Thursday, May 24, 2012

Millions of Molecules

 As some people might have gathered from my Nutty Professor post, I like chemistry. So Mum bought me a  molecule construction kit. This morning, armed with the kit and my trusty chemistry textbook, I set out to explore the strange world of molecular bonds. I started with diamonds...and quickly found that I like the molecular structure of diamonds.

Then I found another molecule to build: Methane. It sounds a bit weird to be making methane for fun but oh well.


Ammonia was fun to make. It looks a bit like a little robot.

This one just looks wrong. It wouldn't sit still for the camera so the picture is a little blurry. My Hydrogen Fluoride
Hydrogen Fluoride
So I had a good morning. Making these molecules was a little like playing Lego, except it was educational and Lego isn't.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Camp NaNoWriMo

Last November I participated in NaNoWriMo and enjoyed it. Well, I enjoyed it when I wasn't pulling my hair out over my stubborn novel which refused to get written. So when Imogen discovered Camp NaNoWriMo I was delighted. Here was a chance to get two novels written in super speed. We signed up as soon as possible. Now all I needed was a story.

So I sat down at my computer and began my planning. I quickly found that I have the attention span of a fly and could easily become distracted by the slightest thing. After half an hour's work I decided what I had wasn't any good and began all over again. And it happened again. Imogen was filling a notebook with ideas and that seemed a good idea. So I grabbed a fresh clean notebook, dumped it on the table and look at it blankly. I hadn't a clue what to write in it. 

After a nice long session talking to Imogen I found found an idea to write down. Then the ideas started flooding in. My notebook pages were covered in scribbles. Of course I hadn't a clue whether these ideas were any good but they were a start. Random ramblings on characters I couldn't possibly leave out, evil ideas for my villain and hundreds of possible names for my heroine who was maddeningly vague poured out into my notebook. Who was she anyway? I could name everyone else in my story but the heroine and that was really getting me annoyed.

When I sat back down at my desk with my plans in front of me, my fingers began to fly. I pounded out my ideas and tried to put them into some sort of order. Probably I failed and I still changed the name of my heroine every couple of minutes but I was getting somewhere.

Now my planning is sort of going on track. True I get distracted easily and hate leaving any of my amazing secondary characters out of the story but I getting there. I have even decided on a final name for my heroine. This time I'm determined to keep it. Unless I find an even better one. Hopefully by the time I reach Camp NaNoWriMo next month I should have some sort of a plan. If I don't accidentally delete it like I did last time...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Nutty Professor

Chemistry to me means explosions. I know there are other ways to use chemistry. Neon lights don't explode, neither do mobile phones. I think everyone would be very surprised if things like that started happening. But I like the exploding sort of chemistry best. What's better than seeing an innocent bowl of water explode when a tiny itty bitty piece of sodium is chucked in?

I've been watching videos on the periodic table and love it. I didn't know before that I liked chemistry but now I do. Funny the things you find out. That was interesting but it was all watching and no doing. So Mum got me a chemistry kit. It came with Litmus paper, tiny plastic cups and everything that an evil scientist would need to destroy the world.

"Why don't you give Sophie and Gemma-Rose a chemistry lesson?" Mum asked.

"Um," I replied, sounding incredibly intelligent. "Er, yes."

"When do you want to do it?"

I scrambled for a day.


That left me enough time to actually work out what I was doing. Wednesday dawned, I planned to devote a good part of the morning to planning my amazing chemistry lesson. I would dazzle Sophie and Gemma-Rose with my chemistry knowledge. What actually happened? The morning disappeared. We went running, Imogen and I went for haircuts, lunch interrupted my planning. So the morning passed without me doing a tiny bit of planning.

I was determined to get some planning done before the girls came for their lesson. I wasn't going to turn up, grin foolishly and tell them that I hadn't got a clue what I was talking about. So I grabbed my trusty chemistry text book and got thoroughly confused. Out of my kit I had picked the Litmus test. So I had to look up acidity and pH. But the chemistry book was so confusing. I just wanted to know about the litmus test and what acidity actually is. But they wanted to tell me who defined acidity when and how an acid is named. Some time later I dumped the chemistry book. This wasn't getting me anywhere.

"What will I do?" I wailed to Imogen.

"Search the Internet," she replied calmly.

Filled with new hope I searched the Internet. Almost immediately I got results in a form I could understand. Grabbing my trusty notebook and pen I started scribbling. Interesting facts popped up. Hydrogen ion causes the acidity, blue litmus paper goes red in acid, fish will die if the pH in the water goes below five. Finally I felt prepared.

Armed with my notebook, a pile of plastic cups, some strips of litmus paper and a whiteboard I headed for the kitchen where my two students waited. I started with explaining acidity but we soon dealt with that and got onto the exciting part of the experiment.

"Get some lemon juice, Sophie," I said. "We need some tea Gemma-Rose."

The girls scurried around the kitchen fetching ingredients. It looked as though we were going to cook something truly horrible. I marked cups and the girls poured in water, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and bi-carb soda.

"Er, tea is next, I think."

Gemma-Rose brought the tea bag and we began to make tea. Then we made an important life changing discovery. You can't make tea with cold water. We soon fixed that though. Our little plastic cups sat lined up, each with it's name written on the side. But still there were two little cups left empty. At that moment Mum walked past.

"What else could we use?" I asked her. "What about milk?"

"Milk is a good idea."

I looked around the kitchen. A bottle of Fanta caught my eye.

"Could we use a tiny bit of that for our experiment?"

The last cup was filled. The whiteboard was ready for noting down the results and so we started. The girls took turns dipping the litmus paper in and working out the pH against our chart. All was going well, my lesson was turning out beautiful, when we hit a slight problem. We were working on balsamic vinegar. Sophie lifted the strip out. It was a lovely shade of brown.

"I'm not sure what that pH is," I said, putting the stained litmus strip away.

We dissolved into giggles.

"Why don't we use some other vinegar."

The rest of the experiment went perfectly except for the time I accidentally used a permanent marker on the whiteboard and we found that permanent markers can be removed using some Gumption. With seven or eight soggy strips of paper lying on the side and our results written down the experiment was over.

"Now you may drink the fizzy drink and milk. Although," here I grinned evilly. "I'll let anyone who wants to drink the vinegar."

Sophie and Gemma-Rose hastily grabbed the little pots and started sipping. For some strange reason they didn't want to drink the vinegar. I can't imagine why. So my lesson did go well after all and Sophie and Gemma-Rose requested another one. But what was really fun? Getting to do real chemistry.

I'm the nutty professor.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Hundreds of Hamlets

Shakespeare is one of my favourite subjects. We read his plays out loud, taking parts. Occasionally four people is not enough and we must double up. I can remember times when I've talked to myself because everyone else already had two or more parts. We love almost all his plays (Titus Andronicus just made me feel sick) but the one that takes the prize is Hamlet. Last time we read Hamlet I wasn't very good at reading out loud. I butchered Ophelia and Queen Gertrude and made a complete mess of minor characters. But last term we started it again. This time Sophie was just starting reading Shakespeare. I'm jealous. She got Hamlet as her very first play. I got Twelfth Night

Sitting on our family room table was a stack of DVDs. There were far more versions of Hamlet than I ever thought we'd watch. So we began reading. Imogen starred as Hamlet, I was horrifically Evil as Claudius, Sophie claimed Ophelia as her special property and Mum got Horatio. We each took various other parts and we muddled through. As we read we started watching the BBC production of Hamlet. That took most of the term and we still had more versions waiting for us on the table. Having finished watching the BBC Hamlet we started on the David Tennant version. By the time we were finished term was over and we still had at least two versions of Hamlet sitting on the table. 

This term we have returned to the world of Hamlet and are watching yet another version. But we never get tired of Hamlet. Today, armed with sandwiches and cups of tea, we put on the next Hamlet from the pile. Munching on sandwiches and sipping tea, we watched as Hamlet soliloquised and Horatio nearly had a fit when he saw the ghost. We stared when we recognized the actress of Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility and laughed when we realized that this Claudius acted Hamlet in another version. 

Hopefully, with any amount of luck, we'll get through the last of our Hamlets this term. They have after all lasted us over a term of enjoyment. But as I said, we never get tired of Hamlet. I'm hoping desperately that when we come to the end and nearly everyone dies I won't sniffle. It's very distracting and rather embarrassing to have to pause the movie to run and grab a tissue. Still, it'll be worth it even if I do cry.