A filtered education March 3, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in education, homeschooling, math, older son, physics, science, societal commentary, teaching, younger son.
Tags: light, older son, physics, science, science education, teaching, younger son
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The older son is a lot of fun. Despite his statements that he has no desire to go into science, he seems to get and make a lot of science jokes. I know he’s not a scientist, but I feel comfortable that he’s scientifically literate. As he was homeschooled, I’m feeling pretty proud of myself.
I’m more anxious about the younger son, though. This weekend, he brought home his science homework, which focused on optics. The kids were studying filters, and one of the questions asked about what kind of light would you see if you shined a flashlight through a blue filter and then a red one. I asked him what he saw, and he said nothing. Unfortunately, he was told that he saw nothing because the flashlights just weren’t bright enough, but that what he should have seen was purple.
I’m pretty sure that if I had ever been bombarded with gamma rays in the past, I would’ve turned into She-Hulk at that very moment and started smashing things. Fortunately (or unfortunately, if being She-Hulk happens to be a goal of yours), that didn’t happen.
I find it infuriating that, throughout my years of homeschooling older son and teaching younger son math, I have constantly been questioned about my ability to teach them. The implication has always been that I may have a degree, but they are experts on teaching. In fact, this particular teacher attempted to take me to task earlier this year about the younger son’s math curriculum…the same teacher who apparently doesn’t understand that light and pigments work completely differently.
After I managed to calm down, I explained that light filters are like sieves, except that they only let one size of particle pass through: nothing bigger can pass through the holes, but nothing smaller can, either. After this explanation, the younger son was able to correctly explain that the reason he saw no light from his flashlight is that the two filters together had blocked all the light.
I’m going to be watching very carefully to see what kinds of scores he’s getting on his answers and whether the teacher realizes she made a mistake. This was very disappointing. There was a new science curriculum introduced this year, one which I was very excited about. The focus was supposed to be on hands-on, problem-based learning, which is great for science. Despite that, it seems that younger son’s science education may be lacking. What good does it do to have a top of the line science education curriculum (or math…or anything else) when our teachers don’t understand what they’re teaching? And how is it that these same teachers can justify questioning the ability to teach material that some of us understand far better than they do?
An engineer’s desk (not mine) February 27, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, food/cooking, research, work.
Tags: caffeine, coffee, desk
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Driving Miss Crazy February 25, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in career.
Tags: Driving, nice people, professionalism
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I had a workshop in Minneapolis today.
Or…I thought I did.
I needed to attend some training, and to get there, I have to drive about four hours each way. It’s not a huge deal. The weather was relatively nice (aside from the 35 mph head/cross wind on the way back). I have done day trips like this a million times before.
Except that when I got there, I found out that the training had been moved out two weeks and I hadn’t been notified of the change.
If you’re exhausted from getting up very early and being on the road for a long time, hearing something like this is bound to make you blow up at the person delivering the bad news. I almost did. However, I got a grip pretty quickly and asked if there were any materials that would have been available at the workshop that I could start looking at. Obviously having a fit wasn’t going to solve anything, so I figured I’d try to salvage what I could.
The admin person was very nice and helped me find someone who could provide such documentation. After hearing about what had happened, this person did something even better: he found an instructor for the training who sat down with me and ran through all the stuff I needed. When he couldn’t find someone at first, I said some documentation would be helpful, so that would be enough. He responded,
You drove four hours to get here. I’m not going to shove a piece of paper in your hand and turn you away.
I was surprised at how emphatic he was that I get something out of this trip…and grateful.
He did find an instructor after a bit. I was able to ask the instructor specific questions and pretty much avoid all the pointless stuff. We actually fixed a couple problems I was having, and, better yet, I spent half the time working with the person that I would have spent in the training. (I do feel bad that I sucked this person away from other responsibilities, but he was extremely polite about it.)
The day was still a very long day, but I definitely feel like it was worth it. It’s always nice when someone behaves in a professional manner, but it’s beyond awesome when they’re willing to go out of their way to help you out…although I’m sure the driving bit had something to do with it.
3 Karrot Gluten-Free Muffins February 23, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in food/cooking.
Tags: carrots, celiacs, cooking, fodmaps, food, gluten free diet, muffins
I could tell you what I’ve been up to lately, but it’s pretty much the same thing I’ve been up to for the past year and a half: I’m either working on a paper or a proposal…although now and again I’m trying to help my student out. But really, it’s kind of getting silly to say this as it hardly changes.
I have, however, been spending a lot of time perfecting my carrot cake recipe. One day, a few weeks ago, I had this horrid craving for carrot cake. The problem I have is that a lot of gluten-free food in general tastes pretty awful: I haven’t had one I like yet. Second, even if I did like them, most mixes I come across are not FODMAPs friendly…meaning they have some ingredient or other that will make me sick. (If you’re not sure what this is, you can read about it here.) Finally, I try, as much as possible, to eat paleo. Unfortunately, FODMAPS friendly paleo foods are rather tough to come by. Most use nuts or coconut flour (or taste even worse than the run-of-the-mill gluten-free foods), so those are out.
I decided I had to come up with something myself. I added the condition that my friends who eat ‘normal’ diets must enjoy eating it, too. I am pretty sure this one succeeded. I also tried, very hard, to make it mostly carrots. I don’t think I succeeded, but I did manage to at least balance the carrot to flour ratio…it’s much better than the standard 3:1 flour to carrot ratio in most recipes. (Most carrot cake, in my opinion, is just spice cake pretending to be healthier than it is.) I am aware that most people don’t consider sugar or brown sugar to be paleo, but those, along with molasses, are the only FODMAPs-friendly sweeteners I can handle.
I’ve finally perfected my recipe, so I’ll share it below. I’m very excited because it’s one of the very few baked goods I’ve made lately that I can actually eat myself. I will warn you that it’s really a pain to make, but it’s totally worth it. However, I’m quite serious when I say not to deviate from the instructions. As much as I love kitchen short-cuts, you don’t want to just throw everything in the food processor and call it good.
And one last note: while you may want to try substitutions, be very careful about maintaining the moisture balance in these muffins. I learned the hard way (and repeatedly) that one little change can leave you with hockey pucks or mushy gunk in short order. Therefore, this recipe won’t work if you decide to throw honey in for the brown sugar. You CAN get away with 1/4 c. of a dry sweetener instead, like palm sugar or raw cane sugar, if you want to try something else.
If you do make changes, please let me know so that I can pass them on to anyone else who is interested.
3 Karrot Muffins
Makes about 12 muffins.
- 11-12 oz. fresh raw peeled carrots
- 2/3 c. dehydrated carrot (make sure it’s not processed on the same equipment as wheat…I buy them online)
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 c. potato starch
- 1/3 c. tapioca flour
- 1/3 c. sweet rice flour
- 2 rounded tbsp white rice flour
- 1/4-1/3 c. brown sugar
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. ginger
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/3 c. coconut oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Optional cream cheese ‘filling’
- 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 2 tsp. coconut oil
- 2 tsp. sweetener (sugar, maple syrup, whatever)
I’m going to start with the cream cheese filling: you don’t have to do it. If you’d like to do it, there’s an easy way and a harder way. The easy way is just to cut your 4 oz of cream cheese into 12 chunks of the same size. It tends to dry and crack a bit though, so the harder way is to blend the cream cheese and coconut oil (and sweetener, if you want some) in a small bowl using a mixer. This will have a nicer texture and look nicer, but it doesn’t really taste much different. Put it in the fridge for later.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Place the raw carrots in a food processor and run until the carrots are finely chopped. (By finely chopped, I mean ‘not quite a puree but as close as the machine can get.’) Next add the dried carrots and run for a while. Then add the eggs and run again. The eggs should whip up and give the mixture a lighter orange color, and it should look like a puree. Leave this sitting for a while. In essence, you’re using your raw carrots and eggs to rehydrate the dried ones. (Note: don’t shortcut and throw it all in the food processor at once unless your machine is VERY good. I tried that and ended up with a serving of baked carrots in the middle of a couple of muffins.)
While waiting for the carrots to rehydrate, add the following dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl: potato starch, tapioca flour, sweet rice flour, white rice flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. Combine thoroughly.
Before you take the next step, get your muffin pan ready. I generally like to use foil muffin papers for these as they seem to soak through paper liners. I also suspect the foil liners do a better job of baking the muffins evenly.
Add the coconut oil and vanilla extract to the food processor and run again. Add contents of the food processor to the bowl of dry ingredients and combine thoroughly. I usually just use a large spoon to do this as the mixture seems awfully thick for a mixer. Divide batter evenly between muffin liners.
If you’re using the cream cheese (mixture), add about 2 tsp. to each muffin. Make sure to press it down into the batter a bit. I don’t recommend making divots in the muffins as it seems to create big air bubbles.
Bake for 25 min. Let cool for a couple hours at room temp before serving (even though they smell incredible). Because of the raw carrots, these put off a lot of moisture and need to be cooled properly.
The moment you’ve all been waiting for… February 21, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, feminism.
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Before I make a small announcement, I’m going to provide a wonderful piece of advice. If you plan to marry an engineer, add a whiteboard and some markers to the registry. You’ll need them in case you ever have an argument with your soon to be spouse.
Now that that’s out of the way (and you’ve waited for a moment, so that the title of this post is appropriate…although I have to admit waiting much longer than that), I wanted to thank the folks at Engineering Commons for inviting me as a guest on their podcast. I discussed the issue of women in engineering (among several other things), and it was quite a bit of fun. If you’d like to listen, you can find it here: http://theengineeringcommons.com/episode-49-women-in-engineering/
Please let me know what you have any thoughts on the conversation!
Curriculum litmus test February 14, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, physics, teaching.
Tags: evaluations, learning, students, teaching
I received the written comments back on my student evals from last semester. I had a number of students who were very annoyed with the final project. The previous two years, the final project consisted of a Matlab project. After thinking about what a pain that was, I decided to change to a new project: a paper of 10-15 pages that has each student discuss their goals for getting through college. The general consensus among those who commented was that the project required too much work for a 1 credit class. There were several comments about how most of the other sections of this class don’t require as much work as I do, but the paper was just too much.
I’m sort of used to the comments about how much work my class is. I state up front that they can expect 2-3 hours of homework each week…for a 1 credit class (that is, we meet once per week for an hour). I also figure they had better get used to it, given the expectations of many of my colleagues.
I did find the comments slightly disturbing, however, because the implication seems to be that what I’m asking them to do is a lot of busy work. In a lot of classes, many students feel that they’re spending a lot of time doing things that they will never do again outside of college. They’re right, in a lot of cases. I took a ton of math as an undergrad, and Mike likes to tell people that I’ve forgotten more math than he ever learned. Sadly, the longer time goes on, the more I think he may be right.
The class I teach, however, is an academic skills class. This means I am teaching them how to get through school, particularly in the engineering curriculum. Do you know how to take notes? What are the key things that are important? Can you write a lab report? Do you even know what area of engineering you’re going into?!
These are the things I’m trying to teach them. My goal isn’t even to get them through the engineering curriculum, though a lot of the things I assign may be geared that way. I simply want them to get through school and graduate. I tell them this. It perplexes me, therefore, how they can view setting goals as a waste of time.
I really have put a lot of thought into my assignments. I want this class to be useful, and so I ask myself if each activity is something that will help them learn a skill they’ll need to get through school. In a lot of ways, I’m at an advantage: college is a very constrained environment, and I can tell what skills are useful until they graduate. After they graduate and get a job, however, their classwork may or may not be very valuable. It’s something that simply can’t be predicted.
I have had students come back to me and say that they are really glad I taught the class and they do use the skills that I taught them. I’m just not sure, however, how to make it clear to the freshman in my class that I really am not trying to torture them and that I do want them to succeed. I can only hope the ones complaining about writing their goals are so motivated and driven that a lack of clearly stated goals has absolutely no bearing on their performance in school over the next 3 1/2 years.
How to be condescending when you’re trying not to be February 9, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in career, family, societal commentary.
Tags: career, children, mommy wars, parenting, SAHM
I thought it undermined its own point.
Let’s start with the first paragraph:
It’s happened twice in a week, and they were both women. Anyone ought to have more class than this, but women — especially women — should damn well know better.
The opener disgusted me immediately, and I almost quit reading. Let’s start with the fact that I agree with his main point: that women who choose one path over another (in this case, motherhood or career) are not necessarily superior to one other. However, the whole tone of the post was condescending toward women (and men!) and did ultimately end up being judgemental of working women.
But the opener set the tone, and the tone was that women are held to a higher standard than men. It’s okay for men to say stupid things about stay-at-home mothers (but not parents?), but women somehow have this innate, caring response that ought to be the first thing out of their mouths.
Sorry. It doesn’t work that way. I’ve been a SAHM and a working mom. People’s response to this is always one that comes from their perspective and takes no account of whether you’re doing what you want to or why. When I wanted to be a SAHM mom, people told me I needed to be supporting my family. When I didn’t want to be but was, people told me they were so jealous that I got to be at home. When I was working, people told me I was selfish and needed to pay more attention to my kids.
At all of these points, I was also told by other people that I had made the right choice. It’s funny how few people ever asked me what I wanted to do or if I was doing it. The reality is that, in each of these situations, I was doing what needed to be done for the good of my family, and each response had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the perspective of the person speaking those words.
When I find out someone is staying home or working, my response is, “How do you feel about that?” If they’re enjoying their current situation, a good response is, “Glad it’s working out for you.” If they’re not, I wish them luck in getting things sorted out so they can be more comfortable. It’s really not my place to say what’s best for them.
The post that started all this, however, didn’t. It came down firmly on the side of women needing to be stay at home moms.
Of course not all women can be at home full time. It’s one thing to acknowledge that; it’s quite another to paint it as the ideal. To call it the ideal, is to claim that children IDEALLY would spend LESS time around their mothers. This is madness. Pure madness. It isn’t ideal, and it isn’t neutral. The more time a mother can spend raising her kids, the better. The better for them, the better for their souls, the better for the community, the better for humanity. Period.
No. It’s not as cut and dried as that. Some moms really don’t want to be home. Some moms are better being around other adults: being the sole caretaker for children with no adult interaction makes them depressed or anxious. (I believe this was covered in the 60s in Friedan’s Feminine Mystique.) I wouldn’t doubt that having mom home all the time may be advantageous for some kids, but I don’t know that it’s always the best choice for the whole family.
If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
If mom is going nuts staying home with the kids, I seriously doubt that’s the best situation for the kids, either. Having a depressed or anxious mom who views you as a toddling, diapered impediment to her happiness isn’t good for anything. What do we tell people to do if they’re unhappy with their job? Quit and find another because it’s not good to be in a stressful situation. Obviously, quitting being a parent isn’t an option, but finding time away from parenting certainly is.
The other thing that irritated me about this post was this:
Yes, my wife is JUST a mother. JUST. She JUST brings forth life into the universe, and she JUST shapes and molds and raises those lives. She JUST manages, directs and maintains the workings of the household, while caring for children who JUST rely on her for everything. She JUST teaches our twins how to be human beings, and, as they grow, she will JUST train them in all things, from morals, to manners, to the ABC’s, to hygiene, etc. She is JUST my spiritual foundation and the rock on which our family is built. She is JUST everything to everyone. And society would JUST fall apart at the seams if she, and her fellow moms, failed in any of the tasks I outlined.
Moms don’t need to be SAHMs to do this. In fact, what’s most irritating about this that you don’t need to be a mom at all: dads do this, too. This paragraph basically went back on the whole “I respect the choices that other parents make comment” and went ahead and tried to put those SAHMs up on a pedestal…doing exactly the thing to working moms (and ALL dads) that the writer was originally complaining about. In fact, he even says so.
The people who completely immerse themselves in the tiring, thankless, profoundly important job of raising children ought to be put on a pedestal.
No, I disagree. Parenting is a tiring, thankless, profoundly important job. And a lot of people have tiring, thankless, and profoundly important careers, too, although they at least usually get monetary compensation. Also, many people have jobs where they are greatly appreciated and are not easily replaceable. Okay, maybe someone who is only looking at your payroll may think so, but chances are that many of your coworkers don’t think that…even if you do get on their nerves.
We get a lot of things wrong in our culture. But, when all is said and done, and our civilization crumbles into ashes, we are going to most regret the way we treated mothers and children.
No, I don’t think that mothers and children will be the only victims. I think the problem is simply how we treat other people in general. In general, we tend to be caught up in the “grass is always greener” syndrome without a realistic view of what other people are dealing with. Most people are really just trying to get through their day and don’t realize that they may be simultaneously in worse and better situations than the next person.
I once was very jealous of a friend because of all the academic honors he had achieved. He was so accomplished, and I felt like a failure next to him. One day he told me he felt the same because I had a happy marriage and a wonderful family. That was the day I realized that we all picked our own paths and had our own priorities. We always have to give up something to get what we want because no one has infinite time and resources. We almost always find the path of our lives takes unexpected twists and turns. And if people could respect and understand that, we’d all be in a better place. We’re not going to get there, though, by saying we respect all those paths and then telling someone they chose the wrong one.
There is no crying in science February 7, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in science.
Tags: a league of their own, baseball, science
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This week has been a real roller coaster. Some great things happened, but some really awful things happened, too: horrible, frustrating, gnashing of teeth type awful. As I was contemplating one of these awful things, this popped into my head:
There may be no crying in baseball, but there is in science…just like sometimes, in science, there is laughter, excitement and giddiness. But when there’s crying, there’s no use trying to convince yourself not to. It will happen; it does happen. And then you get over it and move on, just like the rest of life.
To borrow or not to borrow… February 6, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in education, homeschooling, older son.
Tags: college, finances, student loans
Some of you may remember that, about a year ago, I took the boys on a big tour of colleges. I wanted the older boy to see what his options were and make an informed decision when it came to college. (I have to admit that this was a result of the fact that I only was able to visit one college before choosing, and I felt like I would have made a better choice if I’d been able to see others.) The older boy surprised me when, late last year, he informed me of his decision to live at home and go to college locally.
To be rather blunt, I was disappointed. I felt like he could go to a much better college if he chose. However, he said that he was nervous about starting college and moving out and basically jumping from being a high schooler to an adult all at once. I was surprised at this, but it really did make sense. Obviously, I wasn’t going to try to force him to go someplace else for school.
(I was also amused because, when I was his age, I deliberately chose to apply to colleges that were as far away from home as physically possible. This is how one goes from North Dakota to Los Angeles.)
I’m now even more convinced that this is a good decision. The older boy started a part-time job. We sat down and ran the numbers and determined that his income from the job would pay about half of his tuition and give him some spending money. Because of the hours, he can also work another job over the summer and probably make up the difference in tuition costs.
Finally, he will likely start as a sophomore because of all of the college credit he has earned or will earn through CLEP exams.
Based on this, he can likely get through school in three years and come out potentially debt-free because he will be able to pay his tuition himself. When I look at how much he would have had to go into debt to earn his degree at the other schools we looked at, I have to admit that this is a pretty intelligent way to go.
The one reservation I had about this is that I felt like he needed to get out of the house. I don’t want to stifle him by living at home all through college. As I was pondering this toward the end of the semester, I had a speaker come to my class and discuss the study abroad program at the school. I was surprised at how affordable the program is. I brought a brochure home for older son, and we discussed it. Rather than transferring to another school later, like he initially thought, he’s going to try to go abroad once or twice. That way he can get the experience of not only visiting another school but another country. Even with this, he can still probably get through school without any debt.
I’m surprised how much the financial aspect of this has changed my perspective. Maybe because I and other people I know are still paying off student loans. I’m curious what my readers would say to their kids if they were facing the same choice.
My child is… January 30, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, younger son.
Tags: patents, sticker, younger son
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My second patent application went in a couple weeks ago. My first was filed about a year and a half ago, and I still haven’t heard on that one.
Anyway, a couple days after the second application went in, this sticker showed up in the mail for the younger son:
Is it horrible for me to admit that I seriously considered cutting off the “My child is a” part and sticking it to my car?
I hope I’m not being overly optimistic.