Monday, February 27, 2006

it's like i'm in the tropics today

many of you may hate me after this but that's life.

today it is 21 degrees celsius (70 degrees fahrenheit for our new american friends) and tomorrow it will be much the same. colorado has awesome weather. the summer was great, almost no humidity. this winter has been somewhat unusual with the warmer temps and only three or four snowfalls for boulder. mind you the monsoons will be starting and we can still get a fair bit of snowfall into may but that's ok.

i think i need to put on some shorts before i go and brush jake outside this afternoon.

remember when you go outside wear a toque. it will keep you warm.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Milkman Cometh

I have vague memories of my grandparents getting milk delivered to their house in Kapuskasing when I was a kid. At that time, milkmen were all but obsolete. Things have changed.

This week we joined a number of our friends in the Boulder area and started having our milk delivered to our doorstep in reusable glass containers by the Longmont Dairy Farm, a local organic dairy. Organic food is a concept that I've tried to appreciate from afar for years, but have never been able to justify in terms of our actual grocery bill. I have often thought, "I'd buy organic, but I just can't justify paying almost twice as much." Well, it seems that Boulder mentality is gradually seeping into us.

For years, Keith and I have taken some pride in the lack of processed (read: frozen, pre-prepared, chemically enriched, etc.) food that our family consumes. We are the type of family who goes to Costco and stands in line with our 10 cans of tuna, package of 10 fresh chicken breasts, 10 kg bag of apples, 50 rolls of toilet paper and 5 kg of brown sugar, marvelling at the vast amount of frozen foods that overfill the carts of the neighbouring shoppers. We both like to cook and bake, and it's much more satisfying, and far less scary, to serve foods where we can easily identify and pronounce most of the ingredients. (Even for a chemist, some labels can be rather horrifying.)

So it's likely a natural transition that we've been experiencing.

Many of you know that we're a cereal family. I'm a little obsessive, and I tend to stick to the same cereal and eat it every day, week after week, month after month. The last few years we lived in Ontario, that cereal was Vector, which is not available in the US. So addicted to it were we that we had my parents bring us 10 boxes when they came to visit in August. Needless to say, we had a lot of searching once we moved here to find an acceptable alternative, and strangely enough, all of the best options we've found here have been in the organic aisle. We've now been eating organic cereal for well over half a year, and it has begun to make sense to consider changing some of the other foods that we consume daily to a healthier choice.

For years I've been in denial about the effects of the hormones that are added to mass-produced milk products. And who knows, maybe the only people who should be concerned are those with young daughters? Regardless, the old what you don't know can't hurt you can only go so far, and after a while, one needs take responsibility and become more informed, even if it means cutting corners elsewhere. Thankfully, the financial commitment is only about 20% more expensive than the non-organic alternatives.

One step at a time.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Chaos of Science

I took some pictures today at work that I thought I would share with the group. These are pictures of the instrument that I'm helping to upload (install) and make ready for our two field studies. It's the 4-channel chemical ionization mass spectrometer (CIMS) that can measure a whole suite of gas-phase molecules and radicals that I described in a previous post (Time flies when you're busy.) It's pretty crazy to look at, and we've garnered more than a few comments from the other investigators along the lines of "they're actually going to let you fly that?" The "they" in question are the crew in charge of all things aviation. And the answer, miraculously (and by a small degree of history), is yes.

The interior pictures are of the CIMS instrument, both from the aft of the rack, and the front. Yes, all those lines are actually necessary. The one with the keyboard on the floor is the aft picture, and there will be two seats put in tomorrow morning. The seats go in and out depending on what the guys in the rack behind us need to do. There are also a couple pictures of the exterior, showing the pylons that cover our inlets. Mine (and my boss's) is the one that doesn't look like a bazooka. They're all designed not to interfere with each other. The ones that face forward are designed to smooth out the flow, while at the same time being 10 degrees off axis so that any liquid water in the air will collide with the sides and not enter the inlets.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


Last summer, a very nice kid sold me several of his old (and yet quite well-looked after) Dr. Seuss (and co.) books at a garage sale. I'm pretty sure his name is Kyle Cheng, because it is written in the front cover of most of the books with rather nice handwriting. When I was a kid, I had a couple Dr. Seuss (and co.) books. I still remember Hand Hand Fingers Thumb, The Foot Book, If I Ran the Zoo, Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now and my mother's personal favourite, Fish Out of Water. Working in a children's library for 4 years, I learned the titles of a lot of the other Seuss books, but I didn't actually read them until after Kai was born. Now I'm finally discovering the fun of classics like Green Eggs and Ham, which I recently read was written after a bet that one couldn't write a good children's book with a vocabulary of 50 words or less. I have yet to check this personally, but it certainly seems about right.

Kai tends to want a particular book read to him night after night for 4 or 5 days at a time. As Northrop Frye once wrote, we learn by repetition. What better way than with Dr. Seuss? For a while, it was Go, Dog, Go, then A People House, then Are You My Mother (that one lasted a while.) Just before Christmas, I read How the Grinch Stole Christmas to him, and it became a cherished favourite for many MANY nights. A few days ago, I picked up the Lorax... what a fabulous story! And what a great way to introduce environmental issues to kids. I'm starting to realize that by not having read it until now, I likely missed out on a number of literary references to it over the years... Again, I'm having flashbacks to OAC English and Frye.

Speaking of references, although not necessarily literary, I've had to describe what being a Polkaroo is a few times over the last few weeks. It's such a perfect term for "someone you have heard exists, yet never seen personally," and yet so lost on anyone who didn't grow up in Canada.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Time flies when you're busy

I guess it's been a while since I've posted anything. I've thought about posting from time to time, but between not having my computer set up at work, and not being too excited about waiting for this dial-up sloth we have at home, I have put it off many times. I believe I promised Shannon I would post "very soon" over a week ago, so in relative terms I don't think I've broken that promise, although that could be considered a stretch.

We had another visitor here this week - Joanna, a childhood friend of mine, came to our place for a few nights after spending the weekend in San Francisco and the Sonoma valley. Kai was super-excited to have another buddy to play with, although he insisted that the room she slept in was Shannon's room.

I've been keeping pretty busy lately. For work, I've been at a local county airport with a number of colleagues uploading (installing) our 4-channel CIMS (chemical ionization mass spectrometer) onto the NCAR C-130 for over a month. Unfortunately, we've been beating our heads against the wall for the last week and half because we can't get counts through our inlet. There are 4 inlets with 6 people in total contributing effort: OH, HNO3, HO2/RO2 (the one I'm associated with) and NH3. We're supposed to start test flights early next week. It was originally to be this Monday, but of course, that's been pushed back. I'm a little overwhelmed at times, but I'm learning a lot. The shear magnitude of the field study that I'm going to be involved with is enough to make my head hurt. I just hope that I actually get some data... at this point, it's looking sketchy. Of course, it wouldn't be a proper field study otherwise.

We had our second snowfall since mid-December a couple nights ago. This year has been incredibly mild, but I'm not complaining. (Neither is our heating bill.) From what I've heard, heavy snowfalls aren't uncommon in this area even into the middle of May. I don't think we've had more than 2" on the ground at any given time so far this winter, so for Kai's sake, I do hope we get dumped on before spring. How Canadian of me, to point out the weather.

Life here has certainly fallen into a rhythm. Keith is keeping busy with Kai and with work. I've been quilting during my free time. We get together with friends on a pretty regular basis. I guess it all sounds rather uninteresting, but we wouldn't want things any other way. I guess it's the calm before the storm, if you can consider my absence a "storm". I guess that's something Keith will have to fill you in on when I'm gone. Wow. I just realized that 4 weeks from today it all begins.