Sunday, February 22, 2015

Energy-making home

Anda and I have spent a lot of time over the years dreaming up ways people could harness "people energy" to make electricity for their homes.

Things we've thought of:

Mini solar panels that charge just one lightbulb, mounted around the house on the outside or on the roof. The technology exists, but it's used for shoplights and for camping bulbs (or lights used in rural third-world areas).  I'd like to make some can lights that mount into an outside wall near the roof line, with the solar panel on the outside of the wall. I'd put a line of them all across the living room wall and use them in addition to regular lights. You'd have to wire them to a light switch, but that shouldn't be too hard since those camping lights and shed lights have switches.  Each bulb would have a battery that charged through the day and lighted the bulb at night--the bulbs aren't particularly bright, but a bunch of them would be fine.


Moving water. Lots of water moves into, around, and out of the house. There should be a way to harness that moving water energy on a micro scale to produce power.  Like, Anda said, why not a little generator that makes a bit of electricity when the toilet flushes and fills (on the clean water end, of course).  Or on the water main--they already have a meter there. Why not make the meter also a mini generator/battery charging kit?

Walking around. Anda says why not pressure plates under flooring and on stairs to use the impact energy to convert to useful power for the house?  They're doing this under a road in the Netherlands. Why not on a micro scale in your house?

There is a lot of thermal energy in houses. Why not put in a passive attic fan--the kind that vents heat out in the summer (these are all over in Las Vegas)--and capture the energy of the heat rising out of the attic?

Also, recycling heat. We are constantly venting heat off things--back of the fridge, back of the air conditioner, off the processors in computers. We wondered why we don't find a way to capture that heat (especially since it's the form of moving air a lot of times) to "repay" the cost of venting it (running the fans that get it off the machines).

None of these would make a lot of power. Nothing worth any money commercially.  But the idea we have is that each house might be able to collect enough little sources of power to make their own energy, at least in part, supplemented by the power company.  So the power company powers your fridge and computer, but you charge your phone and run all your lights from energy you make yourself.

Most of these are not possible for us to make ourselves, so we just keep dreaming.  But if I ever buy a new house or have money for remodeling, I'm totally going to make the can lights that are wired to mini solar panels outside.  That will be so easy.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Did I just read that?

"The technology could later be used to repair spinal chords, improve epilepsy, and diabetes."

I'm not sure what "to diabetes" means...

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Funny kids

The kids asked me to start recording funny kids things again here.

So a couple from today:

Nathanael categorically refused to eat the cupcake he decorated for his Kindergarten class party.  He said the teacher said he should decorate it, but since she didn't mention eating it, he didn't have explicit permission and therefore should not eat it. He made me email the teacher to ask if it was okay.

For this next one to make any sense at all, you have to know that all my boys have their molars crowned. All their molars. And their front teeth pulled. And it usually happens before they are 3 years old because they are born with corrupt baby teeth, so they don't remember getting the teeth pulled or crowned--from their perspective, the teeth have always been silver.

Okay, so today Elijah peeked into Emmeline's mouth when she was "talking" to Tim (oh, so so cute to see her, at 5 weeks old, trying to have a conversation with her daddy).  Anyway, Elijah rushed over to me all excited and said, "Mom! Emmeline is getting teeth already!"  I said, "She is?"  He replied, "Yes! When she opened her mouth, I saw silver!"


I guess the teeth just come in that way...

Now that I think about it, that would be less trouble if they came in crowned already.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Did I just read that?

"President Obama asks to end violence against women at Grammys"

The women attending the Grammys have traditionally been subject to violence, and the president is opposed....

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Seeing a picture

The other day, a friend posted a picture on facebook that her 2-year-old daughter had created. It was a pretty picture, of a rainbow of lines drawn on lined paper.

I looked at it and thought, "Wow. That little girl is a scientist! See how she saw the pattern on the page (lines) and then recreated it, changing the variables (the color of the lines) to see what would happen.  That's amazing."

Her mother posted, along with the picture, a comment about how her daughter is clearly an artist, having created something so beautiful at such a young age.

It was the same picture and the same little girl, but our interpretations of what was going on in her mind, and the long-term results of that way of thinking, were profoundly different. And probably equally right. Or wrong. Obviously we can't guess what a little girl is going to become based on one picture (although her mom has a much better grasp on that than I do!).

It made me wonder, though, how much of what our children become is influenced by how we, from the outside, interpret them and their actions. Actually, that's kind of scary. What if she was born to be an artist, and I looked at the picture and saw the mind of a scientist at work and therefore provided her with science tools and toys, science camps, science magazines....all in good intentions of giving her what she might love most.  What if my interpretations of my own kids actually holds them back from developing into what and who they are?


Being a parent is scary. There are a million billion ways to do it wrong and mess it up.

Good thing kids keep giving us feedback, so that we can adjust course when we screw up or misread something. Good thing kids don't have to be just one thing or another. Good thing it's not my job to make them into that one thing (whatever it is), to mold them or create them or determine who and what they should be. Good thing I'm not the boss of their lives or futures, not the determiner of their souls.

Good thing most kids turn out just fine despite us parents and our mistakes. Hopefully they forgive me some day when they realize all the ways I did it wrong (because they will, at some point, realize). My intentions are good. They really are.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Books the kids recommend

My kids are avid readers. I'm always asking them, "What books do you recommend again?" as people email or post on forums asking for books for kids.

So here is my kids' list of favorite books. We skew toward fantasy, light sci-fi, and nonfiction around here. Please add your favorite middle grade and YA books in the comments!

The kids' favorite books and authors:

What We Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World, by Henry Clark (this is one of my all-time favorite books, too)

The Underland Chronicles Series, by Suzanne Collins

Warriors Series, by Erin Hunter

Wings of Fire Series, by Tui Sutherland

Keeper of the Lost Cities Series, by Shannon Messenger

Rick Riordan Books (all of his)

Dr. Seuss Books

Calvin and Hobbes books (all of them), by Bill Waterson

The Maze Runner, by James Dashner

The City of Ember Series, by Jean DuPrau

The Magic Treehouse Series

The Ender Series, by Orson Scott Card

The Pokemon Manga (and games)

Geronimo Stilton series, by Geronimo Stilton

Dragonbreath series, by Ursula Vernon

The 39 Clues series (authors vary)

Shark Wars, by E. J. Altbacker

The Ever Afters, by Shelby Bach

Tales of the Frog Princess, by E. D. Baker

The Spiderwick Chronicles, by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

The NERDS series, by Michael Buckley

How to Train Your Dragon, by Cressida Cowell

The Space Station Rat books, by Michael J. Daley

Jean Craighead George's books

The Dragon Slippers Trilogy, by Jessica Day George

The Tuesdays at the Castle series, by Jessica Day George

The Dinotopia books, by James Gurney

Redwall, by Brian Jaqcues

The Dragon Keepers Series, by Kate Klimo

Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist by R. L. LaFevers

Guardians of Ga’Hoole, by Kathryn Lasky

Wolves of the Beyond, by Kathryn Lasky
Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull

Mouse Guard, by David Petersen

The Silverwing Trilogy, by Kenneth Oppel

Darkwing, by Kenneth Oppel

Tales of the Frog Princess, by E. D. Baker

Alcatraz vs The Evil Librarians Series, by Brandon Sanderson

Walls Within Walls, by Maureen Sherry

Escape from Mister Lemoncello's Library, by Chris Grabenstein

Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City, by Kirsten Miller

The Animorphs Series, by K. A. Applegate

Harry Potter Series, by J.K. Rowling

The Narnia Series, by C.S. Lewis

Beverly Cleary books

Hardy Boys books

Little House on the Prairie Series (believe it or not, this is a favorite of 4-6 yo boys, too)

Sherlock Holmes stories, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson

The Book of Mormon

The Big Bad Book of Botany, by Michael Largo

Deadly Outbreaks, by Alexandra Levitt

Nazi Hunters, by Neil Bascomb

Garfield books, by Jim Davis

Tales of the Cryptids, by Kelly Milner Halls

Blender for Dummies, by Jason van Gumster

Software Synthesizers (but this has a language alert!), by Jim Aiken

Captain Underpants books, by Dav Pilkey

Ripley's Believe it or Not books

That's Weird, by Kendall Haven

What Makes Flamingos Pink, by Bill McLain

Bill Pete books

Spirit Animals Series, by Brandon Mull and various other authors

Books recommended to my kids by others (many of my favorite books are on this list):

The Hero and the Crown (by Robyn McKinley)

The Blue Sword (by Robyn McKinley)

The 'Bet You Can' and 'Bet You Can't' science series

Ronia, the Robber's Daughter (Astrid Lindgren)

Poison (Bridget Zinn)

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (E.L. Konigsburg)

Stargirl (Jerry Spinelli)

The Princess Bride (William Goldman)

The Last Unicorn (Peter S Beagle)

The Ordinary Princess (M.M. Kaye)

The Neverending Story (Michael Ende)

The Dark is Rising series (Susan Cooper)

The Jungle Book (Lisa Church)

Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)

Peter Pan (J.M. Barrie)

The Tale of Desperaux (Kate DiCamillo)

Half Magic (Edward Eager)

The Velveteen Rabbit (Margery Williams)

The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster)

Dune (Frank Herbert)

The Scarlet Pimpernel (Emmuska Orczy)

Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren)

Rapunzel's Revenge (Shannon Hale)

Inkheart (Cornelia Funke)

Wildwood Dancing (Juliet Marillier)

Shadow Spinner (Susan Fletcher)

Isaac Asimov (Fantastic Voyage)

The Earth Dwellers, Adventures in the Land of Ants (nonfiction,Erich Hoyt)

The Brothers Lionheart (Astrid Lindgren)

The Hiding Place (Corrie Ten Boom)

My Hundred Children (Lena Kuchler-Silberman)

Farmer Giles of Ham (J.R.R. Tolkien)

Uglies series (Scott Westerfield)

Seventh Son series (Orson Scott Card)

My Side of the Mountain (Jean Craighead George)

The Graveyard Book and Coraline (Neil Gaiman)

Animal Farm (George Orwell)

Finn the Wolfhound (Alec John Dawson)

The Secret of Platform 13 (Eva Ibbotson)

The Great Brain (John D. Fitzgerald)

Howliday Inn & Bunnicula (James Howe)

The Trumpet of the Swan (E.B. White)

The Incredible Journey (Sheila Burnford)

Heidi (Johanna Spyri)

Where the Red Fern Grows

White Stallion of Lipizza (Marguerite Henry)

The Martian Chronicles (Ray Bradbury)

Flatland (Edwin A. Abbott)

The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank)

Understood Betsy (Dorothy Canfield Fisher)

The Princess and the Goblin & The Princess and Curdie
(George MacDonald)

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Series (Douglas Adams)

An Them There Were None (Agatha Christie)

All Creatures Great and Small series by James Herriot

Roverandom by J.R.R. Tolkien

My Sparkling Misfortune and My Royal Pain Quest (absolutely hilarious!)

Which Witch by Eva Ibbotson

White Fang

Cinder (The second book in the series, Scarlet, might not be considered clean because of the kissing scene, but the first book is fabulous)

The Time Machine

The Wizard of Oz

Treasure Island

Emily of New Moon series by L.M. Montgomery

The Looking Glass Wars series by Frank Beddor (inspired by Alice's Adventures in wonderland)

Queen Zixi of Ix by L. Frank Baum.

Books by Heather Choate

The original 1923 Bambi, A Life in the Woods (Felix Salten, translated to English in 1928 by Whittaker Chambers)

 Taran Wanderer series (Lloyd Alexander)

Black Stallion series (Walter Farley)

Leviathan series (Scott Westerfeld)

Earthsea trilogy (Ursula K. Le Guin)

Pit Dragon Trilogy (Jane Yolen)

A Little Princess (Francis H. Burnet)

Dragon Drums trilogy (Anne McCaffrey)

A Wrinkle in Time (Madeline L'Engle)

Peter and the Starcatchers



Island of the Blue Dolphins (I loved this when I was a wee one).

The Water Fight Professional

The Sisters Grimm series

The Key of Kilenya series by Andrea Pearson

The Beyonders series

Ranger's Apprentice

Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck

The Alliance

Cryptic Hunters series

The Emerald Atlas Series

Lemony Snicket's books

The Westing Game

The Melendy Quartet by Elizabeth Enright (starts with The Four Story Mistake.) 

The Trolley Car Family

Lad: A Dog by Albert Payson Terhune.....has a few words that I didn't know, as it was written in 1919.....But GREAT book!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Did I just read that?

"Musician Dies Between Sets at Lakeview Bar"   (

What I want to know is how did he manage to do the second set?