Monthly Archives: January 2007

The Mill Inn at Wakefield

Mill InnAfter that job with the Kayzar and the Phoenix I just finished, I decided I needed a bit of R&R, so I went back to the Mill Inn at Wakefield and see if Laura had had any more mischief occur.

It turned out the murder there increased business so much she didn’t even have a room for me. Considering I’d helped her for free, she did put me up in one of the staff’s room.

Boy, that place sure has changed since I was last there. She’s added a Spa –probably inspired by that bitch who wanted to buy the Inn on the cheap– and of course there’s the view onto the river. Very sweet.

She even has this guy, there, as host now. His name’s Robert Milling. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a little romance develop between these two.

Didn’t matter if I had the barman’s room. I slept like the dead, ate like a pig on five-star food, relaxed in the bar with my favorite glass of scotch. Now I’m ready to take on more aliens.

Maybe.

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A Dialogue with Sarah, Aged 3

The Science Creative Quarterly has this very funny dialogue between Sarah, aged 3, and her father, a chemist, which I’m quoting here:

A DIALOGUE WITH SARAH, AGED 3: IN WHICH IT IS SHOWN THAT IF YOUR DAD IS A CHEMISTRY PROFESSOR, ASKING “WHY” CAN BE DANGEROUS
By Stephen McNeil

SARAH: Daddy, were you in the shower?

DAD: Yes, I was in the shower.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: I was dirty. The shower gets me clean.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why does the shower get me clean?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: Because the water washes the dirt away when I use soap.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why do I use soap?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: Because the soap grabs the dirt and lets the water wash it off.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why does the soap grab the dirt?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: Because soap is a surfactant.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why is soap a surfactant?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: That is an EXCELLENT question. Soap is a surfactant because it forms water-soluble micelles that trap the otherwise insoluble dirt and oil particles.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why does soap form micelles?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: Soap molecules are long chains with a polar, hydrophilic head and a non-polar, hydrophobic tail. Can you say ‘hydrophilic’?

SARAH: Aidrofawwic

DAD: And can you say ‘hydrophobic’?

SARAH: Aidrofawwic

DAD: Excellent! The word ‘hydrophobic’ means that it avoids water.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why does it mean that?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: It’s Greek! ‘Hydro’ means water and ‘phobic’ means ‘fear of’. ‘Phobos’ is fear. So ‘hydrophobic’ means ‘afraid of water’.

SARAH: Like a monster?

DAD: You mean, like being afraid of a monster?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: A scary monster, sure. If you were afraid of a monster, a Greek person would say you were gorgophobic.

(pause)

SARAH: (rolls her eyes) I thought we were talking about soap.

DAD: We are talking about soap.

(longish pause)

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why do the molecules have a hydrophilic head and a hydrophobic tail?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: Because the C-O bonds in the head are highly polar, and the C-H bonds in the tail are effectively non-polar.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Because while carbon and hydrogen have almost the same electronegativity, oxygen is far more electronegative, thereby polarizing the C-O bonds.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why is oxygen more electronegative than carbon and hydrogen?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: That’s complicated. There are different answers to that question, depending on whether you’re talking about the Pauling or Mulliken electronegativity scales. The Pauling scale is based on homo- versus heteronuclear bond strength differences, while the Mulliken scale is based on the atomic properties of electron affinity and ionization energy. But it really all comes down to effective nuclear charge. The valence electrons in an oxygen atom have a lower energy than those of a carbon atom, and electrons shared between them are held more tightly to the oxygen, because electrons in an oxygen atom experience a greater nuclear charge and therefore a stronger attraction to the atomic nucleus! Cool, huh?

(pause)

SARAH: I don’t get it.

DAD: That’s OK. Neither do most of my students.

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Currently Reading…

giverThe Giver, by Lois Lowry (Teen Science Fiction)

Jonas and his family live in a utopian world, where Sameness is the rule: there is no violence, no crime, no hunger, no poverty. As a twelve, Jonas is ready to be assigned an adult task. While his friend Asher, always a bit goofy, is assigned as Assistant Director of Recreation, and Fiona, a thougthful, warm girl, as Caretaker of the Old, Jonas is assigned as Receiver of Memories, a crucial, if lonely, assignment. He is taught by a man called the Giver and soon Jonas realizes that there was a very expensive price to pay for Sameness.

Lowry’s prose is sparse and elegant, deceptive in its simplicity. She tackles hefty issues, such as the need for individuality and choices, which weigh so heavily in the minds of young adults. She doesn’t condescend or talk down but confronts these issues head on, through a surprising twist in the story that startles and pains. The ending is clever and leads to further thought rather than a foregone conclusion or happy ending.

Lowry’s contribution to American Literature for Children earned her a John Newberry Medal. The Giver sustains this contribution. The Giver is a must for every searching young adult.

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