Thursday, July 28, 2011

Update week of 7/28

Our new school year began July 1st.  Although we haven't started any official lessons yet, we have managed a few field trips that I can record towards our 1000 hours.  First and funnest was a night orienteering event.   There were actually two courses to choose from--an beginners and a more advanced, and if you wanted to stay late you could actually run both.  The Junior Orienteering coach took the kids on the advanced course for their training.  Because visibility is limited to the range of your flashlight, it is a little more difficult to navigate and reaching a control involves breaking down the course into short legs with identifiable

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Science of Disney Imagineering: Energy

Energy--on 100+ degree days like today, I don't seem to have too much of it.  And with our Disney trip rapidly approaching we need to get through the rest of the imagineering series.  To kill two birds with one stone, we are staying in the air conditioning and screening the latest dvd in the Science of Disney Imagineering.  It appears Asa has energy to burn (the sugar induced kind you may have witnessed in your own children), he's bouncing and bound from location to location and insiders will note from California to Florida.

Asa's Invention:    Asa hasn't built anything in this episode.  Instead he greets us while bounding up and down (until he gets dizzy) on a mini-trampoline in his workspace.

Defined Terms:  Energy, work, mechanical energy, kinetic energy, Law of Conservation of Energy

Disney Rides and Attractions that exemplify the theme:


The Tea cups  are a fascinating example of work and energy because in order to get the full experience the riders have to provide some of the work themselves.  Gears (mechanical energy) underneath the ride spin the entire platform and the three smaller discs.  Riders do their own work on the spinning wheel in the center of the cup.  We learn about the conservation of energy--all the enregy going into the ride must come out in some form.  In this case some of the enregy is turned into heat energy through the friction of the brakes and gears.


Sumitt Plummet:  It is a loonnngggg climb up the stairs to the top of the biggest straight water slide in the world, but once we've reached the top we learn that we've accumulated a lot of potential or stored energy.  This is turned into kinetic energy as we swoosh down, going faster and faster.   In theory, they could have constructed an uphill section of slide and we could have converted the kinectic back to potential energy.  It would have to be slightly lower than the original drop because there was some loss of energy to friction.  Instead the energy is disipated by the dispersal of water at the bottom of the slide and believe it or not some heat energy raising the temperature of the water.  (FYI: Asa reached a speed of 51 mph on his descent). 


Test Track This is the fasted ride in all of Disney World and it takes a lot of eletrical energy.  A bar located beneath the car draws energy to the motor to drive the wheels, the display panel and the audio system.  Heat energy comes from the friction of the brakes (most energy systems end with the creation of some heat).  What you may not know is at the end of the ride the motor is actually switched to a generator function.  As it creates electricity, it resists being turned and that slows the vehicle down.  There is a similar system in Mission Space that actuall creates energy that goes back on the electric grid.

The Finding Nemo Submarines:  Now we enter a phase about renewable and green energy.  We see a glimpse of the solar panels on the Energy Pavillion in Epcot as well as the Disney Studios in California.  Coal, natural gas, and oil are labeled "bad."  Solar, wind, and bio-fuels are labels "good."  The example given are the submarines in Disneyland.  Originally they used diesel fuel but when the ride was refurbished to a Nemo theme the subs were converted to electricity.  They are described as being cleaner but no on carries the system out far enough to realize that somewhere there is a power plant still burning coal in all likelyhood to create the electicity.

Expedition Everest:  This coaster appears in several of the dvds.  I suppose this is because it's the newest thrill ride and they are still promoting it.  The coaster has the longest train of any roller coaster on Disney property.  There are two lift hills on the ride to provide potential energy, but even then the imagineers needed to supplement the system.  Just before both pauses in the ride, electric booster wheels carry the train higher on the track to create more potential energy for the thrills and spills ahead.

Quiz:  15  questions--either true/false or multiple choice


Try it Yourself:  Asa guides us in building a Newton's Cradle.  Perhaps you don't recognize the name but most people have seen them in school or as an executive desk toy.  Someone will have to sacrifice 5 golf balls for the contraption.  Other supples are push pins, fishing line, and tape.  It's certainly do-able, even for youger kids although they may need help with alignment. Asa's cradle is built between two chairs so it's temporary in nature.  I'm sure an enterprising homeschooler could figure out a permanent stand for the device.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Tribute to the Tightwad Gazette

Years ago (dare I say decades? I know it was before the internet) my mother had a subscription to a monthly newsletter called The Tightwad Gazette. The articles were filled with tips for frugal living. Later these newsletters were compiled and published in book format --and you would do well to see if your local library carries them. I still have my three volumes and every time gas nudges upward I'm motivated to peruse the pages in search of another money-saving tip. Some of the ideas are now quaint reminders of the way things used to be--gone is the need to set a timer for long distance calls. Others have stood the test of time. Just a few weeks ago I was helping a homeschooling friend set up a grocery price book to track sales and bargains. My favorite articles were the ones involving math calculations to show how much could be saved by making items from scratch (that was the future accountant in me I suppose). There have been a lot of comercials on TV lately touting the "bargains" by various pizza chains. Dominoes has been selling 1-topping medium pizzas for $5.99. The latest Papa Johns' commercials tout the pizzas they sell are "worth twice" theie sale price of $11. Now pizza is a weekly staple in our family but how do these "bargains" stack up to homemade. Well here are my tightwad calulations.  Normally I try to add some freshly ground wheat into my dough but for ease of math I'm using the recipe as it comes from my bread machine manual.

  • 3/4 Cup Water
  • 1 Tbl oil
  • 1 Tbl  sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 Cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast

For toppings we add (approx):

  • 2/3 cup pizza sauce
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 38 slices pepperoni (yes I counted them)

I recently stocked up on pizza making ingredients from Sam's Club so I'm using current prices                         
Ingredient Price Size Calculations Cost Per Unit Recipe Uses Final Cost
Bread Flour $7.86 25 lbs 3.57 C per lb $0.09 C 2 1/4 C $0.20
Sugar $6.43 10 lbs 37 T per lb $0.02 T 1 T $0.02
Yeast $4.68 32 oz 2.25 t= 1/4 oz $0.04 t 1 t $0.04
Salt $1.38 26 oz 5.1 t per oz $0.01 t 1 1/2 t $0.02
Pizza Sauce $3.88 12 C   $0.32 C 2/3 C $0.17
Mozzarella $10.98 5 lbs 4 C = 1 lb $0.55 C 3/4 C $0.41
Pepperoni $8.38 816 slices   $0.01 slice 38 slices $0.38
Water $0.00   free from well   C 3/4 C $0.00
Oil $2.26 96 T   $0.02 T 1 T $0.02
I found all the ratios for volume per weight on various baking sites on the internet.  The number of pepperoni slices was taken by multiplying the number of slices per serving by the number of servings listed on the  packaging.  I will say that when it comes to toppings I've never been one to cover every square inch of surface.  A taste a pepperoni every bite or two is sufficient.  My pizza already looks like a bargain at $1.27 compared to $5.99 or $11, but let's keep digging.

My pizza measures 12" X 17" (I use the same silpat mat every time) or 204 square inches

Dominoes medium pizzas are 12" in diameter or 113.04 square inches

Papa Johns large pizzas are 16 " in diameter of 200.96 square inches

The volume of the Papa John's pizza is about the same as mine but at 8.6 times the price.  I'd have to buy two Dominoes mediums to get the same volume and it would cost 9.6 times as much.   Since we eat pizza every week, I'm saving over $500 per year by making mine from scratch.  That more than pays for the bread machine I use to make my dough.

(This post is part of The Christian Home blog magazine Issue 24)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Church camp

I sent my baby boy off to church camp yesterday.  If I'd purposely tried to pick a hotter week I don't think I could have done any better.   It is his first overnight camping experience (aside from our front yard) and I so want him to enjoy it.  Camping was a big part of my summer growing up and the source of many fond memories.  As we unloaded his gear from the car and headed toward check in I wondered why none of those memories included the sweltering heat.  I suppose it's like the pain of childbirth, it fades away

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Schnickelfritz conquers the slides

I have to brag that for a small rural town, we have a wonderful pool.  There are spashing features in the shallow side for the the little ones.  The gentle slope of the walk-in area provides a place for moms to sunbath and still enjoy the cool water.  There are two 2-story, squiggly slides affectionately named ketchup and mustard by the local kids (each brightly painted to match their name-sake condiment).    But looming in the 8 ft section where the afternoon sun doesn't shine are two short slides.   After sliding down the enclosed tubed, the swimmer faces a two foot drop into the deep water.  The blue one is straight and the yellow one has a 90 degree turn at the top.  These two slides kept my son from having an enjoyable day at the pool ALL last summer. 

He so desperately wanted to go down them, especially when his younger friends did so without fear.    Sometimes he would get in line  but always give way to those behind him and eventually step out of line all together.  He almost breathed a sigh of relief when the lifeguards would block off the steps to the slides--apparently the glare of the setting sun would make it hard to see in the water, creating a safety hazard.  I wavered between offering bribes if he was successful to feigning indifference to try and relieve the burden he was placing on his shoulders.   He would spend precious swim time studying the slides from every possible angle of the concrete pool deck.  He would watch the happy sliders and interview them as them climbed the ladders out of the water.  He did everything just shy of asking the pool manager for the scematics.   If knowledge was all that was necessary to overcome fear this ordeal would have been over a long time ago.  The stumbling blocks were always the same: the water was too deep, the drop was too high, he wasn't allowed to wear his goggles.

Today was our first trip to the pool this season.  As we left the car my Schnickelfritz informed me that today was the day, he would go down the slides before the friends we were meeting arrived (I suppose he wanted to avoid the pressure as this was the younger friend who was already a slide veteren).   I prayed that this was not the beginning of another long summer.   We went over the facts together: he'd already been in deeper water, he had left his goggles off before.   He marched straight to the slide as I went in search of lounge chairs in the shade.  The next thing I knew HE HAD DONE IT!  My mother's ears picked up his voice shouting to the lifeguard what he'd just done.  I got a hearty thumbs up as he got in line for the other slide.  And then it was as if he had to make up for last years lost summer as he went down both slides over and over and over.

Now how do I tell him that the Church camp he's going to next week has one of those airbags that launches them into the lake like on Wipeout?

Friday, July 1, 2011

How I spent my summer vacation

It's July 1st which means technically we've started a new school year here in Missouri.  We're not starting our "official" lessons yet but any hours I log now (swimming lessons and field trips) will count towards the 2011-2012 year.  So how did I spend my June vacation?   You can read about my adventures picking black raspberries--HOT and HUMID.  I would have like to done some bulk cooking and freezing of meals but the thought of spending the day in a hot kitchen was NOT appealing.  I may feel like doing that when the weather turns--say October.

I did spend some time planning our lessons.  Schnickelfritz will be finishing MUS Epsilon and moving on to the next level around mid-year.  We're going to finish the Institute for Excellence in Writing Level A that we got to review for last year's Homeschool Crew.  Another review item we continue to use is All About Spelling although we've moved on to Level 3.  A first for me will be collaborating with another homeschool mom using Apologia's Land Animals of the Sixth Day (we've skipped the Swimming Creatures in order to do this, but I think having other kids for the experiments will be so beneficial).   I'm also creating my own Missouri history course using an out of print book, Where Rivers Meet.   This is a real treasure I found at a used book sale covering history in our area before the arrival of European explorers up to the St. Louis World's Fair.   Finally I'm still trying to decide what to use to teach cursive writing.  This has been a real struggle for me as I gave up using cursive as soon as the teachers would let me.  In reality, we'll be learning cursive together.  I'm also starting my third year on the Homeschool Crew so we'll have other products to try through out the year and usually they turn out to be a blessing we never knew we needed.  I purchased a used binding machine on ebay so that I can be more organized this year.  I'll post more about it soon but for now I've made a school planner, a Missouri history timeline, and printed and bound several e-books.

It hasn't been all work and no play.  We're planning a Disney World vacation this September (reason #997 to love homeschooling--you can go to the parks when everyone else is in school).  I've been playing with my Cricut to make some Disney themed t shirts, autograph books, water bottles, etc.  I've also been taking a food preservation course through our local extension office--well I've got to do something with all those raspberries.  We've covered  water bath and pressure canning, freezing foods, making jams and jellies, salsas and pickling.  The classes have been very full  and the best part is we raffle off what we've preserved at the end of class.  I've gotten sliced apples and a 4-berry freezer jam so far.  

Some of the topics I hope to cover this year include doing Disney on a budget,  our homemade Missouri history course,  and of course the products we review for the Homeschool Crew.
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