Friday, September 30, 2011

Lab Quote Friday- Stupid Questions

 As part of our safety overview at the beginning of the semester, we have the students do a scavenger hunt.  They aren't collecting anything, but they have a map of the first floor and have to find locations of things like the fire extinguisher, safety shower, eye wash station, etc.  Because the science building can be a little confusing, we also have them mark where the classroom is and where the gender appropriate restroom is.  The restrooms are in opposite corners of the building and not well marked, so it's good for them to learn where they are.
So I'm in the lab when Lab BOY approaches his TA:  So for the appropriate restroom, should I mark the MEN'S restroom?
Poor young female TA didn't quite know how to answer his question.  She glanced at me with a bit of panic on her face and I just laughed.  Eventually she muttered, "Um, yeah, that's fine." 
I probably would have come back with something like, "You're not getting credit for this assignment if you can't even figure out which restroom to use!" 
Another reason I'm just a lab rat and not a teacher!

In a different lab the students were mixing hydrogen peroxide with yeast and measuring how much gas was produced.  As I'm sure you can imagine, the more reactants you use, the more gas is produced.  Simple, right?  So I'm walking around the lab making sure everyone is doing ok.  One group was looking confused.
Me:  How are you guys doing?
Lab boy:  We don't know what's going on here.  We are getting a lot more gas this time.  What did we do wrong?
Me:  Did you use more or less hydrogen peroxide than your first experiment?
Lab boy:  More
Me:  So should that produce more or less gas?
Lab boy:  Oh!!  It should produce MORE gas! 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Lab Quote Friday- Thermometers

Sometimes the simplest things cause the students the most trouble.  Take thermometers for instance.  Sometimes we use temperature probes hooked up to a computer, but for simple experiments we just use good ol' mercury thermometers.  You know, the glass rod containing mercury with a temperature scale printed on it?

Well, it's sad to say, but students no longer understand such simple tools.  We had 5, yes 5, groups using their thermometers while they were still in the protective tubes this week.  I have to admit that I love seeing the looks on their faces as I walk by and say, "Make sure you take the thermometer OUT of the case to get an accurate reading."  It's quite hilarious!  They'll often say, "I knew something wasn't right."  Yeah right, you had no idea!
But this week I overheard a comment regarding thermometers that I have never heard before.
Lab boy (getting quite frustrated):  I just can NOT read this thermometer!  How am I supposed to read this thing?  Where is the red light?  Isn't it supposed to have a read light?  I don't see it!
I have no idea what red light he was looking for, but it was pretty funny.  His lab partner eventually saw the mercury line and all was right with the world.  Crazy how a simple thermometer can frustrate these tech savvy kids!
*On a nerdy side note, only one thermometer broke this week (which is way less than normal) and I got to use a new mercury clean up tool I bought.  Yes, I was excited about it and it worked great.  One of the professors is now calling me Mercury Queen :)

I have other stories from this week, but I'm going to save them for weeks when I am lacking good material. Here's the freshman story I alluded to last week.  It doesn't involve the lab, but you might enjoy it anyway.

Freshman (clearly lost and getting frantic):  I am never going to find this class on time!!  I don't know where this room is!
Me:  Can I help you find something?
Freshman:  I am looking for room 135.
Me:  Um, that room doesn't exist in this building.  Are you sure about the room number?
Freshman:  Oh!  Maybe it's 185.
Me:  Well, that's the Pchem lab, so that's probably not right either.  Can you pull up your schedule so we can make sure you're in the right building?  What class are you looking for?
Freshman (pulling out his iPhone to look up his schedule):  It's calculus class.  
Me:  Ok, you're in the right building, but you need to go upstairs.  Did you find the room number?
Freshman:  It's 205!!  The course number is 185.
Me:  Well, that makes sense.  Room 205 is upstairs at the front of the building.
Freshman:  Thanks.  Yep, I'm a freshman, just your typical freshman.
Me (thinking):  You said it, not me!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

2011 Garden, Part 8- Patience Pays Off

I think we're finally going to get some tomatoes!!  We've been hoping that if we kept our plants alive long enough, the weather would cool down a little so they would start producing.  We hadn't bothered to put cages around the plants, so I attempted to do that last weekend.  We tried to do it earlier in the summer, but the wind was causing our little plants a lot of damage as they knocked into the metal.  Now the plants are big enough that they aren't blowing around so much, and I think they will need the extra support if we keep getting tomatoes.  So far, the tomatoes are pretty small, but we'll keep being patient and see what happens.  Look!  We already have a little red one!
I also got tired of walking through knee-high grass in the garden jungle, so I went a little mower crazy.  Here's a little before and after for you.
I left the grass long in the back row because I didn't want to run over these:
Yep, we have about 5 watermelon still growing as well as a few cantaloupe.
We also still have lots of okra and a few peppers.  Cucumbers keep trying, but they sure are ugly and we aren't willing to eat very many of them. 
So I guess we're not quite done with our 2011 garden yet.  Does anybody else still have anything growing?  I'm sad that we won't have any home grown pumpkins this year.  We'll have to work on that for next fall.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Lab Quote Friday Returns!

Well, I can't promise any consistency at this point, but we'll give lab quote Friday another go.
This week in General Chemistry lab, the students were experimenting with volume, pressure, and temperature.  The equipment they used involved a 3-way valve.  I have discovered that 3-way valves are very confusing to a lot of people, even when they have a podcast that explains it very well.  On top of that, the lever that turns has an arrow and the word OFF printed on it.  Common sense (and the podcast) should kick in and tell you that wherever the lever is pointed is the direction that is turned off.  Well, some people just don't get it.  Here's a conversation I had this week.

Lab girl:  "Nothing is happening here.  No matter what we do, the pressure stays the same."
Me:  "Ok, let's look at your set up here."  Me thinkingOf course the pressure is staying the same, you have the valve turned to where OFF is pointed toward the pressure sensor!  But of course we want the students to try to figure things out, so I try to help a little:  "Take a look at your 3-way valve and tell me why you have it set the way it is."
Lab girl (not even looking at the valve):  "I don't know."
Me:  "Ok, do you know what the blue lever is doing?"
Lab girl:  "No."
Me:  "What does the blue lever say on it?"
Lab girl (not even looking at the lever):  "I don't know."
Me thinking:  LOOK at the lever and READ what it says!!!
Me:  "Look at the lever.  What does it say?"
Lab girl:  "Oh! OFF!"
Me:  "Yes!  Now, why isn't your pressure reading changing?"
Lab girl:  "I don't know."
Me:  "What is turned OFF right now?"
Lab girl:  "The valve?"
Me (I've lost all hope for this girl at this point):  "The valve is turned OFF toward the sensor right now.  That means that no matter what you do to the rest of the system, the sensor is not detecting the change because the valve is closed in that direction."
Lab girl:  "Oh!!  So, do I need to change that?"

This could be an interesting semester!

On another note, I am sitting in on the Gen Chem lectures this fall.  I never actually took this class because I started out an animal science major, and they take a different entry level Chemistry class.  So, I may have some good quotes from class this semester too.  So far, I've just observed how little algebra they know.  It's sad really.
One funny thing did happen this week though.  Some kid walked in right before class started and looked totally lost.  After several seconds of confusion, he said, "Oh, I think I'm in the wrong class."  This is the THIRD week of class!  Really, he should know where his classes are by now.  AND he's not even a freshman.  Oh, speaking of freshman, I have a good first-day story to tell.  I'll save it for next week :) 
And finally, this is for Shelly, courtesy of the West Texas Fair and Rodeo that we went to last night.  I thought you might like this!  (Shelly loves animals snoots)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Bathroom Reveal, Part 2

Here's our updated half bath.  (If you missed the post from earlier today, go back and see how Josh's bathroom turned out.)  I'll include 'before' pics again.



No, those are NOT tile floors- just vinyl.  We plan to update all of our downstairs floors in a couple of years, so we stuck with something pretty cheap for now.
So there you have it.  We are very pleased with the results, and I especially look forward to easier cleaning in the days ahead!

Bathroom Reveal, Part 1

Our bathroom remodels are done!!  We are quite pleased with the results.  Again, we didn't do anything too fancy, so don't expect some magical HGTV moment here.  Things are just fresh and updated a couple of decades.  We still need to add some things to the walls since they seem so empty now, but we're still deciding what to do for sure.  I find it hard to decide what kind of 'art' is appropriate for bathrooms.  Any thoughts?
We'll start with Josh's bathroom since I'm most excited about these changes.  I'll include some 'before' pictures for reference.  Sorry these aren't the best pictures.  Using a flash in this tiny room makes it hard to get colors just right.  The walls are all the same beige color even though they look like different colors in the pictures.







After - with a few accessories

After- a little lived in

A little better, don't you think?  I'll post pictures of the half bath around lunch time.  It's very similar to this one.  We like things simple and neutral so we're not stuck with something we regret later.  Plus, we can have fun with accessories and easily change them out too.
If you thought the bathroom looked better before, please don't tell me :)

Friday, September 2, 2011

They Had To GO!!

We are right smack in the middle of having 2 of our bathrooms remodeled.  I thought it would be fun to show you exactly what I disliked about each room.  I think you'll understand why they had to go by the end of this post. 
We'll start with Josh's bathroom upstairs.  What?  "Josh's" bathroom?  Yes, we have separate bathrooms in this house.  None of our bathrooms are attached to bedrooms, so we don't have a master bathroom at all.  I totally wouldn't mind sharing my bathroom (and I have tried to), but Josh just likes his better for some reason.  We were kind of forced to redo my bathroom early in 2010.  (You can read about that and see pictures here, here, here, here, and here.)  Since that time we have been saving up for the other 2 bathrooms.  Anyway, here is Josh's bathroom before:
What I dislike: 3 different tiles- walls, shower walls, shower floors
What I dislike:  Blue flower vinyl tiles, unsafe gas wall heater, toilet paper holder that only holds regular-sized rolls (they are not that easy to find anymore!)
What I dislike:  low ceiling in shower, cave-like shower, TILE shower- ick!
What I dislike:  low, wobbly vanity with cameo door knobs
What I dislike:  Old light fixture
What I dislike:  2 towel rings (why 2 for a tiny vanity?), outlet in weird location
What I dislike:  blue flower wallpaper panels (almost like stuff they used to put in trailer houses)
What i dislike:  LOW shower head- poor Josh had to duck every morning
So what DID I like?  The cabinet over the toilet in the first picture.  It was the only real storage in the whole room.  It's not coming back, and I will miss it because it held so much stuff.  We may have to install a new one if our new storage system doesn't work out- more on that in another post.  The only thing returning to this bathroom is the toilet.  The rest had to go!
Now onto our downstairs 1/2 bath.
Dislike:  Vinyl tiles that are shifting, HUGE towel bar (seriously, you just need a hand towel in here), again a toilet paper holder than can only be used with regular-sized rolls
Dislike:  Tile walls and vanity, peach base cabinet, old light fixture
Dislike:  Cracked, rusted sink
Dislike:  speckled wallpaper that got wet and dirty around light switch and was peeling in various places
So what's staying in this room?  The mirror, toilet, base cabinet (w/new paint), and the faucet is moving upstairs.  The rest had to go!
As you can tell, I HATE tile.  I mean HATE!!  All those grout lines full of decades of dirt and muck really gross me out.  I like smooth surfaces that are easy to clean, especially in bathrooms.  I can't wait to see the final results of this remodel.  Both bathrooms were stripped down to the studs and popcorn ceilings were taken out.  Josh's bathroom is also getting a whole new floor, wood and all.  We are not changing the layout of either bathroom, just drastically updating them.  Currently we have new insulation, new flooring upstairs, and new walls and ceilings that are textured and painted.  I love coming home each night and seeing major progress.  The work is supposed to be done on Monday- yippee!  Lots of pictures to come...