Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Highlights

        Source: The National Archives (UK) 
NOTEWORTHY: In order to complete this week's test in our Magna Carta class, we had to listen to four lectures and read three extracts. The extracts were from: Henry Care (1646-1688) "English liberties, or, The free-born subject's inheritance containing, I. Magna Charta (sic), the petition of right, the Habeas Corbus Act (1680)"; "Notes on Magna Charta (sic)," reproduced by Henry Care from Edward Coke's "A Commentary on Littleton)"; and "The Petition of Right, 1628." 

Fascinating reading, it was, but not exactly easily digestible. Written long ago in old-timey English, about life and times nearly 400 years ago and full of legalese, it wasn't something you could breeze through. For instance, the Petition of Right (pictured at the top of this blog post) was drafted by a committee headed by Sir Edward Coke, and was ratified by both the House of Commons and House of Lords in May of 1628, and eventually accepted by King Charles the I of England a few weeks later.

As we worked through it, I gave the kids tips about taking notes and how to effectively highlight key ideas. Naturally, one of the things I mentioned was that highlighting everything is not very efficient or effective, IMHO. I mean, look at the ink Annabelle laid down here.
  Text source: Edward Coke's "A Commentary on Littleton"

CJ didn't use as much ink, but if you denote the ENTIRE PAGE is a key idea, as he did with huge swaths of the Petition of Right, well, that's not super helpful, either!
And so, we spent time reviewing proper and improper highlighting, and how helpful jotting notes in the margins can be.

Since the excerpts were so full of new-to-us words and ideas, we took our time with them. We talked about each document, and what we thought the authors meant, paragraph by paragraph.

After working our way through the three excerpts, it was test time.However, I thought it best we check on the class' online forum first to see if there were any helpful hints there. Well, that was a mistake. What I mostly found was post after post of people complaining about how impossible the test was, how unreasonable the homework was, on and on. It wasn't exactly reassuring, and it made me wonder if we were so lame that we didn't even realize the assignment was so overwhelmingly difficult, especially given the fact that students each get three attempts at the test. Hmm. ... 

Happy to say, CJ and Annabelle got 100 percent the first time. I wasn't that perfect, and used a second attempt to get a perfect score. Yay for us!  

Truth be told, I was bit worried we might be in over our heads by taking this course, but so far, so good.

MODERATION:  Last night, CJ was talking about how "addictive" pistachios are and was asking what he'd have to do to get a lifetime supply of them. To that, Christian and I agreed that pistachios are amazingly delicious, but noted that they're meant to be a small snack, not a steady diet, and we lectured him about pistachio moderation. ;)

Today, a Facebook friend posted a video by foodie Alton Brown that I shared with the kids. It's a brief story about exactly how Brown lost 50 pounds. As he points out, he changed his diet, and it wasn't via a diet in the standard sense of the word these days. Rather, it was in the manner regarding its root in classical Greek, where diaita meant 'way of living.' Alton's take is smart, straightforward, and drives home the importance of moderation. And most importantly, it sounds like we can keep eating pistachios daily!

WORTH A LOOK: Like so many 'round the world, we at MPA have followed the European Space Agency's comet- rendezvous mission Rosetta with great interest. Buzz about the mission peaked when Rosetta launched a small craft, Philae, which managed to land on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Though Philae has fallen silent (as expected), the Rosetta mission continues. Some comet close ups the ESA just released are definitely worth a look, including this one.
                                Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
Per an ESA caption, "This OSIRIS narrow-angle camera image shows part of a large fracture running across Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko’s neck, in particular where it has left Hapi and is extending into Anuket. In this orientation, the Seth region is at the uppermost left and Hapi in the lower left."

More comet close ups can be viewed here:

HALLELUJAH: Whilst working around the house today, we had Handel's Messiah, as performed by The Choir of King's College, Cambridge.   We managed to listen to all two hours and thirty eight minutes of it, which was comprised of three scenes, with a total of 53 pieces, including perhaps Handel's greatest 'hit,' the "Hallelujah" chorus. 
Here's a link, if you're similarly inclined:

CAN'T HOLD US: The kids finally got back to guitar today, taking on what seems like it should have been a pretty simple endeavor, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Can't Hold Us." There are only four chords (C, D, Em and Bm, the latter being the most difficult one). We found a decent YouTube tutorial for it, and employed the chord cards I designed to help the kids play it. However, the timing is tricky and the words are rapid fire. Let's just say it's not a learn-in-one-hour song. Here's my favorite version of it - a special one Seattle son Macklemore did for a Seahawks game on Sunday Night Football.

Go Hawks! :)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Swinging and Shaking

THE SWING OF THINGS: Look, the kids at another park. Don't they ever do any school work? 

Honestly, the swinging was in the name of science. They're working on a unit about pendulums, and swings are a perfect example. At the park, they tested swings of different lengths and  seeing how the length of the pendulum affects how many times they swung back and forth.

They conducted a related experiment at home, using string, a paperclip, a penny, some tape and a pencil to first construct a pendulum that would complete 15 cycles in 15 seconds. Then, they figured out how to make one that worked as a minute timer. 
 Bee did most of the building, while CJ was the official time keeper. 

SHAKE IT UP: Science surrounds us, even at the National Football Conference championship game last Sunday, where seismographs were used to capture the action in an interesting way.

The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network's Seismo Blog has in-depth analysis of the seismic activity in the Seahawks' stadium when they beat the Green Bay Packers in rather crazy fashion.
The PNSN's graph above shows the original "Beast Quake" (how the stadium shook during a 67-yard touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch during the 'Hawks playoff win over the Saints in 2011) in blue. Some seismic activity from this past Sunday is shown on the other lines. In green is the "Fake Quake," or the crowd's reaction to the fake field goal and TD pass by Seahawks' punter Jon Ryan.   The Dance Quake isn't from a single play, but it's the crowd's collection reaction after a late go-ahead touchdown and two-point conversion, while kicking off. The "OT TD" in gray was the jubilation when the 'Hawks scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime. As of Sunday, "Dance Quake" is now CenturyLink's largest seismic event on record. 

I loved the PNSN blog's commentary on "Dance Quake." They wrote: "Clearly while most fans were jumping up and down in unison there were many who were either not very coordinated or JUI (Jumping Under the Influence)." 

Go Hawks. :) 

Here's a play-by-play of Sunday's game (seismically speaking).
I think this type of coverage of the game is a cool way to inject some science into game day. Bravo to those involved.

CLASSY: We 'binge watched' seven lectures for our "Introduction to Classical Music" class today. Instrument families, melodic structure, modulation, tonality, cadence, musical texture, counterpoints, chromatic scale, monophonic, homophonic and polyphonic, fugues, cannons, strophic, binary, ternary, the eight style periods (from middle ages to post modern) ... we covered a LOT of musical ground today. 

I caught myself at times only listening to the music, rather than the words explaining the music. Oops. 

During the lectures, we got to hear parts of a number of works. We learned that Ave Maria is really the work of multiple people. While doing math homework today, I played an Andrea Bocelli's version of it. 

We listened to a classical music version of "Call Me Maybe" (Carly Rae Jepsen's pop music ear worm).

Honestly, I don't like either version of it, haha.

And we were reminded that Barry Manilow had a big hit in the 1970s by writing a song, "Could It Be Magic?" using Frederic Chopin's "Prelude in C Minor" (or more specifically, Prelude Op. 28, No. 20, in C minor) as its intro. 

Now that one, I loved, and remarkably I remembered every word to the song, despite not having heard it in, oh, 40 years or so.

TUT TUT: I can't even believe the news today that King Tut's burial mask has been seriously, irreversibly damaged. The account of how it went down (literally) reads like "Dumb and Dumber." The kids were aghast. Read it and weep, as the saying goes:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


                                                          Gratuitous Space Needle shot
FOCUSED:  Yesterday afternoon we had an appointment at the Pacific Science Center to visit the new exhibit in their "Studio" space, "Food Allergies: Game On."  We've been part of a focus/feedback group about the rotating exhibits in PSC's studio for well over a year now.

The current, exhibit features information and interactives about what causes food allergies and just how serious they can be. The first thing we spied in the exhibit was a flat screen featuring what looked like one of the question mark boxes in a Nintendo Super Mario game. We flocked to it like moths to a porch light. :)
One of the things we learned about at the exhibit is a group called Washington Feast, which works with and advocates for people of all ages with life-threatening food allergies. And we learned about a product called Viaskin(R), which is a small patch peanut allergy suffers wear which can help reduce their sensitivity to them. The product is currently in clinical trials, fast-tracked by the FDA. 

One intriguing sign in the studio noted that how and when children are introduced to foods might have a factor on food allergies. It noted that children living in Israel have less peanut sensitivity than Israeli children living in England. There is speculation that one reason might be because children living in Israel snack early and often on a snack called BAMBA, which is peanut- and corn-based.
In addition to visiting the studio and sharing our impressions of it with a PSC staffer, we checked out a couple of other spots at the science center. We spent a little time on the space near the Boeing IMAX theater, where there are some music-related exhibits. Annabelle tried playing an oversized guitar from the inside out.
CJ enjoyed experimenting with a theremin.
CJ tackled a (classic) logic puzzle about transporting a fox, a chicken, and a bag of corn across a stream without the fox eating the chicken or the chicken eating the corn. 
Once he figured out he could double back with things when need be, he got it quickly.

The kids each took a spin at creating an environmentally friendly power plant at a computer station. Annabelle constructed a hydroelectric plant, while CJ went for a nuclear reactor. Each had its pros and cons, they learned. Anyone can play at home via this Web site:, an educational site created by National Geographic. On the site, people can make cities, manage their infrastructures and try to create a sustainable, nice place for people to live. Here's a trailer for the site

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER SHORE: It was a tad chilly today, but it wasn't raining, so we made sure to get some fresh air. Today's nature stroll: the waterfront in Mukilteo. 
There's such a pretty beach down at Lighthouse Park. The kids clambered on some playground equipment ... 
... but they spent way more time climbing on and around driftwood. (See the freight train in the background?)
We also checked out some signs, one of which pointed out the importance of protecting the "nearshore" area, not just the immediate waterfront area. 
We also stopped to appreciate a striking art installation. According to a Wikipedia article, the sculpture is by Tualip tribal carvers Joe Gobin and James Madison. The art helps indicate the significance of the present day park's site to tribes who inhabited the area for over 1,000 years, before being pushed out by European Americans in the mid-nineteenth century.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

By the Bay

SUNNY STROLL: It was soooo darn nice out today, we knew Job 1 was getting out in it. With that in mind, we went for a 3-plus mile stroll mostly along the eastern shore of Elliott Bay's north end.

We parked near Terminal 86, operated by the Louis-Dreyfus company.
We are always curious about the ships docked there. Today it was the Densa Dolphin.
We couldn't make out the flag at its stern, so looked the ship up when we got home.
Turns out it's from Malta. That turned into a bit of a geography lesson. :) The Dolphin's home port is in Valletta, which is the capital of Malta. Looks like a beautiful city (from this Wikipedia photo).
Before too long, we came to a sandy beach.
To my eye, it looked like it needed a little decoration, so Christian and the kids got busy while the dogs and I directed from on high.
There! Much better! While they were working, a couple of people called out, "Go Hawks!" as they passed by.

We kept going and made our way to the Olympic Sculpture Park. There, we saw a familiar face.
And we spotted an Eagle.  (For a really cool look at Eagle, check out this 360-degree view: You can even 'stand' right under the sculpture!)
Every time we walk through Olympic Sculpture Park, we see something new (to us). Today, it was this beautiful bench.
On our way back north, we crossed this pedestrian and bike bridge over Elliott Avenue and the railroad tracks for the first time.
As we made our way back along the bay, I remarked upon the number of cargo ships out on the bay today. There were definitely way more than usual.
Turns out there was a reason for that - Terminal 18 at the Port of Seattle was shut down today as part of an ongoing labor dispute.

We did actually do some school work today. It's just not as photogenic. ;)

SUPER BOWL BOUND!: Good news: We're going to the big game! That's right, we'll be in Arizona for the Seahawks v. Patriots on February 1. On a 12,000 square foot banner, hauled by a helicopter, that is.

Once again, Seattle-based Pemco insurance is going to fly a promotional banner over the Super Bowl venue, with the banner bearing the signatures of thousands of Seahawks fans. There are several local events to attend to put your John Henry on it (we'll be hitting one this weekend), and you can even add your signature virtually, on their special Web site:

Better yet, on that site, you can also upload a photo. Photos they collect will be used to make a mosaic in the shape of the number 12, representing the the Seahawks' fan base.  We submitted our photo today and got this screen shot as our confirmation... Can you spot CJ and Annabelle?
WAY BACK WHEN: The Seattle PI has a slideshow of our neighborhood online. We recognized many a home and business.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Stuff of Dragons and Dreams

MARVELOUS MONDAY:  Today, we took a trip to The Museum of Flight to hunt down a Dragon. Specifically, the SpaceX Dragon capsule that was visiting Seattle this weekend in conjunction with Elon Musk being in town to kick off hiring for SpaceX Seattle!

Apparently we weren't the only ones interested in seeing the spacecraft, which made history in May of 2012 when it became the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station. When we arrived at the museum, the entire enormous main parking lot was full, and we had to park across the street in overflow parking. That was fine, as that's where the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery is, and it's where we found Dragon!
It was easy to see the vehicle was used, shall we say. It looked a bit like a toasted marshmallow, with burn marks from the extreme temperatures it endured while re-entering the Earth's atmosphere.  

We spent several minutes circling around Dragon, checking out its various parts and chatting with a couple of SpaceX representatives.

It's a good-sized vehicle, definitely bigger than Gemini, Apollo and Soyuz capsules we've seen.
We looked high and low. I was especially interested in seeing Dragon's top, where it connected with the ISS, so we climbed some nearby stairs and took a look down at it.
I guess you could say these are Dragon's teeth. ...
 Presumably, they interlock with an airlock on the ISS.
I wish we could have peered inside the capsule, but velvet ropes kept us a few feet away, darn it. 

The space-flown Dragon we saw was the second such one manufactured by SpaceX. Dragon is designed to transport humans, too. Its first manned test flight expected to take place in 2 to 3 years.

While at the museum, we checked out other sights to see, of course, including the Soyuz in their collection.
It looks positively crispy from its multiple space flights.

Check out this exterior panel - so many cannon plugs!
I noticed the instructions on one part of the craft were in both Russian and English.
By far the largest object in the gallery is the full sized shuttle trainer.
I noticed today that the crew from STS-135, the final flight of any space shuttle, signed a wall inside its nosecone.
We went over to the main building, and checked out the World War I and II exhibits. We're always wowed by the beautiful old planes on display there. O'Reilly's Daughter, a Curtiss P-40N Warhawk, is always a favorite. It's named after a popular Army Air Forces drinking song.
Annabelle took a little time to watch part of a WWII documentary.
And the kids took a 'ride' in a hot air balloon (mock up).
Outside of the museum's main building a new(ish) acquisition to their collection awaited: A Boeing 787 Dreamliner!
Look at how tiny the kids look standing under its engine.
The aircraft is ZA003, the third 787 Dreamliner built, designed as a test/demonstration vehicle. It went on “Dream Tour,” flying round the globe to places Boeing hoped to secure orders. Its first flight  was in March of 2010, its last was Sept. 26, 2014. In all, it flew 880 flight hours.

It really is a beautiful bird.
We circled its exterior, impressed by its enormity ...
not to mention its snazzy paint job!

We got to tour its inside, too. It still has that new car, er, plane smell!

Here are a couple of high tech looking first class seats. 
And here's a peek into the cockpit.
We toured the coach class seats ...
and peered out the windows (which, by the way, have electronic controls allowing passengers to darken them without pulling down a physical sun blocking shade).

Here's a glimpse out a window over the wing.
All in all, an amazing visit to The Museum of Flight!

As we were pulling out of the parking lot, I noticed this rig. It almost certainly has to be Dragon's lair while it's in transit.  

BACK TO THE BIG DANCE:  This weekend brought another big football game to the city of Seattle, with our beloved Seahawks playing for the National Football Conference championship!
We had a party at our place, of course. We made a bunch of food, as always, including little blueberry cupcakes with tiny posters atop them.

For most of the game, the crowd here was mostly reserved, if not downright morose. The Seahawks played TERRIBLY for three and three-quarters quarters. But then, with about four minutes left to go in the game, the Seahawks down 19-7, the tide turned. A series of improbable events occurred, and the Seahawks somehow managed to push the game into overtime, where they won the coin toss and scored a touchdown on their first possession, game over. The front page of today's Seattle Times says it all ...
Hawks win, and it's back to the Super Bowl. Amazing.

It was exciting 'round the region - and elsewhere - in the days leading up to the game. Seahawks' fans are 12s (as in the 12th man on the team), and fly their 12 flags proudly.
For instance, check out this photo from U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener of Petty Officer 2nd Class Travis Curley, an Eastern Washington native who's been stationed in the Puget Sound area for 10 years. Above, Degener stands next to 399-foot Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, which is down at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Cool (literally)!

Go Hawks!