The Color of Water: A Review

A friend of mine recommended this book and since I haven't read non-fiction for a while, I took a break from my current read and picked it up at the library. I then read it, in 2 days. It was quite good.

The Color of Water is about a black boy who grew up in Brooklyn with 11 siblings and a white mother. As he takes steps to discover his mother's background (she was a Polish Jew who came to America with her family) he also discovers himself. The book takes you through both of their lives. Sometimes their experiences are not pleasant and they have some difficult times, but in the end, their strong characters pull them through and they find goodness. His mother emphasizes education, religion (she becomes a Christian), and family and puts these before any other concern, especially questions her son has about race. With humor and excellent story telling, James McBride does an excellent job explaining the two very different places he and his mother came from and how it brought them together.


bp's science: do whitening toothpastes really work? (v.1)

My last year of undergraduate, I took a technical writing class that required a research paper. Whitening toothpastes was the subject. So here's 20 pages of research in a nutshell.

Whitening toothpastes don't change the natural color of your teeth in any way. These toothpastes do not whiten by changing the shade of your teeth, so in that respect they do not whiten teeth. However, toothpastes can claim that they whiten because they contain abrasive ingredients like silica or baking soda. These ingredients act like mini bits of sandpaper, grinding particles off your teeth that have gathered over time from food. So yes, if you've got some stains accumulated on your teeth from different foods, they will be removed by your "whitening" toothpaste. But if you'd like to improve the color of your teeth by a couple of shades, you're going to need something else.


I don't blame you

I know bp's science certainly isn't drawing anyone to this blog. When I thought up the idea, I imagined Today interviews and syndicated column postions coming my way, "Ashley, so you started by just writing one scientific fact on your blog a week and now you are known as the science lady of America." Hey, I like to imagine sometimes, okay?

No, it's not the science. What you really want, what you really come here for, is the latest and greatest of our lives. I know because I've been told as much. I don't blame you. It's part of why I look at blogs too. Still, I like to read a good post even if there aren't any photos. But that's just me. And since I pretty much use the internet to pay bills, read email, and blog, I've got time to read those lengthy posts. Most blog readers aren't like that. Or so I'm told.

So, to combat any fatigue you may feel from science Tuesday, here are a few quick pics coupled with updates.

This kid is growing lots. So much so that I can't stay on top of keeping him clothed with proper sized clothes. One evening I realized all of his pjs were too small, so I had to make-do with odds and ends for pjs. Needless to say, I've since made a shopping trip (and only had to return two items because they were too small for him).

He is now starting to feed himself a little. This happened just today. I thought he had eaten a good portion of a cornbread muffin. Turns out, 3/4 of it was in his lap. Still, success!

This guy is loving the outdoors. He seems to be very curious about most of everything. He's still working on getting used to the feeling of grass though. This walking with the stroller is a fun time.

And Jess and I are loving the outdoors too. We've had a chance to visit some neat places and do some neat things together. I've got to tell you, I dig this guy. I'm lovin' both. And with that, it's an official family blog post.


bp's science: how touch lamps work

Oliver loves to play with the touch lamp (see video), and I can just see his mind working to figure it out. Just last night, Jess and I attempted to figure it out too. We theorized that it worked based on heat, electric charge, or vibration, but we weren't really sure. "Ahh, what a perfect subject for a science post!" I thought to myself.

After some research, I learned that the lamp works on principles of capacitance, or the capacity an object has to hold electrons. The lamp has a certain capacitance (say x), and our bodies have a certain capacitance (say y), and when the two touch, together they have a different capacitance (say z, which I am not certain if z = x + y, but anyway). A circuit inside the lamp notices this change in capacitance and causes the electric switch inside the lamp to turn on. I like to think of the change in capacitance and the electric switch like unto our finger hitting a light switch.

Interested in more, see here and here.


Opening presents at a party? yay or nay

In a recent publication, a reader asked: "Should a child open presents at her birthday party or wait until everyone has gone?" I would make the question universal and say, should anyone at any party open presents at the party or wait until everyone has gone?

My personal opinion: WAIT until everyone has gone. Who likes to watch the guest of honor open her presents anyway? And how many iterations of "That is so cute" can one come up with (actually I'm surprised at how many iterations there are, but that's beside the point)? Plus, I'm always the one who's nervous that my gift won't live up to par, or embarrassed by my wrapping, or worried that she's already got one. My opinion is to wait (and I was suprised to find out that it was the opinion of the etiquette writer's as well), but do you think you could ever pull it off? I mean, have you ever been to a party where presents weren't opened? I haven't. Do you think you could end a party with the presents piled high and untouched?

Wait, there is a party that ends without gift opening, and that party is a wedding. And don't you just love not having to watch the bride and groom open all of those gifts? I'm sure the couple who (re)re-gifted the plastic juice set is especially happy about that. But then again, what if you are the person who gave the totally awesome set of matching Mac laptops to the couple? Now delayed opening doesn't sound all that fun. And I can definitely come up with a "That is so cute" comment for that.


bp's science: yellow leaves on household plants (v.1)

I've got a plant here at home, a Philodendron. I transplanted it from a thriving potted plant and placed it in a bottle of water. Like this.

I've seen other Philodendron grow wonderfully in water like this, but my plant is suffering. For about 2 years it has succeeded in growth, but now one of the leaves is losing it's color and no new leaves are coming out. Why the sudden decline in health? I'm not sure. My problem could be based on one or a mixture of the following.

Insects - not a problem (I've never seen one insect in our apartment, not one!).
Fertilizer - not a problem.
Light - we live on the side where the sun sets, so we aren't getting much direct sunlight here.
Water - it's getting too much because that's what it lives in.
Soil - the plant actually needs some.
Disease - this could be the kicker.

My theory is that my plant has grown all it can using water, but now it needs soil. Something to nourish it because it isn't getting enough sun to create as much chorophyll as it needs to in order to thrive. Because I have seen thriving Philodendron in just water before, we could have another issue on our hands. It could be that mold is growing inside the water on the roots. If this is the case, could transplanting it to potted soil improve it's health and get rid of the mold? Are you an indoor plant pro? What's your take?


A Review: A Room with a View

I read this book fast because I just wanted to find out what happened in the end. And that's a signal of goodness. It's a love story without mush but with apprehension, tension, and pension (ha, you'll get that joke if you've read it, and I wanted all of those words to rhyme). It could have used a bit more embellishment here and there with the story (rather than the social indiosynchrocies of the period), but I quite enjoyed the book. And I must say that I support the notion presented that women need to experience too (because, in many instances, they seem to be the instigators of the experience). Much of the social commentary Forster presents has to do with issues that our society seemily does not deal with, but most certainly, his commentary still has a place today.


A Review: The Princess Bride

This book is very clever, funny, and quite enjoyable. If you enjoyed the movie, you'll definitely get a kick out of the book. I have never been able to read a book that I've seen the movie of beforehand, but this is the exception! The Princess Bride novel has so many hilarious additions and differences that it's worth the read. My husband has never seen the (full) movie and he loved the book (he read it in two days). I wonder what he'll think of the film. I'm sure he'll enjoy.


bp's science: disappearance of de-stressors (v.1)

For some reason, I've been thinking a lot lately about the human brain. Why not, right? It is an amazing thing. It performs many tasks for our bodies, everything from processing information in several forms to regulating our blood pressure, heart rate, balance. Our brain does a lot for us so it just makes sense that we should do a lot for it. I mean stuff like get enough rest, feed it enough good food (think grape juice!), and allow it to de-stress.

For today's discussion (and I want to apologize for being late on my post, we have visitors!), I want to hit on that last point: allowing our brains to de-stress. I find that in today's world, we are bombarded with lots of things that stress our brains out but not enough things that allow us to give our brains a break. I'm going to present three or four things that I believe enable one to de-stress. Then I'm going to explain why I feel those things are harder to get at these days, thus leading to higher amounts of stress in the individual. These are just my feelings, my thoughts, my ashley-is-thinking-about-stuff-throughout-the-day ideas, so take them as you may, but I would be interested in hearing your opinion in the comments section if you've got something to share. With that, here we go.

The first thing I believe that helps one de-stress is relationships. Good, healthy, happy relationships. On a PBS program I watched in January, it mentioned that "it is the quality of our relationships-with friends, family, and the larger community-that ultimately defines our happiness." From my experience, I have felt the spa-like results of a good conversation with my family. I laugh a lot, I feel totally at ease, I'm comfortable, and I seem to be in my element. Laughter, ease, comfort and confidence assists in relaxation. I feel like our relationships are becoming less supported. Families move away from each other (case in point, me), communities don't really get together like they used to (I don't think I'd ask my neighbors if I could borrow an egg), and many people thrive on the friendship that facebook, myspace, or blogging brings. True, each of these examples ruminate in a gray area. People move away from their families, but they visit them sometimes. Communities can be strong and really know each other. Facebook isn't the only friendship most people enjoy. I'm just saying that these things play a part of the lack of de-stress. When you're families away, you've got to find ways to feel that comfort even when you can't go over to their house on a Saturday night. I'm just saying that relationship de-stressors are not as accessible.

Another de-stressor is exercise. Research shows that exercise releases endorphins, or hormones that make you feel good and less stressed. And research shows that working out works out your brain much like it does your muscles, stretching your nerves out (so to speak) allowing them to come back stronger, making stronger connections. As a nation, we don't get enough exercise. The rate of obesity is growing continually. And currently, the first lady is pushing a campaign for kids to exercise 60 minutes a day. When did a kid ever have a hard time getting 60 minutes of exercise in a day? I guess they do now. A shame really. Adults have a similar story. Many drive to work, walk from their car to the elevator, the elevator to their office, and that's about the gist of the exercise. I used to think that the tip "park far away from the store entrance to get more exercise" was pretty ridiculous, but now I understand that if average person did that, they'd be doubling their steps for the day. I think if we got more exercise, our ability to relax our brains, work them out, and make them stronger makes them healthier.

A third de-stressor is nature. Have you ever heard of the nature deficit disorder? From what I understand, it's the idea that children need and are drawn to nature and now they don't get enough of it. Green space is decreasing and the attendance at National Parks is down. This translates into the fact that adults aren't getting enough time in nature either, and I have no doubt that they need it too. There's something great about going on a hike, listening to a bird sing, or just spending an afternoon in the park. To me this is fairly obvious when I think about how staying inside this whole winter has left me feeling. Isn't it amazing how getting out, going on a picnic, touching the water in a stream, or visiting a National Park makes you feel? Getting out in this beauty certainly does wonders for the brain.

And a fourth (but certainly not final) de-stressor I want to mention is reading. And I mean reading a good book. Not an article on the net or a snipet in the morning news on the way to work. But reading a book, flipping the pages, and getting into the story, maybe even laying down on the couch and taking it in. Which leads me to the question: are you guys liking the idea of the kindle? I just can't into the idea of reading a book while looking at a backlit screen. There's something about going to the library, picking up a few books, staking them on the shelves, turning their warm pages, using a bookmark, and finishing. Anyhow, reading as a hobby appears to have decreased. The library always appears to be the busiest where the computers are and not in the rows of bookshelves. People are busy reading the latest on the internet instead of a book. I'm the first to admit it. But I'm trying to read more, because it does help me relax.

I believe other de-stressors are out there that are getting the shaft as well, some of which include: creativity, sleep, and religion. But I think this post has reached it's word limit. I'll save that for part II.


Easter week and the weekend

Can I just say that I had the loveliest of weeks and Easter weekends this year? Well, I most certainly did. My sister and her husband came to visit us. Then we all drove to NYC to see another sister and her family. Delightful. I can't tell you how much fun I had.

Plus, it was 77 degrees during the weekend.