Thursday, October 25, 2012

Preparing for Frankenstorm

Weather forecasters have given the east coast of the United States the ominous prediction of a "Frankenstorm" early next week -- an anticipated massive collision between the warm & wet tropical air mass known as hurricane Sandy and an arctic blast from the north.  Rain?  Snow?  Damaging winds?  All of the above?  It depends upon which model you believe, although most tend to be converging on an unpleasant combination of the three that may extend as far inland as Ohio.

Regardless of which weather model you trust, what seems obvious to me is that I'd better get prepared.  But what does that mean?  How do you prepare for an emergency?  The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has an entire website called Ready devoted to the topic, where you can learn how to build a Basic Disaster Supplies Kit, create a Family Emergency Plan, and Graduate from Readiness U!  The National Weather Service also has an entire section of their website devoted to Weather Safety.

In my situation, I can expect a power outage.  I may get stuck at home for a few days.  So I need to check our stores of drinking water, easy to prepare food, and essentials like medicine and toilet paper.  I can't plan to do any laundry past Sunday, so I'd better get to that now.  I should also gas up the car, load up on groceries (although perhaps not too many perishables), and get cash from the bank.  Flashlights, candles, and warm blankets should all be placed within easy reach.  And maybe I should head over to the library for something to read, just in case.

In any event, stay warm, dry, and safe this Halloween.  And keep an eye out for Frankenstorm!

Monday, October 22, 2012


"I know the whole world is watching right now and I wish the world could see what I can see. Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you really are." -- Felix Baumgartner

By now, I'm sure you've heard about Felix Baumgartner, the new world record holder for the highest and fastest (but not longest) free fall in history.  On October 14, 2012, he traveled up into the stratosphere by balloon to jump in flight suit from a height of 128,100 feet above Earth.  During his free fall, Baumgartner reached speeds of over 830 miles per hour to break the sound barrier.  In other words, he exceeded the speed of sound!  Amazing!  He didn't deploy his parachute until over four minutes into the jump.  I found it nerve-wracking to watch, even after I knew he had successfully completed his mission.

Over on Twitter, a few users were taken to task for minimizing this accomplishment, saying that if you are looking at a globe model of Earth this was roughly equivalent to jumping from 1 millimeter above the globe's surface.  But I don't think that comparison diminishes his accomplishment one bit!  Think of how little is visible on a globe.  You can't even see dots for people.  So, think of it this way: one teeny tiny dot decided to go far outside of its comfort zone and fall back down.  You can imagine it, can't you?  One millimeter above a globe is measureable.  It's significant.  And it is truly, truly awesome.

Way to go, Felix!    

Friday, October 19, 2012

Celebrate Geologic Map Day!

Today is Geologic Map Day, part of Earth Science Week here in the United States.  According to the American Geosciences Institute, this day "promote(s) awareness of geologic mapping and its vital importance to society."

So, what is a geologic map?  A geologic map tells you all about the rocks beneath your feet - what type of  rocks and where their strata (or layers) occur, along with where you can find underground caves, faults, and other geologic features.  A builder might use a geologic map to determine where it is safest to build a new structure.  An environmentalist can use a geologic map to guess how pollution might travel underground.  And a city planner might use an environmental map to determine where to sink a new well.  

Want to check out a geologic map for where you live?  If you're in the U.S., you can visit the Association of American State Geologists and click on the map for your state  Additional Geologic Map Day Resources are available at AGI's Earth Science Week website. 

Hugs to all of my geologist friends!  You rock!  ;-)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

October is Fire Safety Month

Recently, my husband tried to install a new lighting fixture in our living room.  The old one didn't work properly - the light bulbs kept exploding.  I thought this was odd, but we simply stopped using it and I didn't think too much about it.  That is, until Itinerant Cryptographer took the fixture away and water poured out.  Yikes!

October is Fire Safety Month in the United States, a perfect time to inspect the wiring in your home to make sure that you don't have any problems like mine.  Along with our dangerously defective lighting fixture, my husband discovered that one of our kitchen outlets was not up to code.  It was missing the ground wire, so he installed a ground fault interrupter on the outlet to prevent the possibility of electrical shock.

In the U.S., October 7 - 13, 2012 is Fire Prevention Week.  This year's theme is Have 2 Ways Out, to encourage families to practice how to safely escape during a fire and to plan an alternate route in case your primary means of escape is blocked by fire or smoke.  Start your escape plan now with these tips from the National Fire Protection Association and be sure to download a Fire Safety ChecklistSparky the Fire Dog®
even has his own webpage, where you can send e-cards, learn All About Fire Trucks, play games about fire safety, and more!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Mighty Math Powers

My three-year-old daughter and I have discovered Team Umizoomi, a Nickelodeon program that explores math for young children.  Princess likes watching Milli change patterns with her magic dress or Geo create things with shapes.  But she does not like being told that she also has "mighty math powers."  In fact, she argues back with the television that she doesn't have such powers.

I am admittedly at a loss as to how to deal with this.  Sure, we could just switch the station, or I could ignore her, but I'm worried.  She recently told her older brother that she didn't like watching "boy shows."  Is she already thinking of math as a discipline for boys?  How do I combat that message? 

As you can imagine, I believe in science accessibility for all.  But maybe I haven't been as vocal about math.  My husband is more gifted in math than I am -- Itinerant Cryptographer is internationally known for his abilities.  Have I simply shoved all of the math parenting duties over to him without realizing it?   Have I (unintentionally) projected the message that math is for boys?

My little girl loves to dance, so I pointed out to her that dance steps involve counting and rhythm.  But I'd love to hear your ideas.  If your daughter thinks of math as a "boy" subject, how have you addressed that stereotype?  How do you engage your daughter in math? 

Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt, via flickr // CC BY 2.0