Garden Update 2013


Last year, a lot of time was spent turning up sod in the back yard to make room for a garden.  Thankfully this time, as the work was mostly done already, it was a bit easier to stay organized in turning over the soil every few days, pull weeds early and get the garden prepped for some vegetable growing.

One substantial difference from last year, though, is that we had grown chickens this time.  And, by the way, chickens like to eat sprouts coming up out of gardens.

So while we got started pretty early with the garden, the chickens were making it difficult to get anything going.  Thus, we spent a Sunday afternoon building a run for the coop, just in time for the green beans to pop up.

Can't get my garden now, can you?
Can’t get my garden now, can you?

The coop has the side-benefit of allowing us to leave them loose on hot days.  They can come out in the sun, they can stay in the coop, or they can go in the shady underneath.  But, most importantly, they can’t get into the garden.

The green beans are probably looking the best out of everything we’re growing, though we’ve got some tomatoes starting to show up and some buds on the green peppers.  We haven’t had the best of luck with peppers in the past, but I’m hopeful this year we may actually get something out of them.  Our neighbor grows a metric ton of peppers each year in pots and his seem to work just fine…dunno what our problem is…

Green beans on the left, peppers and tomatoes on the right, and soup beans surrounding everything.
Green beans on the left, peppers and tomatoes on the right, and soup beans surrounding everything.

The soup beans are the ones the chickens kept going after.  We had the fence up around the garden like last year, but the chickens simply laughed and jumped right on over…and ate every sprout that came up.  These plants like vining, so it would have been nice to have a fence there for them to cling to.  Now, they’ll probably just move out into the yard.  Either way, at least we’ll still get some soup beans.  They’re just a bit behind because of needing to re-plant multiple times…

I’ve been saving grass clippings and dumping them between the rows to help limit weed proliferation.  For the most part, it seems to be working, but as our yard is pretty small, we only get enough grass to go on a single row each time I mow.

In another month, hopefully our little urban farm will start providing a bit.  Eggs, green beans (ug…), green peppers, tomatoes, and soup beans (for the Winter…) sound pretty good for living in South City!

Meet Me At The Muny

The view of "Aladdin" from our seats.

We lived in St. Louis for 5 years and never actually went to The Muny, an amphitheater at Forest Park known for its stage productions during the summer.  Thus, for Father’s Day this year, “Meg” got us all tickets to go see “Aladdin,” a musical based on the 1992 Disney movie.

Let’s all allow “1992” to sink in for a moment…

Regardless, this was going to be the first time we’d ever tried keeping Meg up far past her bedtime.  We tested the waters a bit on the 4th of July, getting her to bed around 9:30, and that seemed to be pretty close to the limit.  Muny productions typically start at 8:15 pm (weather permitting), so we knew we wouldn’t be able to finish the whole thing, but we thought it’d be a nice family outing, and something else to test Meg’s reaction to large crowds and big events.  All told, she did a pretty great job.

"More cheese crackers, Mama?"

We ate at a Mexican restaurant before going to Forest Park to walk around a bit.  The stroller ride helped keep Meg entertained (who opted to not take a nap that day, mind you…) while we waited to go into the amphitheater.  By the time 7:45 rolled around, we were heading in, found our seats, and Brooke opened up some snacks for Meg.  The weather started out pretty hot, right around 90 F, but a front moved in north of St. Louis that dropped the temp to 80 F in about 10 min.  By the time the show started, it was surprisingly comfortable!

The show itself was “alright.”  Perhaps it’s my affection for the 1992 movie, but the changes that had to be made to the story in order to make it work on a stage weren’t the ones I’d have gone with.  The primary offender was the replacement of Abu (the monkey) with three “friends” of Aladdin, who served as narrators, to some degree, and also comic relief.  They, and the Genie, had “updated” some jokes for the 21st century, making some of the dialog a bit more topical, but many of them were less amusing for me than they intended.  By the time we left, I felt like we’d hardly even seen the character of Aladdin, and seen far more of the “friends” and of Jasmine (who did a remarkable job, sounding very much like the character from the movie).  The Genie, also, was not Robin Williams, and to me, tried a bit too hard to not differentiate himself from the example set 20 years ago.  He did alright, but again, I’m just used to the Genie I grew up with.

This production also added songs to the show.  Some of these songs, supposedly, were originally intended for the movie, but were then dropped.  A few of them, though, seemed like they didn’t fit all that well (which is maybe why they weren’t in the movie in the first place).  The musical performances were good, overall, but again, there was probably a reason some of those were dropped 20 years ago.  I could have gone with less music, personally.

Meg was getting pretty tired (and louder…), so we left at Intermission.  Appropriately, Intermission was set at the point in the story when the Genie turns Aladdin into a prince, so we got through a good chunk of the story.  Daddy got to carry Meg out, sleeping, on his shoulder, and we had her home and in bed just before 10:00.  She did a good job!

All in all, I think we all had a good time.  It was a good family outing for us, despite the late-ish starting time!

The guy in back was running really, really fast...

July Garden Update

The midwest is still going through something of a drought, and while the weather has certainly improved since having 10 consecutive days over 100 F, we still haven’t gotten much rain.

That said, the garden and chickens have mostly survived.  With regards to the garden, the peas stopped producing about a month ago.  I think we ended up with more peas than we got in Iowa last year, but not by too much.  We’ve been getting green beans for the past few weeks as well, likely getting somewhere between 10 and 12 pints-worth (Brooke has canned 8 pints thus far).  There are still more coming on, but we can already tell we won’t get anywhere near the (proportional) amount we got last year in Iowa.  Same goes for the tomatoes.  You can see in the picture above that the plants on the left are considerably smaller than those on the right.  The right-hand ones seem to be a “cherry tomato” variety, as they’re pretty small, but still taste pretty decent.  The ones on the left are the romas, the variety Brooke prefers using for canning.  Sadly, while we’ve got some on there, it sure doesn’t seem like we’ll get all that many.

Aside from beans and tomatoes, we’ve still got a good number of green peppers coming on, as well as some squash and cucumbers.  Brooke’s having to water the garden somewhat often just to keep things alive, and we’ve got a good deal of weeding to take care of sometime.  I guess, considering the weather this summer, we’re pleased with the amount of stuff we’ve gotten, but it’s still a difficult shift from last year’s bounty.

The chickens aren’t laying eggs yet, which is quite disappointing, though not terribly surprising.  Last year, the surviving chicken didn’t start laying eggs until right around now, but it’s also worth noting that chickens generally don’t like laying eggs in crazy hot weather.  I’m checking every morning to see if they’ve started laying, as the weather has cooled a little bit, but no dice yet.  Believe you me, I’m ready for some fresh eggs!

They’re nice and fat now, though, and they enjoy running around our yard.  We probably still need to clip their wings again, but aside from one (brief) escape attempt from the large, white chicken, they’ve been pretty content to stay in our yard.  The extreme heat has kept them in shady spots, though, so they tend to stay put.

Regardless, it’s a far cry from last year’s haul, but we’re making do!


I guess it started a few years ago when Stu came in to St. Louis to hear a band play at Pop’s, over in East St. Louis, and wanted to crash at our place for the night after the concert.  I ended up going along, mostly because Stu was paying for the ticket, but also because I’d never experienced what can only be described as a “death metal concert.”

The first thing we did was went to Walgreens to get ear plugs.  Bear in mind that I’ve gone to more than a few concerts in my times and I’ve never needed ear plugs.  I always felt it was counter-intuitive, as you’d think you want to listen to the music, not reduced the sound by 30 dB.

I’m glad I had the plugs.  Then, and each subsequent time I’ve joined him at one of these things.

This past Sunday, on his birthday, Stu wanted to go see some bands at Fubar, a concert venue near SLU.   Before that, Stu, his roommate, and I went to La Vallesana, a Mexican place on Cherokee Street, which was pretty spectacular.  The menu was very reasonable (one could even say it was “cheap”) and much more varied than the “traditional Mexican restaurant,” especially in the different meats they offered.  I had a Quesadilla “Al Pastor,” which involved a dry-rubbed pork and pineapple concoction.  Mmmmmm…  They don’t serve beer, though, which I find interesting for a Mexican restaurant (though they did have Mexican Coca-Cola, including real sugar, not that “high fructose corn syrup” shenanigans).

After that, we went to Fubar.  If you dare flip on the YouTube link above, you’ll hear the style of music being played there by the headlining band, Origin.  It was a lengthy music fest, of sorts, with six or seven bands participating, starting at 5:00 (we didn’t get there until after 7:00…thankfully…as we didn’t leave until after 11:00…).

I should note that my favorite band name was “Cattle Decapitation.”  No joke.  That’s their name.  They’ve put out 10 albums since 1996.

Regardless, it’s always an interesting experience to go to these concerts with Stu.  This is a guy that had long hair back when I met him in high school (and has since chopped all that off and is a software developer), so I was first exposed to this style of music back then when we’d go out to lunch during band camp my sophomore year.  While I can’t say I’ve grown to like death metal, as a genre, I have always appreciated the speed at which their drummers play.  What these guys lack in “finesse,” they have orders of magnitude more in brute strength and stamina, where it isn’t unusual (heck, it’s the norm) to see them play constant sixteenth-notes with their feet using the double-bass pedal for a full song, or multiple songs in a row, without much of a break.  It’s nuts.  I’d be curious how many of them run marathons…

At the same time, while I stand there, watching the bass player and the electric guitar player move their hands across their respective fretboards very quickly, all I hear is a low “E” tone.  I pulled out my phone and used a “guitar tuner” app to verify this fact.  Yup.  All I heard was a single, low tone, while I could see their hands moving all over the place.  It was likely an effect of the deafening live sound, leading to dissonance that my poor ears couldn’t handle.  When I say “it all sounded the same,” that’s what I mean: it was one friggin’ note.

It’s also interesting to see the characters that go to these concerts.  This Sunday, I was wearing a striped polo shirt and Stu had a grey-ish t-shirt on…and I’m pretty sure we were the only people there with any colored clothes besides black or white (we mostly stayed in the back, by the bar…).  Most folks had long hair, there were very few women there.  I didn’t see a ton of piercings (though, more than a few of those giant rings in some dudes’ ear lobes).  I noticed only one obviously drunk guy: everyone else either had nothing in their hands, or water, or a soda.  A “mosh pit” opened up a few times, but really, the participants seemed like they were skipping around in a circle, pushing each other.

The thing that really gets me, though, is how very little these guys all probably make on a given night.  The advance tickets were $18; at the door, they were $22.  There were maybe 100 people there when we walked in, though surely some people came and went.  Let’s say they sold 200 tickets to this thing and sold all of them at $22: $4400 would have been the ticket sales.  Divided among 6 bands (though, I’m sure the divisions wouldn’t have been an even split), that’s $733 per band (not per person)…and that assumes that the venue would take no money from the ticket sales, which obviously isn’t the case.  In the end, each band member was probably lucky to walk out of there with $100.

Point is: the bands themselves make practically nothing from tickets, so they must make up the difference in merchandising.  I saw some folks going up, buying things, but I can’t say I saw large crowds around the merch table.  It makes me wonder how bands like these expect to “make it.”  Bear in mind that these are national, touring bands, that people (not me…) have heard of before.  These are the popular groups.

So yeah, it’s always an interesting exercise for me to tag along to these concerts.  I’d kinda like Brooke to come along sometime, so I can get her “sociological perspective” on these people.  Not sure Stu wants to be buying two extra tickets, though… 😛

Upcoming Movies

The last two years have yielded something of a famine with regards to summer movies I’m excited to see.  To be fair, the last two years have also encompassed this little thing called “fatherhood,” so I haven’t exactly had the time or money to go see as many movies as I used to.  That, and living in Iowa away from my usual movie buddy made it difficult to get to see the flicks I wanted to check out.

To be fair, last year especially didn’t really have much I was excited to see.  Within the realm of comic book features, movies like Thor, Captain America and Green Lantern didn’t really entice me to find someone to go to the theater with.  I caught most of these movies, and others, through Netflix rentals in the Fall and Spring and I don’t really think I missed all that much.

That said, now that we’ve made our triumphant return to St. Louis, I thought it best to outline the movies I’m excited to go see this Summer, provided The Wife (…and Josh’s wife…) will allow such things…  🙂

  • The Avengers (May 4, 2012) – This one is gonna rake in tons of cash, if only for the slate of actors they’ve got lined up.  Just about everyone is in this movie and it promises to blow up everything in sight.  Definitely a great way to kick off the summer blockbuster season.
  • Men In Black III (May 25, 2012) – To be honest, I don’t like the idea of effectively replacing Tommy Lee Jones with Josh Brolin. Then again, if you wanted a young looking Tommy Lee Jones, you could do worse than Josh Brolin.  I loved the first movie, but didn’t particularly care for the second one.  We’ll see how this one turns out, I guess, but I’ll probably end up seeing it.
  • Prometheus (June 1, 2012) – Billed as a loose prequel to the Alien franchise, Ridley Scott returns to sci-fi horror after a long absence.  This one probably won’t bring in the bucks as the others on this list, but I expect it’ll still be pretty awesome.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3, 2012) – I like me some Spider-man, and this re-boot takes the story back to the beginning with Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy.  When I heard those two names announced, I was a bit apprehensive, but Stone’s good in just about anything she’s in and Garfield was good in The Social Network, so I’ll cut him some slack.  That, and at least in the clips I’ve seen, he seems to pull off the “wit” of the character a bit more convincingly than Tobey Maguire did.  Call me “optimistic” on this one.
  • The Dark Knight Rises (July 20, 2012) – Uh.  I don’t need to write anything here really.  While Batman Begins was a great movie, The Dark Knight practically redefined what a “comic book movie” could be.  I will be shocked if this movie is anything less than stellar.
  • Total Recall (August 3, 2012) – To be honest, I haven’t seen the Schwarzenegger version in quite awhile, but the trailer for this one, this time with Colin Farrell, could be good.  The effects look pretty sweet and it’s got a good slate of actors.  My only concern is that Len Wiseman is directing it, mostly known for the Underworld franchise, so while I’m hopeful this movie turns out to be good, I won’t be too surprised if it’s “middling,” at best.
  • The Bourne Legacy (August 3, 2012) – So, as I was compiling this list, I saw this movie coming up.  I’d heard they were continuing the franchise without Matt Damon, but didn’t realize it was coming up already.  Jeremy Renner will be carrying on as a new character, though some old favorites from the previous movies will show up, too (Renner is also in The Avengers, earlier in the summer, so he’s packing quite a payday this year).  It’s a strong series of movies, so as long as they stick with the fiction, it’ll probably be alright.  There’s a bit of concern, though, as Paul Greengrass isn’t directing these (he did the previous three), but it is being directed by the guy that was involved with writing the earlier movies, so at least there’s some pedigree there.  Again, I’m hopeful for this one.


Back Yard

"How can I sneak some of this into the house...hmmmm..."

Though we don’t have the massive yard we had up in Iowa (and all the mowing to go with it…), we do have some space with which we can toy around.  While a chicken coop and a garden of some sort are still in the plans, for now, we’ve got some back yard toys for Meg.

Last summer, she was content to play with a bucket of water, splashing about for hours on end.  Now that she can move around more, Meg very much enjoys going down the street to our neighborhood park to go down slides and use the swings.  Her daycare has a pretty nice playground area as well, so it’s nice that we’ve got the space in our yard to facilitate something along those lines.  On nights when it’s nice out and we want to BBQ, it’s even better, as she can entertain herself in the sandbox, rather than having me hold her while trying to flip burgers.

Regardless, Meg got a swingset from her “Mimi” and “Poppy,” a sandbox from her “Aunt Dadum,” a tricycle from her “Aunt Mal,” and a small slide from us for her birthday last weekend.  Now that the weather’s been so excellent, she can go out and enjoy them!

"Would you like to use the slide, Chicks?"

Personally, my goal at this point is to have so much of the yard taken up by playground equipment and farm implements that I won’t have any mowing to complete when the time comes.  🙂

Cabin Fever 2012

This is an India Brown Ale in the tasting glass you get for attending the event. Mmmm!!

We went to Schlafly’s annual Cabin Fever event this past weekend at their Maplewood restaurant, the Bottleworks. It’s always held around this time of the year as their Winter Festival, featuring somewhere around 30 of their beers.

Generally, you pay $25 for a ticket (or $30 at the door, but it’s always sold out if you wait that long) and, in exchange, you get a nifty tasting glass and eighteen 2 oz samples of various beers.  As it’s wintertime, the beers tend to be “high gravity,” meaning they’re a bit heavier and tend to have a higher alcohol content.  They always have a few of their lighter beers on tap, too, but the big draw is their other fare.

Now, you say, “well Andy, that doesn’t sound like very much beer for the money you’re spending.”  To a degree, you’re right, but the kind folks doling out the beer are kind enough to a). “forget” to bring along a Sharpie to mark off your ticket, and b). start at 2 oz of beer, and as the afternoon wears on, the volume increases.  So in the end, you can get plenty of beer and taste just about anything you want to.

In the Picasa album that’s accompanying this post, you’ll see pictures of the list of beers that were available, including a brief description of each one, and my own marks to show which ones I had.  You’ll see that I actually did get all 18 beer tastings…

…but my ticket only had maybe 5 of them marked off…  😛

There were quite a few great beers on that list that we tried.  The India Brown Ale (pictured above) was probably my favorite, as it was pretty different from others I’ve had before.  The similar, yet different, India Wheat Ale was also pretty good, but the hops didn’t seem to gel as well with the “wheat beer” flavor as it did with the “brown ale” flavor as before.  The Raspberry Coffee Stout was also exceptional, with a flavor leaning closer to the “raspberry” than the “coffee,” yet not as fruity as you might expect.  I had figured I’d prefer the Strawberry-Cocoa Porter over the Stout, but alas.

The Southern Hemisphere IPA was also shockingly good, mostly because it tasted recognizable, yet different. I mean, it was hoppy, as you’d expect, but the hops they used were something from Tasmania called “Galaxy,” so it turned out to have a very different flavor profile than other IPAs I’ve had in the past.  Believe you me, I hope they put that beer in bottles so I can get more of it!

Regardless, the event was quite fun.  Granted, the weather turned out to be cloudier and cold(i)er than the forecast had led us to believe, but with some good friends to crowd around and some strategically placed fire pits, we weren’t bothered all that much.  That, and high gravity beer tends to keep you all warm and fuzzy on the inside.

If you want some additional pictures of the event, STLhops was there taking pictures.  We even made it into one of them!

That's Stu, Brooke and my bald head off to the right...

I expect you all to go along next year. 🙂

The Wheels on the Bus

Washington University School of Medicine, where I work, doesn’t have what I like to call “cheap parking.”  If I recall, it’s something like $60 or $70 per month to park within a few blocks of the building I work in, and personally, I’d rather spend that kind of money on video games or beer.

However, as part of their sustainability initiative, Wash U pays for all students and employees to have a yearly St. Louis Metro pass.  This means that, so long as I have the pass and present my University ID card, I can ride any bus or any MetroLink (the above-ground train system) for free.

Unfortunately, though, while the MetroLink has a reasonably decent reputation with regards to cleanliness and timeliness, the MetroBus system doesn’t.  And furthermore, we don’t really live anywhere near a MetroLink stop where I could hop on, at least, not in any convenient manner.  Therefore, I’m riding the bus.  The “scary, dirty, slow,” bus.

To be fair, I’m only riding it in the evenings.  Brooke is driving me to work in the mornings, then dropping Meg off at daycare and then finally going to work herself.  Most mornings, this isn’t a problem, though there’s something of a “sweet spot” in timing that we try to avoid.  If we leave the house by 7:40 am, or after 8:15 am, we can get me to work in 15 min or so.  If we leave anytime inbetween, it’s closer to 30 min.  Yay, St. Louis traffic.

But in the evenings, I’m riding the bus.  Brooke picked me up for the first week or two, since I didn’t have my bus pass yet.  This “worked,” but Meg wasn’t exactly happy having to sit in her car seat for nearly 45 min every afternoon.  It’s made things much easier now that Brooke can just bring her straight home.  My bus trips tend to take 20-30 min in the evenings, so it isn’t a huge deal.  As long as I leave before 6:00 pm, there are buses running just about every 20 min to the stop(s) near my building.

The buses themselves are alright.  They aren’t all that dirty, and while I haven’t exactly figured out the best time to go outside to wait at the stop, I can’t really say that they’re consistently late or anything.  The bus stop where I get off the bus is on Kingshighway, so after I get off, I still have to walk a few blocks before I get home.  Right now, it isn’t an issue, but once we get a foot of snow on the ground, I may think otherwise.

I do want to address the “scary” part of the city bus stereotype, though.  Is the bus full of rich, white, Americans?  Nope.  Lots of African Americans, lots of Hispanics, lots of elderly people, lots of low-income people…and lots of other people inbetween.  Heck, on the ride home last night around 5:30, white people out-numbered black people 2:1 on my bus.  Was I a bit apprehensive the first time I rode the bus, looking down the aisle at the various “characters” that I’ve been told would terrorize me over the last decade?  Yeah, I probably was, to some extent.  Now, after a few weeks, it’s pretty easy and I don’t give it a second thought.  And, to be fair, there are seemingly “well off” people riding the bus as well.  Perhaps not as many, but they’re there.  In total, it’s probably the most diverse place you’ll find in the greater metropolitan area.  And they just want to get where they’re going each day without much fuss, just like anyone and everyone else.

I guess I think it’s important that I ride the bus, partially to show others that it really isn’t all that scary, and partially to “walk the walk” when I talk about sustainability.  Mass transit, overall, is a good way to save money and help the environment.  It takes cars off the road and reduces demand on gasoline.  Because there are fewer cars on the road, that means fewer cars that go to scrap yards some day, fewer tires that go into the landfill, and fewer emissions that go into our air.  Generally speaking, using mass transit is an ideal way that people can do their part to help the environment.

There are plenty of people around that think we should all use mass transit more often, but these same people wouldn’t be caught dead on a city bus.  The city bus isn’t good enough for them.  The city bus is dirty and dangerous and they will only use services like MetroLink, or like the Metro system in Washington, D.C.  Rather than submit to riding the bus, instead, they will drive their car that 4 miles and park it, even though the amount of time spent doing so is equivalent to riding the bus.

I’m sure I’ve told people in the past that I’d use public transportation if I had it.  And for many years, I didn’t consider the bus to be “public transportation.”  To me, and to many others, I’d argue, “public transportation” equals “light rail,” while “riding the bus” equals “only for poor people and minorities.”  Maybe it goes unsaid, but that’s the general impression I get from other people when the prospect of “riding the bus” comes up.  However, the only reason light rail systems like MetroLink exist is because there were enough people riding buses for that distance that it made financial sense to build a rail system.  Thus, the more people that ride buses within the city of St. Louis, and other communities, the more likely municipal officials will be to finance more light rail systems.

Therefore, I’m trying to “walk the walk” after “talking the talk” about mass transit.  If I can do my part to ride the city bus, I’ll do it as long as I can.  It saves me money and it saves my wife and kid time that they don’t have to be in the car to pick me up every day.  Win/win.

But in the end, if the bus is good enough for the other people that ride it, the bus is good enough for me.

Back in the Swing of Things

Here's what I'm using all day now.

I’m sure I’ll have more to report on in the future, but for right now, I can safely say that I’m settling in at the new job.  I’ve been telling people for awhile now that there would be a definite “learning curve” with the science carried out here, and believe you me, I wasn’t kidding.  I’m having to re-learn basic circuit mechanics (i.e. resistance, capacitance, voltage, etc.) from physics class 8 years ago in order to comprehend the bulk of what I’m doing, so that’s where much of my learning is coming from.  The rest of it is coming from the actual manipulations of cells in order to collect meaningful data.

Basically, what I’m doing now in the lab of Steven Mennerick in the Department of Psychiatry at Washington University, is termed “electrophysiology.”  It’s a technique used to record changes in current and voltage across the membrane of a cell, in this case, hippocampal neurons from mice.  I’ll write more about this in a Primer sometime after I get more settled, but in short, the process involves attaching an electrode to the interior of a cell, and then a second electrode outside the cell in the surrounding fluid.  Depending on what drugs and ions you have present in the two locations (intracellular and extracellular), you can record peaks that look very much like ECG recordings from your heart.  These peaks will tell you whether sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, etc. are entering or leaving the cell, which in turn tells you about how the cell functions.  Specifically, it gives you insight into neurotransmission, as the process of a cell receiving a neurotransmitter (e.g. dopamine, adrenaline, etc.) must involve some change in the flow of ions across the cell membrane.

The rig pictured above is the one I’m learning on.  It’s a large microscope with some tubes and electrodes running up to the state where the dish of cells sit.  Then, you use some little knobs and widgets to move the electrodes very slowly toward the cell so you don’t kill it by “popping” it.  So yeah, this takes some practice.  You have to make sure you don’t break the cell open, you have to make sure you don’t damage your electrode, and you also have to make sure you’re doing everything fast enough so that certain components of the system don’t “go bad” to the point where you need to replace them.  There’s a healthy balance between speed of operation and “care” of operation in all of this, for sure.

Aside from learning how to actually puncture and gather data from the cell, I’m having to learn about the aforementioned physics of circuits.  Good thing my Dad works with circuit breakers, just in case I ever need some help.

I’m definitely making progress, though.  I’ve been able to successfully puncture (or “patch,” as the technical lingo goes) more than a few cells, so right now, I’m working on consistency more than anything.  I’m hoping to get some more reading done today or tomorrow so I begin to understand why I’m doing some of the things I’m doing.

At the very least, it’s keeping me busy.  🙂


Best. Movie. Ever.

Kristen came and visited this weekend.  Now that we live in St. Louis again, it’s a much more reasonable drive for her to come visit her niece, whom she hadn’t seen since last May.  Around the time we figured out that she’d be coming in, I was also made aware of a new Star Trek exhibition being displayed at the St. Louis Science Center.  The exhibition will be there until May, so there wasn’t really a huge rush…but, on the first Friday of each month, they run a special deal where they cut the cost of the exhibit in the evening and they show a movie in the Omnimax theater.  And the movie this month?

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.”  Largely considered the best “Star Trek” movie.  As Khan said, “In my estimation, you simply have no alternative.”

We went to the exhibition after dinner and after we dropped Brooke and Meg off at home.  The exhibit itself was pretty neat, though I would have preferred fewer “replica” props.  Sure, they had actual uniforms worn by the various cast members throughout the series.  They had uniforms from each of the members of the crew from the newest movie, Spock’s robe from “Star Trek IV,” General Chang’s uniform from “Star Trek VI,” and  representative uniforms from all of the captains across all of the series.

There were a few ship models and some of the original props, but there were quite a few of the aforementioned replicas, mostly in the realm of communicators, badges, phasers, etc.  They definitely had some real ones and, to be honest, I’m sure the difference between the replicas and the real thing (which were only props, never truly “real”…) is minuscule.  Still, seeing more actual props that were used on the various properties would have been nice.  They did have scale models of a transporter and the Enterprise-D bridge from “The Next Generation,” mostly so they could take a picture of you and charge a ridiculous amount of money.  Still, it was cool to sit on the bridge of the Enterprise.

In the end, however, the real attraction for me was seeing “Star Trek II” in the theater.  It came out in 1982, the year I was born, so I’ve never actually seen this movie in a theater setting.  To be fair, it wasn’t ideal because they were projecting what looked like the DVD version of the movie up on a screen that is meant to wrap around you.  So, the image was kinda “curved,” and projected a bit higher than I would have liked.  The contrast was a bit “off,” as well, especially when the crew was shown on the bridge in very dark lighting.  But hey, when you’ve seen the movie countless times, you can forgive such things.

What I can’t forgive, however, is the omission of certain, key scenes.  Specifically, those regarding Scotty’s nephew.  As in, we see the kid, but certain lines of dialog that establish his relation to Scotty (as opposed to him being Random Engineering Cadette #7) are completely missing.  It’s just really weird as it’s been in every other version of the movie I’ve seen, so I just wonder where the heck they found this one.

However, seeing the movie with a crowd of people for the first time just brings an extra “magic” to a movie I’ve seen more times than I can count.  Once you’ve seen a movie you love enough times, there isn’t much else you can do to bring anything fresh to the viewing experience.  However, watching it with 200 other fans, some of which dressed as Starfleet crew or Klingons, is definitely unique.  Hearing cheers and jeers throughout was somewhat distracting, but still pretty great.

Overall, I think we had a good time.  Glad I got to see some bits of “Star Trek” history, and that I got to share it with my sister.  In the end, we came, we saw, we lived long and prospered.  It’s all I can ask.