27 November 2015

Gratitude (Nov. 18 - Nov. 24)

  1. Punctual and affordable shuttle ride to the airport
  2. Good flight from RAP (Rapid City) to MSP (Minneapolis)
  3. Good food and place to work during my layover in MSP
  4. Good flight from MSP to DCA (Reagan Washington Airport)
  5. DC Metro ride from DCA in Virginia through Washington, DC to Greenbelt station in Maryland.
  6. Complimentary shuttle from Greenbelt to the hotel
  7. Good night's sleep in hotel
  8. Breakfast buffet
  9. Time in morning to relax and get work done before the workshop starts
  10. Texting with my wife throughout the trip
  11. Being able to (barely) walk to Baskin-Robbins from the hotel
  12. Many great conversations with the leaders of the AAPT Workshop
  13. Many great conversations with my fellow physics teachers
  14. Advice to start with only one thing rather than the entire firehose of ideas from the workshop
  15. Free books, flash drive, and websites from which to draw future ideas
  16. Active engagement ideas and materials for my upper level courses
  17. A little time to walk along the National Mall on the way back to the airport
  18. The Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial
  19. Hearing from the founder of the Physics Education Program at Ohio State, from which I benefitted as a graduate student
  20. Discovering that Physics Education Research has a history dating back more than 40 years.
  21. Nice conversation with a fellow passenger returning from a HR conference.
  22. Good dinner in the Minneapolis airport on the way home.
  23. Encouraging, entertaining, and useful presentation on software for enabling group work.
  24. Lunch with colleagues before the presentation
  25. Encouraging, entertaining, and useful presentation on common group dysfunctions and how to deal with them

19 November 2015

Gratitude (Nov. 11 - Nov. 17)

  1. Physics lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings
  2. The veterans in my life and my ancestry, including my grandfathers (Austin and Galen), step-grandfather (Louis), and many friends.
  3. Leftover squash cake from Sunday potluck
  4. Being able to adjust my wife's bike seat to a better and (I hope) more stable height. 
  5. Visiting the WiSE open house 
  6. Writing birthday cards to our friends
  7. Dinner with friends to celebrate a birthday
  8. Fun at Watiki Water Park (Nov. 14)
  9. Getting part of our basement in better condition for guests
  10. Dinner at Famous Dave's
  11. My wife leading the discussion at our church on Sunday (Nov. 15)
  12. The wonderful people she told us about in her discussion
  13. A chance to help a friend through a rough time
  14. Finishing and posting the short version of a book review for my friend's novel Truest
  15. Good weather for walking over the weekend
  16. Meeting and petting a neighbor's cat, named Purry Como
  17. The STEM: Women Are All Over It shirt is back on sale!
  18. Pointing a student to a potentially helpful source of information on cosmic rays.
  19. Packing for my trip to the AAPT Teaching Workshop went smoothly
  20. My wife's help in getting ready for the trip

15 November 2015

Review of Truest: Spoiler-Free Version

This novel is powerful, moving, deep, and marvelously infused with the author's faith. It grabbed places in my psyche that I barely knew were there, and it has refused to let go.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a personal friend of the author; we have known each other since college.  Thus, any positive comments I have may be partly due to my personal bias as her friend.  I will do my best to avoid this bias, but doing that perfectly is impossible because if she were not my friend, I would never have known this book existed.

The author achieves many great things in this novel. She created flawed yet compelling characters, moved me to admire Elliot, and took this reader through the growth and maturation of her characters.  Running through these achievements are many motifs, including abandonment, rescue, faith, God as father, and uncertainty.

Regarding my admiration for Elliot, some explanation is required. Like Silas, I enjoy words, am an astronomy buff, and have long hair.  I was bullied in high school, and several of those bullies were football players.  In Elliot, Sommers created a character so realistic and yet contrary to stereotypes that I admire the football player more than the long-haired astronomy buff!  That is an amazing achievement.

I think her greatest achievement is getting me to join in her characters' emotions and growth, but I cannot detail that without spoilers.

You may be wondering if I liked or enjoyed this book. My answer is that those not the right words; they do not have enough gravity, power, or depth to accommodate the emotional and spiritual wallop contained in Truest.  I was moved, amazed, surprised, and deeply touched by this novel.  It was far deeper and more powerful than I expected. She has crafted a parable (or series of parables) that honors her faith and respects her readers.

I have also posted this review on Amazon and Goodreads.

11 November 2015

Gratitude (Nov. 4 - Nov. 10)

  1. Excellent discussion and planning with Society of Physics Students
  2. My wife landed safely (and close to punctually) in Pittsburgh
  3. Received my influenza vaccination.
  4. Physics colloquium from one of our graduate students
  5. Time at the library this evening (Nov. 5)
  6. The Pleiades rising in the east.
  7. Retrieved my wife's bike from the bike shop)
  8. Tried a new restaurant (Nov. 7)
  9. My wife was able to spend most of Friday (Nov. 6) with dear friends
  10. Finished machine shop training
  11. I was able to help my wife find a hotel for part of her trip.
  12. Beautiful conjunction of Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and the Moon early in the morning as I was riding to a men's group (Nov. 6)
  13. Good discussion at men's group 
  14. Being able to make tea in my office.
  15. My wife's bicycle is turned up and back home.
  16. Good conversation with a colleague about religions beliefs and their effect on society
  17. New pillars in place for our garage porch
  18. My wife's beautiful flight from Pittsburgh to Minneapolis
  19. Bringing my wife home from her trip
  20. All of the wonderful friends my wife caught up with during her trip
  21. Starting a calibration test of our radon monitor.
  22. Dark chocolate ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery 
  23. Discussion of race and policing in Rapid City based on a study from the University of South Dakota.
  24. Leftovers from Sheetz
  25. Video of a levitating frog.

04 November 2015

Gratitude List Returns (Oct. 28 - Nov. 3, 2015)

  1. First lesson on using a milling machine
  2. Eating produce from our garden
  3. Lining a ramekin with parchment paper before microwaving an egg is an effective way to reduce cleaning time.
  4. The overwhelming messages of encouragement I have received in response to my Facebook question, “Whose story can I make better today?"
  5. A change in perspective on an important personal issue.
  6. The ability to communicate with a long-time friend on Facebook.
  7. Discussing faith, science, and affordable housing with friends at a morning men’s group.
  8. Learning to use a milling machine and making my first piece on it.
  9. Good conversation with a student who is having trouble.
  10. Helping a friend I have never met
  11. Opportunity to speak at The Well on Nov. 1
  12. Handing out candy to trick-or-treaters; my favorites were the boys dressed as Mario and Luigi!
  13. Physics Halloween social 2015, with us dressing (and acting) as Dark Matter an Dark Energy
  14. My friend wrote a novel called Truest, which is powerful, moving, deep, and infused with her faith. It grabbed places in my psyche that I barely knew were there, and it has refused to let go.
  15. Laughing with my wife while watching recorded TV shows on our Entertainment PC
  16. Homemade Sloppy Joes, including peppers from our garden.
  17. Clearance Halloween candy
  18. My presentation at The Well was well-received. 
  19. Time with a good friend (Nov. 1)
  20. My improving ability to play our upcoming concert pieces in the SDSM&T Symphonic Band
  21. Progress in seeking new projects for my lab.
  22. Good meetings with students on Nov. 2