part and the properties and uses of elemental sodium, so tonight we shall focus on some of the compounds of that element.

Sodium compounds are extremely common and widespread, but not universally distributed.  This is important for reasons to be seen later.

The most common sodium compound is common salt, or sodium chloride, NaCl.  Everyone has personal experience with salt, both as a nutrient and as a melting aid for icy surfaces.

Popular Culture 20121005: Here Comes Honey Boo Boo

Of all of the horrible crap on TeeVee, the TLC program Here Comes Honey Boo Boo amongst the worst.  As a matter of fact, this program is the epitome of redneckery.  This trainwreck revolves around overweight child beauty pageant contestant Alana Thompson, now seven years old, her obese and incredibly stupid mum June, her three sisters (all four of the girls have different fathers), and her father.

I really do not know where to start.  This program is so vile that it would require instruments not yet invented to measure its offensiveness.  But it is my job to give my opinion, and remember I do not always write about things that I like.  

My Little Town 20121003: The Things We Did for Fun

Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River.  It was a rural sort of place that did not particularly appreciate education, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.

Now, I was not raised in the Neolithic period, although some here and in my real life sometimes get that impression.  When I was little we had TeeVee, Channel 5 out Fort Smith, Arkansas (KFSA, now KSFM, that broadcast programs from all three networds (at the time, ABC, CBS, and NBC) depending on the popularity and the content.  We also had Channel 8 out of Tulsa, Oklahoma (KTUL) that had at the time the highest TeeVee transmission tower in the nation.  KTUL was exclusively ABC at the time, so KFSA did not run very many ABC programs.

But my life did not revolve around TeeVee.  There were lots more things to do.  Please come back with me over the years to explore what kids used to do for fun.

Pique the Geek 20120930: Sodium — You Can Not Get Away from It

Sodium, element number 11, is one of the most common elements in the crust of the earth.  Except for school laboratory demonstrations, few people have ever seen elemental (metallic) sodium because it is so reactive and actually has very limited consumer uses (that would be about zero consumer uses).

We have hinted at the concept of periodicity previously, like last week when we saw how similar the chemical behavior of helium and neon are.  The similarities betwixt hydrogen and lithium are much less marked than those betwixt lithium and sodium, mostly due to the extreme low mass of hydrogen, making quantum effects more pronounced.  Thus, sodium is the second alkali metal after lithium even though hydrogen is in the same column in the periodic table.

In other words, the two first row elements, hydrogen and helium, are aberrant because of their low masses AND because they have only the K electron shell in the ground state AND as a corollary, only the 1s orbital that is filled with only two electrons.  Starting with the second row, the L shell begins to be filled and it contains, in addition to the 1s orbital, a 2s and three 2p orbitals.  Row three elements, sodium being the first of which, also contain in addition to those orbitals, a 3s and three 3p orbitals, making them more like the second row than the second is to the first row.

Popular Culture 20120928 — Jethro Tull Thick as a Brick Side 2

Last time we covered the first side of the 1972 album.  The link in that piece goes to the history of the record and has a link to the wonderful album cover and you should look at that if you have not already.

Since this is one long (21:06 minutes) song, we shall do like we did the last time and break it into chunks.  Just hit the pause button after each chunk and we shall discuss.  For your convenience I have also posted the entire lyrics before the embed.  Here we go!

My Little Town 20120926: School Lunch

Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River.  It was a rural sort of place that did not particularly appreciate education, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.

Back when I was going to grade school, lunch was always a welcome break from the humdrum of class, where most of the students did not care at all to learn and teachers who for a large part were not qualified to teach.  Lunch allowed you to talk with your friends and, if you got finished soon enough, take the rest of the period for recess.

In addition to lunch there were morning and afternoon milk breaks.  My friend Rex and I usually were the ones to carry the milk to the different classes because we were good students and could make up anything that we missed (and it is unlikely that we missed anything, because most of the teachers just read out of the book).

Pique the Geek 20120923: Neon, as Inert as Elements Come

Last time we talked about fluorine, the very most reactive chemical element.  Now we add a single proton to the fluorine nucleus and come to Element 10, the LEAST reactive chemical element.  What a difference a charge can make!

Actually, neon is quite common in the cosmos but quite rare on earth.  It is fifth, after the elements that we have already discussed, because it is mostly a light even/even nucleus.  But that is not what makes it outstanding.

There are three stable isotopes of neon, 20Ne, at almost 91% natural abundance on earth, 21Ne, at about a quarter on one per cent, and 22Ne, the remainder.  This gets important later.

Popular Culture 20120921: Jethro Tull — Thick as a Brick Side One

Last time we sort of did the history about this record, and tonight we shall deal with the first side of the album.  It is quite complex, and is just one long song called “Thick as a Brick Part I”.  Obviously, the second side, to be covered next time, is called “Thick as a Brick Part II”.  Here is how I suggest that you read this blog.

Open a second entry of this in a new tab (if you are using Firefox or other browsers that support multiple tabs).  If not, just open a second browser window.  Use the second one to play the music, and I will give you prompts when to go back the the first one for discussion.  I believe that will be the most efficient way to cover one long (22 minutes, forty seconds) bit of music.  I am going to break it into chunks at what I deem to be different songs.

My Little Town — Easy Decisions 20120919: Regular Blog or Time Well Spent

Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River.  It was a rural sort of place that did not particularly appreciate education, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.

Tonight I did not post a blog, because The Woman and I spent just about all of our waking hours together, until five minutes ago, and it was just then 10:50 PM Eastern.  It was an easy decision.

As much as I love all of my online family, I must confess that spending time with her is much more important to me.  I sincerely hope that no one takes offense at that.  I think that I know most of you well enough to feel that you agree with me about this.

It started out slowly, just talking over the telephone, then she asked me to come and visit.  Of course I did!

Pique the Geek 20120916: Fluorine, Something You Have Never Seen

Element 9, fluorine, is the first of the halogens, from the Greek halos, “salt”, and gonos, “to bring forth”.  All of the members of this family tend to form salts with metals, but fluorine is unique amongst the halogens in that it forms compounds with EVERY element ever tried except for helium and neon.

Fluorine is by far the most reactive element, having everything just right for extreme chemical behavior.  It is a small atom that forms a small ion.  Its electrons are tightly bound in its ionic form, but oddly molecular fluorine has a remarkably weak bond for a halogen, only iodine having a weaker one.

The element has been known in the form of naturally occurring salts since the Middle Ages, when these minerals were used as fluxes in metal smelting.  The purpose of a flux is to make the ore and reducing agent mixture easier to melt, thus speeding the reaction since liquid state reactions occur much faster than solid state ones.  A secondary use of a flux is to protect the newly won metal from atmospheric oxygen by forming a protective layer that floats on the metal.

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