Sunday, June 27, 2010

New tent

We have a very small and light 2-man tent. I bought it just before my first bike trip in 1994. It works for Trish and I. But once we started family camping, we bought a HUGE tent; it has a hinged door, light fixture with remote-control, and I can easily stand in it. We set up two queen-sized mattresses and a playpen inside, and still have ample room for storage. It weighs about 50 lbs, and takes about a half-hour to put up (if I have help).

I wanted something in between, that we could set up in the backyard in short order, and I could "camp out" with Heather and Addie and sleep in it over night. So, I looked on Kijiji and CraigsList, and found someone in Kitchener (near Victoria Park) who was asking a mere $30 for this tent.

The guy that sold it to me was honest and told me that the zipper often sticks and splits (the two sides don't interlock even after the zipper passes over). I bought it anyway, and he was right. The zippers were almost useless... at first. Then I did a google search and found out that zippers sometimes need to be lubricated. Dishsoap did the job.

Looking forward to some backyard camping.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Damage caused by today's earthquake

A 5.0-magnitude earthquake occurred near Ottawa today at 1:41pm. I was at work, and though I didn't feel the tremors (I was standing at the time), my office sustained significant damage.

Before the quake...

After the quake...

Well, I guess it's time to start rebuilding my life.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My science mentor

I volunteer with a science outreach program called Let's Talk Science. They recently sent an e-mail to their volunteers asking them to write a short tribute to their science mentor. That got me thinking; who is my science mentor?

Looking back in time - to my formative years - none of my teachers stand out (though many of them were talented and impassioned). My consistent source of scientific wisdom and awe came from my dad.

I remember a number of specific "learning moments"... when my dad explained a concept to me and I experienced the desired a-ha. For example, my dad was painting our van (with a paintbrush!?!) and he told me that the colour comes from what part of the light is absorbed by the paint, versus what part is reflected. A-ha! I got it, right then and there.

Another time... I was in my room (which I shared with my brother Mike). Our light was a big sphere attached to the ceiling, made to look like a planet or star. I guess my dad was explaining to me and a friend that seasons are caused by the earth going around the sun. I remarked that the sun also causes day and night, and joked, "That must be some complicated rotation." Dad calmly explained that the seasons are caused by the earth revolving around the sun, and day and night are caused by the earth rotating on its own axis. A-ha! There are two different rotations! I got it.

I also remember sitting at our dining room table in the evening with my dad. He'd tell me about how crystals are formed by atoms arranging in a matrix. Or how the hydrogen bomb works. He taught me so many things, and I remember just soaking it all up. And loving every minute.

That's why my dad is my science mentor.

Happy Fathers' Day, dad.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Birth Order Book: A book review

I listened to the audiobook version of The Birth Order Book: Why You Are The Way You Are, by Dr. Kevin Leman.

Sadly, this book fell well short of my expectations. I was hoping for some real insight into what makes a person tick. Instead, this book was more like a long, drawn-out horoscope.

The observations made by Dr. Leman are only that... observations. Very little effort is made to substantiate those observations with objective evidence. Indeed, lots of qualifiers are thrown in as a safety net. So that if his description of first-borns doesn't fit you, then you should think of it as only a guideline.

It's not that I got NOTHING out of the book. I did get a sense of the three basic personality types.

First born
Conscientious, orderly, organized, driven to please mom and dad

Middle child
Peace maker, independent, chooses a different route to recognition than older siblings

Last born
Disorganized, impulsive, attention-seeking, creative

However, those personality classes are very difficult to apply. Why? Because his definition of who is in those categories is vague. You are a first-born if you are the first girl or first boy in your family, or if your next older sibling is at least 5 years older than you. Similarly, you are a last-born if you are the youngest in your family, or if your next younger sibling is a least 5 years younger than you. A middle child is one who doesn't fit those categories.

I have an older sister (15 months older), and a brother who is about 5 years younger. That makes me a first-born and a last-born. But in many ways, I also fit the definition of a middle child. How uninteresting is THAT?! Without a clear picture of what class you're in, the book descends into an arbitrary list of personality types, and my personality spans across all of them. Bleh.