October 2008

Monthly Archive

Micro-Biology, Macro-Confusion

Posted by on 28 Oct 2008 | Tagged as: education, Uncategorized

The full-time program I am taking is called “Microbial Ecology.” The Ecology bit I understand. The Microbial stuff … I know the microbes are important, and the way they function is important, and I am enjoying bits and pieces of the learning, but I am handicapped in having no way to know which pieces of information are fundamental and which are, if not optional, at least side-notes to the basics. I would like a “skeleton” of sorts to hang the flesh of it all on.

And just as I think I have grasped something, a new piece of information comes along that confuses me about what I already know. Then, just as I start to get myself back on track, something else blindsides me. I don’t get any time to rest, or recover. Just one more BIG IDEA after another.

It is as if everything is very very important and if I don’t learn it all I won’t ever understand any of it. This is an unfamiliar feeling, and an uncomfortable one.

This will be a valuable lesson when I am a teacher in a classroom all my own. In the meantime, it is frustrating and I spend part of each day in tears and the rest either trying to catch up to an unknown, elusive goal or doing the other part of my life: being a mother.

My greatest fear

Posted by on 26 Oct 2008 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

All my life, my worst fear has been a house fire. When I was very little, somewhere between four and five, a family we knew lost everything in a fire. I have a few images in my memory from my mother going through our closets and taking things we could spare. Since that time, I have always feared fire more than anything.

Soon after we moved in to our current home, I was working in my office when I smelled smoke. I thought it was the neighbor’s burn pile (remember it’s a rural area, people still often burn yard waste) and our doors and windows were open, and didn’t think much of it. Then I realized it didn’t smell right. Finally tracked it down to a child’s bedroom. He had found matches (still don’t know how, they were UP and behind things) and had started a small fire in his bedroom. Right next to his dresser, and had caught the corner of a large cardboard box on fire as well. I put out the fire (vinyl floor tiles smell really bad when they burn), called the fire department and proceded to have a complete breakdown. NOTE: the fire alarms had NOT sounded, even though they were technically working.

In the last couple weeks, five children have died in fires in the local area, in two housefires. Both fires apparently accidental. Such tragedies for these families and communities!

This is my greatest fear — less so now that my children are older, but still… Fire is so dangerous. If you have a wood stove, please get the chimney cleaned regularly — creosote builds up inside and can catch on fire, making the pipe hot enough to start fires on flammable things it touches (wood, insulation, roofing); make sure the chimney isn’t blocked by debris from above, either. Keep flammable objects away from heat sources — papers, books, clothes and other fabric items, wood piles… toys. Don’t leave cloth items on or near a cookstove, either. Keep hotpads and towels away from the burners!

Make sure you have both smoke and heat detectors (if you can, otherwise, at least make sure the smoke detectors have fresh batteries regularly) in all the recommended places. If your fire detectors/alarms are wired in to your house, know they have a limited working life and replace them on schedule. And I suggest smoke alarms for every bedroom…

Stay safe, even as you stay warm this winter.

Good Voting Records

Posted by on 21 Oct 2008 | Tagged as: citizenship, editorial, musings, politics, Politics and War, Uncategorized

Well, they won’t all vote, but at least about 75% of the people in my state who are eligible are at least registered. Here’s a link to the news story about it.

Applause for the people who are registered… forgive me for not holding my breath to wait for you to actually exercise your right. I have my absentee ballot in front of me, and the voter’s pamphlet, and looking at the internet for more information on a couple ballot issues and races. It takes time, and effort, and it’s not a lot of fun. But it is actually a good exercise. AND, done right, voting is the cornerstone of a robust democratic system.

Maybe I will hold my breath… maybe it’s worth holding out the hope that all of us, working together, will return the United States to a robust democracy where citizens, not corporations, control the direction of our government. Maybe it’s worth dreaming of a day that politicians remember that they also come from the electorate, and start making decisions to benefit the nation as well as local communities.

Let’s make this election really count.

Poverty Again (blog action continuing)

Posted by on 21 Oct 2008 | Tagged as: blog action, Peace Making, Politics and War, poverty, social justice, Uncategorized

This article was on the BBC today.

More inequality in rich nations

The infectious nature of microbes

Posted by on 19 Oct 2008 | Tagged as: children, education, environment, Gardens and Life, good things, parenting, school, Uncategorized

I am doing a project for this quarter, checking to see what-all grows in my home compost. Today the younger stidkid helped me out, taking photographs for me of the various spread plates I have going from a dilution series I started earlier this month. He also helped count the colony forming units (CFUs) for me. He did not have to touch anything “ooky”, and no microorganisms were harmed in the process of our looking at them today. Still, it was pretty cool.

Here he is, looking through a dissecting microscope at some of the plates. The two pics that follow show a “bullseye” fungus (I think) from the top of the pile and a “collection” (bacteria, fungus and possibly yeast) from the middle of the pile are at the setting that is “32” — I think that is total magnification on this microscope (not needing to add in the additional magnification from the eyepiece), but there wasn’t anyone else around to confirm this.

never too young to learn

never too young to learn

interesting bullseye pattern

interesting bullseye pattern

many organisms grow in compost

many organisms grow in compost

I hope to get more information on this later this week.

The final pic is through a compound microscope (I think that’s the right term), on the lowest setting which is magnification of 40. You can see a beautiful egg-yolk colored bacterium growing nestled inside a filamentous fungus of some sort. Very cool stuff. I only had a regular ruler to check scale with, but I believe the bacterial colony is about 4mm across, and the fungal colony is at least 10 mm, based on their relative sizes in this picture. The filaments of the fungus are about 1/10 mm across I think.

too cool to describe, yello bacteria in grey fungus

too cool to describe, yellow bacteria in grey fungus

This was like “take your kid to work day” he got to see where I am two days a week, and participate in the research I am doing. All of a sudden, he is energized and interested in what I am studying. He might not become a microbiologist, but then neither will I. But we will both have a better appreciation for what the real ones do.

Stidkid in his Tux

Posted by on 18 Oct 2008 | Tagged as: children, Uncategorized

He wore it for the first time officially this past Thursday. Isn’t he handsome!

stidkid - handsome like his daddy!

stidkid - handsome like his daddy!

November’s “Spare Time” Project (yeah, right)

Posted by on 18 Oct 2008 | Tagged as: Interesting Websites, NaNoWriMo, Uncategorized, wordplay, words, writing

I will participate in National Novel Writing Month again this year, but I doubt I will get the 50,000 word limit this time.

That’s okay, I haven’t been writing much the last few months because of school, and it would be a good challenge to work toward. I suppose I will have most of the last week of November without classes. Let’s see… 50,000 words over 7 days in the last week + four weekends (8 days) = about 3400 words per writing day! A piece of cake, right?

Anyway, here is the pretty large icon that links to NaNoWriMo for this year!

NaNoWriMo Participant Badge

NaNoWriMo Participant Badge

Stidkid #1 and the Big Brass Band

Posted by on 16 Oct 2008 | Tagged as: children, citizenship, education, Family Matters, fun, Gardens and Life, Giving, good things, Uncategorized

Well, it’s not the best title, it was actually four trumpeters and their conductor from the student orchestra. They played a couple lovely baroque fanfares for an event downtown that promotes after-school activities.

Not sure what the piece was, will try to remember to ask the kiddo tomorrow. He’s the one on the left, btw, the teacher is on the right.

I am proud of my child for many reasons, the music is, of course, beautiful. But this was an extra activity, with no extra benefits — something to enhance the community. THIS is the sort of citizen we need in our world. Someone who helps in the ways they can, in the local sphere, to bring pleasure or assistance to others.

Well done, stidkid!

Blog Action Day — Poverty

Posted by on 15 Oct 2008 | Tagged as: blog action, citizenship, economy, editorial, education, Family Matters, Gardens and Life, Giving, good things, Green Living, health, hope, Interesting Websites, musings, parenting, Peace Making, politics, Politics and War, poverty, social justice, Uncategorized

Okay, I have posted a few links in the days leading up to today. As I was thinking about what to write, I decided to talk about what poverty is (and what it isn’t). And a little bit on abundance. This is my own perspective/opinion, if it helps you, great — if not… would love to hear your opinions, too.

I think that poverty is partly defined by what one lacks, and is also partly a matter of perspective. I’ll start with the second point first: in our area, most families have at least two cars, few students get free or reduced lunches, and at least in my acquaintance most people have health insurance. So a family with only one car, whose children receive free lunches and doesn’t have health insurance appears poor. But in another community I have lived in that isn’t that far away, few people own more than one beat-up car, no one has health insurance and nearly every child gets a free school lunch. In that community, the family with two cars that has to pay full price for school lunches appears well off. Obviously, if everyone around you doesn’t have enough to eat then you are all poor…

Perspective can cause you to “feel” rich, or to “feel” poor.
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Blog Action Day -1

Posted by on 15 Oct 2008 | Tagged as: blog action, caring, citizenship, Gardens and Life, health, hope, Interesting Websites, Making a Difference, Politics and War, poverty, Uncategorized

Okay, probably by the time you read this, it will be the middle of Blog Action Day and I will be working on my post. But in case you are a nightowl and need something to read, consider this: wealth and health are intertwined.

In a few countries (Canada and Sweden, among others), a form of universal health care exists so that all citizens have access to at least a minimum amount of care. But in at least some of those places (Canada and England for sure…) if you want something done quickly, or something that isn’t completely urgent, you need to pay out of pocket, or even go to another country for care. Something not available for the average wage-earner.

In my own country, supposedly one of the wealthiest in the world, no one has a “right” to basic health care, except in emergencies, so many people without the money to pay for an actual office visit wait until ailments are no longer curable — or very expensive to treat — before seeking medical attention. At the same time, many white-collar workers can make an office visit the same day for a teenager’s pimple because office visits are “covered” with a small co-pay; an insurance company pays for most of the actual visit’s cost. There is a huge disconnect when the people who actually do the physical work can’t get medical care for their physical needs.

Here is a CNN article from 14 Oct 2008 about the WHO’s assessment of healthcare worldwide.

Poverty, a universal handicap.

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