bp's science: limelight (v.1)

Back at the beginning of the nineteenth century, gas light took place of candle light. In actuality, gas light was only a little brighter than candle light. However, gas light was made superior by the material that was heated with a gas flame. In other words, the gas had to burn something, and that something gave off lots of light. The "something" that was burnt was an oxide (a chemical compound containing at least one oxygen atom and one other element). The most efficient way to produce a bright gas light was by soaking material in a liquid mixture of the oxide and then burning it with a gas flame. One such oxide was calcium oxide (CaO), or lime. This material would shine very bright and heat up to very hot, so it was only used in large lights (other oxides were used for smaller lights). These big lights were used to light up stages in theaters. This is where the term "limelight" came from and why we use phrases like "I enjoyed my time in the limelight."

This post based off of facts discussed in Oliver Sack's Autobiography, Uncle Tungsten


Asian soup

I've entered the world of Asian-inspired cooking (I say "inspired" because I'm still a ways away from making an authentic meal). And I like it.


bp's science: riper bananas mean more fructose (v.1)

This is for all of you bakers out there, or if you're not a baker, this is for all of the people who eat bananas but sometime don't eat them in time so they get brown and make banana bread.

Did you know that it is indeed better to make banana bread from overripe bananas? That's because the riper the bananas get the more fructose they have in them. A regular ripe banana is 1.8% fructose, but an overripe banana is 5.3% fructose. This is because as the fruit ripens, the starch is converted into sugar. So wait a few days for that banana to ripen, then make banana bread. And you'll be glad to know that you don't have to wait so long that the banana becomes totally brown. Lab tests show that the difference in fructose levels of overripe, heavily speckled bananas and very overripe, brown bananas is negligible.

:: photo of Oliver holding a banana as it ripens and he sleeps

Facts from The Best of America's Test Kitchen: Best Recipes and Reviews 2012.


A weekend up the coast

This past weekend we headed out for a road trip. You see, Jess' brother was graduating from OCS up in Rhode Island and since that's relatively close to us, we made the trip up to celebrate with him. The drive was quite smooth and Oliver did great with a mix of looking out the window, singing, looking at books, sleeping, and taking in some Sesame Street (this Christmas I bought a portable DVD player, and we all agree that it is worth every bit of it's $59.99).

Once we got there, it was great to see family and to celebrate along with them.

Oliver especially loved the Navy Band. I was impressed too. It was all very neat. Congrats!

After the graduation, we spent our time driving around and checking out Newport, Rhode Island. It is quite the summer destination, but in the winter it can be quite chilly and blustery. No matter! We charged through the wind and snow and checked out the sites.

Here we are on the coast of the Cliff Walk, an area where all of the richest of people built their summer "cottages" during the Gilded Age. This place was thee place to be in terms of the social scene back then. No one stuck around in the winter, but instead, used the mansions for 5 to 8 weeks in the summer.

As we toured the Breakers, a mansion built by the Vanderbilts, I told Jess that I felt like we were taking a tour of the house in Downton Abbey. He responded that the place felt even grander than that to him. One of my favorite parts was the grand porch. As I stood on the cold closed-in porch during our tour, I imagined myself sitting in a wicker chair on a beautiful summer evening. Then Oliver started counting really loud because he discovered there was an echo. Like I said, it was a big porch.

Then we visited the Marble house, another Vanderbilt mansion. There we were told that during the summer these houses can get up to 600-700 visitors per day. We asked how many had been in the day we visited, the answer: 44. To tell you the truth, it was kind of nice to just "hang out" in the houses with no one else there. We were able to ask every question we had and then some to our tour guides.

A while back my Mom visited these places when she was on a trip with a singing group. I remember her telling me that I ought to see them someday and I'm so glad I did. She also mentioned the National American Illustrator's Museum and so we tried to see it. I was amazed that it was opened during the off-season, between the hours of 2-5pm on Friday afternoons. We scurried through the cold and up the stairs but were disappointed to find out that kids under 5 were not allowed. Man! Anyhow, I got my fix by visiting the gift shop.

A wonderful trip indeed. Great to see family. It's just what you need to break up the winter months.


Sure, I'll take a business card

In that past, I've written about going to the car mechanic. Whether it's needing a repair or getting regular maintenance, it's always an adventure in some way, shape, or form. So you can imagine my excitement this morning as I headed out to get a tire fixed. You see, three months ago I was getting a regular oil change when a mechanic found a leak in our tire and then proceeded to patch it up. He said the patch would last "through the life of the tire." Well, the tire has at least 10,000 more miles on it and is now leaking. Much to Jess' dismay, I have resorted to using a bike pump to fill it up (I very much dislike paying for air. 75 cents for 10 or 15 PSIs? What's up with that, right? Okay, it's semi-pathetic, I know.).

Anyhow, we are soon to take a road trip, and even though I know the bike pump would get us to our destination, pumping up the tire would probably take up about 1/2 of our trip, so I bit the bullet and took it in. Before I went back to our old put-a-patch-on-the-tire-that-lasts-only-three-months mechanic, I did a little research on the internet and found a place that was rated 5 out of 5 stars. I was excited that such a place existed since the mechanics closest to our home were rated 1.5 stars and our old mechanic (who was a dealership mechanic) rated 4 stars.

Once we arrived at the 5 out of 5 stars mechanic, we went right in (at 9:37am), our car was looked at, the problem found and fixed (10:17am). Come to find out, the old mechanic did not patch up the tire, he just plugged up the tire from the outside without putting a patch on the reverse side. And he charged more than what the good mechanic charged for putting on a real patch. I was so happy with the service that took less than an hour, the fair pricing, and the respect I received from the mechanics, I took a business card! Since when have you taken a business card from a mechanic? I can't imagine what a 1.5 star mechanic would have done, fill the crack in with bubble gum?

I called Jess to tell him the good news. "I'm surprised," he responded, "I thought you were calling to ask if we should buy 2 new tires or 4 new tires." From the sound of his response, you can tell we've dealt with nerdy mechanics before. But this time, I think, I just think, we've found a good one.


Happy MLK Day 2012

Walking up to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial, 2011



What is childhood without LEGOs? While I'm sure it is still great, I wouldn't want a childhood without 'em.

Right now, Oliver is really into building towers with the LEGO Duplo blocks. He calls these towers houses, restaurants, and trophies.

And here's something interesting: the other day I heard that LEGO makes more money selling it's LEGO-version video games than it does selling it's blocks. What conclusions can one draw from this fact?


Books Read in 2011

Below is a list of the books I read this year, with my ranking from 1 -4.
1 = poor,
2 = okay,
3 = I liked it,
4 = I'd buy it for my library

* indicates a children's book

Before taking a look at my list, I must make a disclaimer. I've found that suggesting books for people is kind of a tricky business. Every person's likes or dislikes of a book are very different regardless of how great a friend they may be or how well you feel you know them. Plus, one never knows what line is drawn for acceptable content and whatnot. Not that I'm all into swear words, but you know what I mean.
  • Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination = 3
  • Flyboys = 2 (I'd give it a 3, but it was way intense)
  • Cold Sassy Tree = 4
  • Animal Farm = 2
  • Where the Red Fern Grows = 3
  • Wild Bill Donovan : the spymaster who created the OSS and modern American espionage (186) = Did not finish, had to return to library
  • 100 Years of Solitude (23) = Did not finish, had to return to library
  • Esio Trot* = 4
  • Outliers = 4
  • Pegasus Bridge = 3
  • Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters = 4
  • Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl = 3
  • The Good Earth = 4
  • My Life in France = 4
  • Between a Rock and a Hard Place = 4
  • George's Marvelous Medicine* = 2
  • Journal of the Dead = 3 (another intense read)
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn = 4
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox* = 4
  • A Fearsome Doubt = 2

This year I was really liking non-fiction and I read several war books. I need to review more of these books because I forget what they are about so quickly. It was a good reading year. Now onto another. Although, I must admit I've got a cooking magazine I'd like to read first.


bp's science: will continue in 2012! (v.1)

Exciting news for all of us out there that like a little bit of science mixed in with our everyday blog reading of people who take amazing photos, make all kinds of crafts, talk about love, laugh about life, and take amazing photos. Sometimes I wish I could be featured with my blog in a magazine or the Washington Post (I can see it now, "boiled pizza" is the greatest thing since sliced bread), but I'm pretty sure that will never happen. haha. oh well.

For this year's opener, I'll start with something I learned while my sister was visiting. We were talking about the moon and we discovered that from earth we can only see one side of the moon. That lead us to ask, "Does that mean that the moon does not rotate?" With this new information we were puzzled. Come to find out, the moon rotates at almost exactly the same rate as the rotation of the earth. Therefore, we see only 50% of the moon (or really 59% since it's only nearly exactly the same). Did you know that? I sure didn't.

Thanks to The Dorling Kindersley Visual Encyclopedia for my facts and figures.


Is it 2012 already?

Yes, in fact it's the 9th.

I guess I'm surprised because we didn't do any celebrating of the New Year around here. Instead, we were on a plane heading home from our Christmas vacation on a couple of red-eye flights.

But before that, Christmas time was grand. We spent it with family and whenever I get with family I have a really good time. And that's not all, I got to see friends, eat good things, and relax. This photo pretty much sums it up for me.

That's right, this year in my stocking I received a Forever Lazy and a Faux-Snuggie. It does not get any better than that. And for those of you who are wondering, yes, I have worn the Forever Lazy around the house and I enjoy it quite a bit.

Then my sister came to visit us here and it was lots of fun. On a beautiful day in January, we visited Great Falls. Here she is showing Oliver and her daughter an insect of some sort.

2011 was good, on with 2012!