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Monday, July 21, 2014

Creative Solar Thinkers

I read an interesting article in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.  Scott Brusaw, an electrical engineer in Idaho State, has come up with an intriguing idea.  Why not use solar power to do more than provide light and heat?  Why not put them on the ground and use solar energy to make parking lots, driveways, and bike trails?  No, not to make solar covers for these items, but to cover the parking lots, etc. with the solar panels.  Lay them down and drive on them just as you would do with asphalt or other roadway materials.

Brusaw's company, Solar Roadways, uses a knobby, tempered glass to create the road covering.  He has tested the panels by driving heavy equipment on them, and is convinced they can eventually be used for highways as well.  That would be something to see.  They should keep the snow and ice melted away, and, he says, that there could be lighted LED messages in the panels as well.

They have installed a prototype parking lot already for their testing and to demonstrate their durability and use.  Evidently they still must figure out how to store the energy generated.  But at least they are thinking in a creative manner, looking for something that we may all be using at some point in the future. 

Personally, I hope they are successful, and the solar panels are one day taking us from one part of the country to the other.  And when the blizzards come, and the snow is so deep on the road sides, wouldn't it be wonderful to travel a clean, brightly lit, precipitation free highway?  Can you imagine transportation without cars sliding all over the place and winding up in ditches or worse?  I think it would be a treat to see and use. 

So good luck to you, Mr. Brusaw.  May your tribe increase and prove beneficial to all of us.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Pat Cleburne Steam Fire Engine

The Little Rock, Arkansas, fire department received a new steam fire engine in 1867, which was put into use as The Pat Cleburne.  This was celebrated in the news media of the day as follows:

          From the New Orleans, Louisiana, Crescent dated April 6, 1867, as reported in the
          Arkansas Gazette, April 14, 1867. 

     The New Steam Engine Pat Cleburne  The second class double Amoskeog engine Pat Cleburne, on its passage through (New Orleans) to Little Rock, was tried yesterday afternoon at the head of Canal Street.  ... it is the first fire engine of the kind that has been seen in this city.

          From the Arkansas Gazette, reported April 16, 1867.

     The Pat Cleburne  The new steam fire engine was taken ... for a trial of its capacities.  ...
     One of the streams was then cut off and an inch and one-eighth nozzle put on the other.  Through this, the water was sent to such a height that it was painful to the eyes to follow it upwards. ...
     The water in the cistern was beginning to get low, and the engine was removed ... and ... soon pumped the cistern full, showing that the Pat would make a first class garden pump or street sprinkler.         


Thursday, July 10, 2014

You Say What Is Against The Law??

Let's take a look at another ten legal issues that have arisen across the states over time.  Again, someone somewhere decided at some time or other that constituents were upset over a specific issue, enough to push this issue to some legislature's attention, enough to get the laws passed.  Remember, I found these laws on the Internet so I cannot vouch for their veracity or the time of their passage.

New Mexico       -  In the town of Las Cruces you may not carry a lunchbox down
                               Main street.
New York           -  It is against the law to slurp your soup.
North Carolina   -  Attention all cotton farmers!!  You may not use elephants to plow
                               your cotton fields.
Ohio                   -   And fishermen must also be diligent when enjoying their passion.  It is
                               illegal to get a fish drunk in this fair state.  (If you take booze to the
                               lake or river, plan on consuming it yourself.)
Oklahoma          -   It is illegal to wear your boots to bed.  (Do you think the ladies had
                               something to do with getting this law enacted?)
Oregon               -  One must wear "suitable clothing" when bathing.  (Is the "suitable
                               clothing specified in the law?  I just don't know.)
Pennsylvania      -  This law is related to the one in Oregon.  In William Penn's namesake
                               state you may not sing in the bathtub. (I wonder if they later updated
                               it to include singing in the shower?)  
Rhode Island      -  In this state, you may not bite off the leg of another person.  (I don't
                               even want to think about the reasoning behind this law.)
South Carolina   -  Evidently a pious state at the time, the powers that be passed a law
                               making it illegal to do any work on Sunday.  (I have a feeling this
                               one has gone by the wayside by now.)

So watch your actions, fellow citizens.  You do not want to run afoul of the law in any of our fair states.  In reading this and the past lists, how many are you in danger of doing?

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Future Looks Good

As you travel through life you are always running into the perpetual nay-sayers.  So often folks predict a dire future for all of us because the young people don't want to learn or do anything productive.

Now it is true that the negative captures the public attention far more than the positive.  But the positive is out there, and sometimes it rears a beautiful view of something wonderful that is about to happen.  Oh, what a wonderful thing it is to see that fine future and the possibilities that loom before us, stretching far into the future.

One such story came our way this week.  Two years ago a 12 year old Florida girl, Lauren Arrington, won 3rd place in a the zoology category of a science fair.  The daughters of a couple of scientists, she used her inquiring mind to ask questions of some value about lionfish.  Her results came to the attention of Craig Layman, a professor working with graduate students from Florida.  They replicated Lauren's study and came up with results that supported her findings.

Their studies have now been published in the Environmental Biology of Fishes, and the good professor gives Lauren credit for her work.  Good for her for getting her study extended by the grownups, and good for the professor and his group for including her work by citing it in the journal.  This is the way things should be done, in my opinion, with all working together to figure things out, and showing a willingness to share in the glory when the results are in.

With folks like this in the world, we must get some good information that can eventually be of value to the world.  Way to go, people.  My hats off to all of you.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Summer Becomes Bearable

It's July.  And in the Northern Hemisphere that can mean a lot of long hot days.  It's a time you want to get out early in the day or later after dark.  To traipse about outside in the full blast of summer heat in late afternoon can be miserable.

Yet, what could it be without man's inventive spirit?  We have come to expect comfort even in the heat of summer, the cold of winter.  We not only expect it, we demand it.  Why?  Because we are now used to it and oh, how we hate to lose something we really enjoy.

I'm glad I live in a time with such creature comforts.  Back in the 1880's there was no air conditioning.  Some of the history of creation and inventions can be a little murky without clear documentation.  But I've read that in 1882 Schuyler Skaats Wheeler invented the fan.  A few years later Philip Diehl added an electric motor.  Then a few more years later, Diehl added an electric light to it.

Ceiling fans, of course, do not cool the air.  It moves the air around people and in a still, hot atmosphere the air movement makes one feel cooler.  It was a big improvement to man's life.  And the fans became common in a large part of the country, especially in the more urban areas.

In the more rural areas of the country, such amenities were not as available.  Many years ago we met a lady who was quite elderly.  The discussion turned to ceiling fans.  She said one day her family got in the wagon and their father took them to a town not too far away, for he had heard of a family there with an electric fan.  All the way over they discussed what they expected to see.  She said they decided before they arrived the contraption would be shaped like a paper hand fan with a motor moving it up and down to blow the air on them, just as a paper fan pushed the air across the face.

They were wrong, of course.  But can you imagine the excitement of going to see an unusual (to them) contraption that would make life easier and more enjoyable, even in the pulsing heat of deep summer?  When was the last time you were excited to see something new? 

Monday, June 30, 2014

A Little Spice In Life

Last week I suffered a short bout of abdominal distress, likely caused by eating the wrong food.  My grand daughter brought me some ginger ale and crackers.  I like ginger ale, but it's just one of those things I forget about most of the time.  It does seem to help with stomach distress.  Some say it's merely a placebo effect, and that may be.  Who cares, if it seems to work?

Ginger beer has been around since about the mid 1800's, I believe.  Later, a different carbonation process eliminated the alcohol though the taste appeared to stay pretty much the same.  So now, it's used more as a mixer for alcohol if the buzz is desired.  But it does have a great taste that is decidedly different from other colas and sodas.

The ginger taste has been used since about the eleventh century in Europe.  The spice is a preservative for pastries and bread, which is a great asset.  But the taste is delectable as well.  Sometimes the spicy batter was mixed up and served as a cake, sometimes as a flat cake - often cut in shapes denoting humans, animals or celestial stars, and often as a thick slice of bread.  You know what?  I like them all.  Again, a taste that is often set aside for long periods of time until I rediscover a recipe or boxed mix and just have to indulge.

And let's not forget the Christmas season when you often see gingerbread houses decorated a la Hansel and Gretel style with enough candy to boggle the mind of any wicked witch enticing hungry children into her home.  Our local Max Milam Library has an annual event of decorating them as an event for the kids in the area.  They actually use graham crackers for the houses, and when you have about 150 kids show up for the event you can see the necessity of fast, sturdy construction.

I have consumed more ginger ale this week, for the taste enjoyed last week slung a craving on me.  I  have yet to bake any gingerbread, but it could very well be in my near future.  And I will certainly enjoy the treat.

Do you have a special treat that may go forgotten for periods of time?  I'd love to know.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Statistics Prove ...

     Definition of Statistics:  The science of producing unreliable facts from reliable figures.  - 
          Evan Esar

Statistics can be the bane of human existence.  There are those who love to throw them in your face and think that settles any argument.  And there are those who have no belief in such facts, thinking they are made up or distorted to prove an argument with no way to quit talking and find the proof of the statement.

     Statistics show that of those who contract the habit of eating, very few survive.  -
          George Bernard Shaw

     Statistics are no substitute for judgment.  -  Henry Clay

While in college I was required to take a statistics class.  Since Psychology was my minor, I decided to take the class under that department.  This turned out to be a very wise decision.  Dr. Hines made the class fun as well as informative.  He would throw out a statistic and open the class to discussion before getting down to the work for the day. I enjoyed school and had no problem entering into the discussions.

One day he opened with this:  Statistics prove that males reach their intellectual height at the age of 30, after which they show a slow gradual decline.  Females reach their intellectual height at the age of six, with a very sudden decline after that age.

No one said anything.  Finally he said, "Well, Karen, what's your take on this?"

I sat back in my chair in what I assumed was a contemplative pose and took my time, then gave my reply as such:  I took my first college class 15 years after graduating from high school.  I am now 35 years old.  I am taking 21 hours per semester and have a 3.78 grade point average.  (Bolting upright in my chair, I slapped my hands on my desk and exclaimed):  My God, what was I at six?

Was I a genius at six?  No.  But at 35 I definitely was a motivated student.  I would never have taken that course load or made those grades at 18 or 19 years of age.  What was the difference when I did go?

I married right out of high school and two years later had a baby.  We didn't have a lot of money, but at the age of 32 we had reached a point we could finally think of buying a house.  Then my husband, bless his heart, started a conversation.  He said, yes we could get a house, but he thought it would be better if I went to college.  Wow! 

He was a firefighter and they worked 24 hour shifts.  He volunteered to take on extra jobs so I could quit mine and devote myself to college full time, and get out without being in debt.  Our 13 year old son was capable of doing a lot for himself at that time.  So I tackled college with zest.  How could I not?  If he was working that hard, it would have been impossible for me to just take 12 or 15 hours, take off summers, and just fluff through.  And I was not interested in the college social scene.  In my heart I believed I should be willing to work at least as hard as he did and get through as quickly as possible.

As a result in 3 years and 11 months I completed all coursework, did my practicum in speech pathology, took my national exams, and completed the thesis, graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor's in communicative disorders and, in that same time frame, also completed all work for a master of science in speech pathology.  Just under four years of college and two degrees.

Am I proud of what I did?  Of course.  Does it make me extra intelligent or superior in some fashion?  Absolutely not.  Would I insist that all college students follow my path?  No.  But it does skew the statistics if you look only at the work and intellectual ability.  Motivation and interest in the endeavor can be just as important when you undertake a major task.

     Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination. -
          Vin Scully

Whatever the statistics in your life, may it all be good with a large dose of love and joy thrown in.