May 31, 2014

Can't a daughter be concerned about her mother?

May 30, 2014

Reflections about teaching #4

#4 How does teaching affect your view of the world?

Teaching seems to be one of the most inclusive views of the problems (and strengths) of our society that I can imagine.

Teachers see consistently that the things that lead to success in school - and that doesn't always mean success in life, I know - are outside the control of schools to a great and glorious degree. Success in schools come from a message at home that success in schools matter, and it's incredibly obvious which students have gotten that message for their lives.*

Teaching also allows for a view of some spectacular - and some pretty pathetic - parenting. We see parents who for all sorts of reasons are detriments to their children's education. We see parents who yell and scream at teachers, who demand that their children don't get the consequences that just might turn the student away from whatever misguided path they're on. We see parents who abuse and belittle their children. We see parents who ignore their children, abandoning their children to take care of younger brothers and sisters while the parent disappears for days on end. 

And, sadly, I don't have any idea how to fix those things.

People become the kinds of parents they saw far too often.

People have children when they're not in good situations to raise children - too young, too economically unstable, too little support in their system.

Far too many people have no idea how to parent, how to talk with their child instead of at their child, how to use the television in moderation and educationally instead of as a full-time babysitter, how to read to their child so that he or she comes to love reading.

Far too often there aren't easy ways out of the cycle of poor parenting because without education, without training, without assistance, the same mistakes are made - and all of that takes money, time, and desire to change...things that are often far too lacking.

Maybe what I have come to realize, how my view of the world has changed is that I understand that the problems are complicated and sadly not Gordian-ly so.

* I can't remember where I read this argument, but it's an interesting one. 

The upper class families aren't terribly worried about education because they have learned the lesson that they will succeed in life because their family and their friends have succeeded. They know that they'll get the education they need as a checkmark -  not as a route to success - no matter what they do.

The lowest socioeconomic class doesn't worry about education because it is simply another societal institution that is going to mistreat them, that is going to be used to deny them and their families a route to success. 

It's only the middle classes that see education as a route to future success, so it's only the middle class students who really value education.

I don't know that I believe in that theory fully, but it's something that has made me reconsider the effects of economic class on educational value. It may not be as linear as it is often made out to be.

May 28, 2014

Mind MGMT - you'll love it...because they'll make you

I usually stick to the cape and tights crowd in comic books. It's pretty rare that I meander too far into independent comic territory.

This month I'm glad I wandered because I read the first two volumes of Mind MGMT, a very surreal series about a super-secret agency tired to no government and populated by people with powerful mental abilities - telepathy, precognition, emotion manipulation, fault-seeing, and many more about which we learn over the course of these two volumes.

The story is engaging, revealed in very slow succession from the initial offerings of a reporter searching for answers to an entire flight of amnesiacs. Along her way the grains of sand add up to a shape that is only viewable from a distance on an ever-shifting foundation. Every fact along the way comes from an informant who might or might not be trustworthy, and the writer makes unique use of the format by adding in comments in each page's margins that put the facts into further question with each revelation. In the end, very little is for certain.

This has lead to closet industry of bloggers trying to ferret out the truth among the misdirections.

Each of the first two volumes ends with a partial conclusion, the first because the author wasn't sure that a second volume would be forthcoming, the second with a sense of finality that feels almost fully final - or at least would if I didn't know that there were already published subsequent issues.

The artwork also matches the story beautifully, with washed-out watercolors and dreamy, flowing lines breaking up the page, leaving us even on less sure footing of who is telling the truth every step of the way.

Check it out...

May 26, 2014

A last summer in Cincinnati...

No, I'm not leaving, but some of my students certainly are.

Graduation was yesterday, and one of the graduates explained that this was probably going to be his last summer with some of his friends. He asked me what things he should do around Cincinnati to close the years out right.

Here is my list of suggestions...
  • Places to eat
    • Knotty Pine on the Bayou - best Cajun food in town...beautiful setting in Northern Kentucky along a creek...the new place actually seems to have a few floors and walls that are plumb, a change from the old place...
    • Terry's Turf Club - no doubt, best Hamburgers in town, fun location that tends to be packed at the obvious meal times (weekend lunch, Thursday-Saturday dinners)...go at an off time (2pm, weekday afternoons) for the best chance at getting an immediate seat...burgers are awesome...stick with simple toppings the first time so you can see how great the actual burger is, then go for their creative and tasty sauces when you go back...
    • Senate - This may not have been the first restaurant to go into the Gateway Quarter revitalization/gentrification of Over the Rhine, but it's one of the best examples (for good and for ill)...the food is outstanding (poutine, burgers, hot dogs, all of it)...the decor is very much new school reuse/recycle, and the menu is creative...
    • Eli's Barbeque - My favorite restaurant in town...some might say it's an example of hipster gentrification of a blue collar neighborhood, but that's where the cheap land is, so I'm going to say it's a place that offers excellent food at dirt cheap prices ($7 for a perfect sandwich and two great sides) with loads of outdoor seating - particularly in the neighboring community park and garden music on lots of summer trucks stopping by to offer up dessert...last summer they offered rib tips up at 5lb for $8 toward the end of the summer because the tips sell more slowly than do the ribs 
    • downtown food trucks - the food truck movement is making a serious impact around the city...of the choices, I would have said have a Cafe de Wheels burger, but they're gone through an ownership change, and things are very much up in the air...instead, try New Orleans to Go and get an extra cup of the's to die for...
    • Quatman's -this one comes to you from Calencoriel (aka Rebecca Heckman) because she's a big fan of the simplicity of a Quatman's burger...The Girl and I tried it, and she digs it, I think it's too's a remnant of a working man's era, a time when the factories would let out a few hundred guys for lunch, and they needed a good five-cent's an institution in Cincinnati, and because of that you should definitely hit the original in Pleasant Ridge/Norwood
    • Zip's - another one that is a Cincinnati 'best burger' staple (even though The Girl and I both think Terry's and Senate are both far better burgers) has its strengths, but the thing that matters is that half the people in town name it as the best burger in town...
    • Aglamesis Brothers - Graeter's is more well known and more widely spread, but Aglamesis Brothers is an east-side tradition with smooth, rich ice cream and high quality sweets...make sure to hit the original in Oakley Square and wander the neighborhoods to see some of the beautiful homes around...
    • Graeter's - most everybody in Cincinnati has been to a Graeter's ice cream shop somewhere...the original doesn't exist anymore, but the second one does still exist, and it's in Hyde Park...go, get yourself some giant chocolate chips 
    • GreekFest - This one's very much time-sensitive as it only comes around the last weekend of June...take a few bucks (but take canned goods to get in free)...and enjoy the baklava... 
    • St Rita's Fest - Cincinnati is a Catholic city the centers around its church festivals, and this is the biggest of, it's in the Princeton district which makes it easy...I've never actually been to this one...I think I've only ever been to the St Max festival near my house, and it's a pretty small one...
  • Places to visit (free)
    • Eden Park / Krohn Conservatory - the views of the Ohio River to the east of CIncinnati from the overlook are unequaled anywhere in town...the Krohn Conservatory is one of the iconic locations in Cincy (including in Airborne)...mirror lake is a great place to see the river, too...
    • Ault Park - Ault Park has a very different feeling than does Eden...overlooks over Lunken Field, formal gardens, a gorgeous pavilion...historically significant in Cincinnati...
    • Mt Storm Park - the parks in Cincinnati really are gems that not enough people take advantage of...this one's in Clifton and has some great views...
    • Sawyer Point / Serpentine Wall / Friendship Park - Cincinnati's defining feature is the river and the hills around town...this park, along the river, is the center of town...where the fireworks happen, where concerts take place, where the place was thirty-some feet underwater in the flood of 1937...
    • Devou Park -  best place to see the Cincinnati skyline - obviously in Northern Kentucky...
    • Purple People Bridge - lump this one in with the Sawyer Point visit and the Newport on the Levy, too...make a full day of it and have a blast walking around the river from both sides...
    • Union Terminal - it's the frickin' real-world Hall of Justice...and it's the most distinctive building in all of Cincinnati...the museums are nice and all, but it's the building itself that is Cincinnati proper...make sure to enjoy the murals and Tower A...I loved when PHS had their prom here for a few years...great, gorgeous space...
    • Northside - Cincinnati is a city of neighborhoods, each with very distinct character...Northside is a mixture of hipster kitsch, gay-friendly, and working-class people...start at Knowlton's Corner and work your way north to Bruce St...have a snack at Melt...visit the library...stay mostly on Hamilton Avenue until you get to probably Pullan...
    • Findlay Market - Findlay is an interesting place, serving the needs of the local patrons (typically for a more urban, African-American palate - chitterlings, tripe, greens) and desires of a more hipster-ish crowd (upscale popsicles, imported cheeses)...the fires in the early 2000's lead to a much different, larger, fancier Market, but the spirit has survived...
    • Newport on the Levee - mostly here for the aquarium and the river side of the levee...park and walk down to the river from the pavilion...maybe head into Bellvue via the river walk...
    • main library (PLCH) branch - PLCH is one of the best library branches in the entire country, and the main branch is the mother ship...hang out there for a couple of hours, visit the children's museum, see the atrium on the south block, get your way to the rare books collection, and get up to the roof...beautiful...
  • Places to visit (cost) 
    • Cincinnati Zoo - my favorite place is the manatee room (but less so since they took out the seating wall)...check out the new African pampas exhibits, especially...beautiful polar bear viewing...wonderful white tigers...Calen asked that I also mention that lots of people miss the botanical gardens, check them out, too...
    • Reds game - sit up high (400- or 500-sections) on the 3rd-base side of the stadium because you get the best views of the river from up there...pick a mid-day game if you the hot mett (or the Big Red Smokey)...get the garlic fries...have a helmet sundae...
    • Carew Tower - It's $2 to get to the observation deck (plus parking downtown, somewhere)'s the highest part of Cincinnati that you can get to...chuck a penny at Paul Brown Stadium if you must...
    • Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park - technically in Hamilton, but it's the greater Cincinnati area, at least...private sculpture park set on attractive, very hilly grounds...price is a bit steep ($8 for adults)...unique place in the area...
    • Morgan's canoes at Fort Ancient - take an afternoon (and some sunscreen)...take a lazy ride down the river...look up at the highest highway bridge in the state...have a blast...
    • concert at Riverbend - wait to make sure the weather's nice, wait until the last minute, and buy a couple of tickets for the lawn...pack a picnic (check their website to make sure you know what you may and may not bring in)...make an evening out of it...
  • Bit of a drive
    • Young's Jersey Dairy - we all need ice cream...and miniature golf...and fried food...and candy...and a batting cage...and a driving range...and while you're there swing into town to get some Lego sets at Blokhedz...

May 25, 2014

Sit down, write two letters.

May 21, 2014

Post hoc ergo propter hoc

Just because there's a correlation between two data sets doesn't automatically mean there is causation between the two. Take, for example, the various examples of spurious correlations at the blog Spurious Correlations. The site will even generate new correlations at your request.

correlation = -0.933

correlation = 0.992

 correlation = 0.993

These aren't from Spurious Connections, but they're relevant, too.

From Dinosaur Comics
From Glen Gilchrist
PS: In retrospect, maybe the title should be cum hoc ergo propter hoc rather that post hoc ergo propter hoc.

May 19, 2014

Back home again, in Cincinnati

I finally hunted this down after having heard it a few times in the past couple of years during the Reds' seventh-inning stretch. Connie Smith, everyone...

More Cincinnati songs after the jump...

May 17, 2014

"Son, this will keep the bad guys away..."

May 12, 2014

Better Baking Through Science

Last quarter, one of my students turned in an extra credit assignment in which she had made chocolate chip cookies and done a little research to explain the chemistry that went on while the cookies baked.

She brought in the cookies for the class, and they certainly weren't bad. They weren't the best I'd ever had, but they were cookies I didn't have to make myself. I'm not one to look a gift cookie in the mouth.

The best part of the project, though, was the two resources to which she pointed me. The first is a video from Ted-ED that explains a lot of the science involved as dough turns into cookie.

The second is from SeriousEats and goes through variable by variable, eventually finding what they say is the best recipe around. The author explores the macroscopic results that all twenty-one change make and the science involved.

I need to do some baking because their final results - with a little sprinkle of salt on top - look outstanding.

I wish I could link you to the Cooks Illustrated recipe, because it's got some interesting takes (browned butter, one whole egg + one yolk, extra brown sugar). Sadly, though, it's behind a paywall. If you're willing to pay, Cooks Illustrated is a fun site from tip to tail.

May 9, 2014

Reflections about teaching: from Katie

Taking a break from the questions I had listed and answering something posed by Katie on my first post...
Is there a defining lesson that your students have taught you throughout your career that other careers may not get the opportunity to experience?
I think the lesson that I've learned that I don't know every other career gets to learn is that I had a wonderful childhood, and I owe my parents a phenomenal round of thanks for what they did for me.

I deal with a whole lot of wonderful young people day in and day out. I also work with a fair number of students for whom school isn't the first priority, and I understand that many of them aren't too worried about the chemistry that I'm teaching because they're worrying about what they're going to eat that night, about how they're going to write the lab report while working six hours after a full school day, how they're going to help out with the bills at home, which side of the family they're going to hang with this week, and a hundred other challenges that I didn't have to deal with when I was growing up.

I can't imagine that my friends in the labs at P&G or painting houses get to learn that nearly as well.

May 7, 2014


I've been playing QuizUp for a few weeks now, having downloaded the app on the eve of our trip to Chicago via MegaBus. Since then I've thrown myself whole-heartedly into the QuizUp frenzy.

I'm on as Lonnie Dusch (the alias that phschemguy uses when I'm in meatspace), and I'm rocking the chemistry category, having made (as of Sunday evening) it to level 45 and needing only five more categories to top out the titles there with Private Ion. Though I really like the idea of level 50 on Periodic Table getting me nicknamed as Mendeleev's kin. Or the choice of Splitter of Atoms if I get to level 40 in the Scientists category.

Currently I'm rocking the Flux Capacitor title having earned that achievement most recently. I think I'll stick with the science-themed nicknames as I'm kind of using it as a way to interact with my students (some of them anyway). Admittedly, I'm an achievements-chaser. Currently I'm working on UN Assembly (play matches against players from 100 countries - I'm at 61 and counting), The Big Kahuna Burger (reach level 15 in Snacks and Quentin Tarantino - I'm at 6 in Snacks and 5 in Quentin Tarantino so far), and David (as I am currently challenging some 60+ level folks in the Tennis category before I've even made it past level 1 myself.) So far I'm proudest of the Ramtastic achievement of fifty consecutive victories, mostly in the Chemistry category.

My favorite categories at this point are Chemistry (level 45), grammar (17), Batman (the comics - 16), and Name the Element (16).

My next steps for this summer will be to contribute some questions, partially to get the Sphinx achievement and partially to help make the game better. At this point I pretty much know all the chemistry questions and answers by heart, barely having to read each question to know the answer instantly.

Anybody wanna challenge me?

May 6, 2014


I don't have the patience to wait too long, so i broke with loyalty and got the Simpsons minifigure series from Wal-Mart this past weekend.

This is my best performance yet, having gotten all sixteen by purchasing just seventeen figures (anybody need/want a Lisa Simpson?) and only taking about fifty minutes (in-store time between the two visits) to find them all.

It turns out they were surprisingly easy to figure out. The Ralph Wiggum vs Milhouse Van Houten (sp?) distinction was tough, but the rest were actually really easy to distinguish. Lots of new accessories this time around. Loads of fund, too.

More details here, and my feel guide here.

May 5, 2014

My Pivot Questionnaire

From, the Pivot Questionnaire - aka the ten questions at the end of every Inside the Actors Studio episode...
  1. What is your favorite word?
    - Eli's
  2. What is your least favorite word?
    - moist
  3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
    - material science camps
  4. What turns you off?
    - smoking
  5. What is your favorite curse word?
    - f**kstick
  6. What sound or noise do you love?
    - high school basketball games - all of the noises involved
  7. What sound or noise do you hate?
    - a Sodastream machine honking when the bottle is full...then honking two more times...
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
    - short order cook at Waffle House
  9. What profession would you not like to do?
    - small-business owner
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
    - "You were wrong, but it's okay."

May 3, 2014

Catching up...

I've been out of town the past couple of weekends, so I've been behind on writing posts for the blog. Let's see if we can get that fixed with today's links going up on time.