This guy's tired

Jess has been busy with work lately, so, like many others out there, he's a little low on the total sleep hours. As a result, when his head hits the pillow, he's usually out in seconds. I'm not kidding. It doesn't even take him a minute. Still, there are some nights when he's kind enough to stay up a bit longer and talk about the day with me, as I quite enjoy a good pre-sleep talk. During this time, we have had some great discussions, but usually Jess' cognitive skills slowly wane as his fatigue gets the best of him and he starts talking nonsense in reply to my questions. Or sometimes he'll just interrupt me mid-sentence. Like last night, I was giving him an update on the latest news when he quite clearly delivered this gem:

"I like strawberries with or without chocolate, to be honest."

We paused, laughed, and then decided it was time to go to sleep. We'll find time to catch up on the latest later.

p.s. Jess let me take this photo because I was digging the light. No, this is not one of his head shots and he is not looking for acting work. However, I have no doubt he could get some if he wanted to.

bp's science: why do fireflies glow? (v.1)

Last night after having a fun dinner with friends (thanks guys!), we drove home with the windows down. It's been pleasant weather here lately, and we are enjoying it. As we drove home we passed a wooded area with lots of fireflies. "Why do fireflies glow?" I asked. We weren't sure. So, the question has become a bp's science post.

Fireflies glow to attract a mate, bait prey, and give warning. While attracting a mate is the key reason why fireflies glow, scientists have found that some firefly species use the glow mechanism to fool other fireflies into thinking they want to mate when in reality, they want to eat. Firefly larvae also use the glow to tell predators to stay away.

How they glow
is another story and a bit more complex than the why. In a nutshell: the reaction involves the chemical luciferin, the enzyme luciferase, and oxygen. Luciferin attaches to luciferase, and when oxygen reacts with that compound, the firefly glows.

So there you have it. For more info go here and here and here.


Happy Father's Day

a Saturday watching the birds

In the evening, as soon as the keys jingle to open the door, Oliver exclaims, "Dad!"

Happy Father's Day to all of the superb Dad's out there, mine especially included.


I just need the X!

2008, riding the train to Amsterdam, thinking I may be lucky enough to win a trip (see ad behind me)

The other day I bought 10 small cups of Dannon yogurt. It was on a sale and we eat a lot of yogurt around here. A lot. I usually buy 20 cups when a sale comes along, but because most of Dannon's flavors are "fruit at the bottom" flavors which, at this house we don't like too much I only bought 10. Right now Dannon offers a rewards marketing program where each yogurt lid has a letter on the bottom side of it. If you collect enough yogurt lids and spell certain words (PURIST or MIXER for example) you win something (a trip to the Caribbean or a $25 music gift card respectively). Our first few lids were all different, an R, then an E, and an M. Wow, I thought to myself, I may just win that gift card.

Now I've never won any prize, any reward, any knick knack that involved luck. I don't feel too bad for myself because the majority of us haven't. But I must admit, I'd really like too. I mean, wouldn't you? I've known a few who have beaten the odds and been on the lucky side of probability. When I was a kid, one of my sisters correctly guessed the amount of jelly beans in a jar at a fast food restaurant and won free chocolate chip cookies for a year. Then my brother's name was pulled from a bucket full of names at a toy store and he won a free vacation to Disneyland for 4 people! Can you believe that? We sure couldn't when we got the news. Especially my mom, she loved Disneyland. Perfect.

But me, I didn't win any big prize. Instead, I continued to hope, and around age 9 I latched onto the Million Dollar Sweepstakes. You remember those large envelopes that would arrive at your house, addressed to your mom or dad, with the words IMPORTANT and OPEN NOW stamped on the front, right? I sure do. I would get so excited when they'd arrive in the mail. I loved the mail. "Mom!" I'd announce, "Here's another letter about winning $1,000,000. What does it say?" Translate that into what I was thinking, "Mom! I think you finally won $1,000,000. Open it!"

Unfortunately my mom was not as confident that she had won the million dollars and answered, "Why don't you open it for me? Tell me what it says." I'd rip the letter open, read the requirements, the offerings of magazines, the fine print (the stuff that says you have a 1 in a 765,987,909,234,123,005 chance of winning). Mom hadn't won, but if she followed some instructions and sent the letter back she probably would next time.

"Mom, you should fill out this questionnaire and send it back so you have another chance of winning," I'd request, imagining the man with the microphone and balloons coming up to our door, ringing the doorbell, and handing us a cardboard check the size of dining room table, "You've just won a million dollars!" I was pretty sure it was going to happen.
My mom wisely replied, "Ashley, why don't you act as my sweepstakes consultant? Fill out the questionnaire and send it off. When another letter comes in, you deal with the mail and if I win a million dollars, we'll share it."

Sweepstakes consultant? Deal with the mail? Share a mil! Of course!

We never did win a million, but I sure did have a good time that summer filling out forms and reading small print and filling out more forms. We didn't buy any magazines however. I always wondered if that hurt our chances of winning the million. The small print said that it didn't, but I was always skeptical.

So as you can see, I've had this, gee-I-want-to-win-something-for-free kind of mindset for a long time. To tell you the truth, most of us do. That's why companies continue to use reward points, and sweepstakes, and contests to lure us into buying more. And admittedly, I have mailed UPC labels in to get a free apron (it's red and says Hanover Beans) and some pink plastic grapefruit spoons (they really work), but those things were a result of having bought something already and then finding out I could get something for free. I'd like to think that I don't just buy stuff so that I increase my chances of winning by 0.002%.

But the other day, when I went down the yogurt isle and saw that Dannon yogurt was no longer on sale, I hesitated. I was pretty sure the next "fruit at the bottom" blueberry yogurt was going to be the X that I needed, and that the vanilla one was going to be the I. But I got smart. I resisted the temptation and decided to go buy some beans instead.

bp's science: Fore! (v.1)

I know it's Tuesday and every one is eager to hear some science news, but first I've got to share what's going on in our area. Just down the street (okay, down the street and a little bit further) the US Open Golf Tournament is going on. It's affected the area quite a bit. Parking lots are found miles away and the traffic around the area is congested. But the planning is impressive and it's cool to think that the tournament is going on just down the road. And the weather is really cooperating (the high today is 80). I'm not a huge fan of golf, but I've watched my share on television, played more than a couple times, and have a grandmother and brother who couldn't/can't get enough of it. So I'm excited and wish they were visiting. Now that'd be fun!

And did you know that golf balls have around 330 - 500 dimples in them? That's scientifically important because...well, I'd better ask my brother.


Pegasus Bridge: A Review

Another great WWII story of bravery, skill, team work, bravery, determination, and bravery. I am thoroughly impressed by the actions of the soldiers in this story about the UK glider division and their attack on key bridges in northern France on D-Day. I never knew that wooden gliders were used in combat, but indeed they were! In fact, it was the perfect way to launch a surprise attack. The soldiers were so well trained, the leadership was above par, the plan well thought out, the intelligence excellent, plus some luck and this was a success story. A great read.


bp's science: clean sheets matter! (v.1)

In a recent study commissioned by the National Sleeping Foundation, it was found that those who make their bed every morning were 19% more likely to get a good night's rest. Six out of 10 survey responders answered that they changed their sheets weekly. And about 3 out of 4 people said they slept better when their sheets had a fresh scent.

Do you agree? I totally do! And I'm all about making my bed easy to make, 1 minute tops. That's the key!

photo: 4.5 month Oliver sleeps in a cabin bed, Outer Banks, NC


Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters

A perfect book to read around Memorial Day, Beyond Band of Brothers is the story of Easy Company, a paratrooper unit that dropped into Normandy on D-Day and achieved great success in combat. The book is written by Easy Company's leader Major Dick Winters, a man who is celebrated for his innate leadership skills and amazing acts during World War II. He wrote the book as a result of the success and interest in Steve Ambrose's book, Band of Brothers, which is about Easy Company and their completed mission on D-Day and beyond. Ambrose's book was made into an HBO series and had a big following. As a result, many hundreds of people wrote to Major Winters thanking him for his service and requesting to hear more about him, his company, and their experiences. His reply, this book. I have never read a war book for obvious reasons (so intense, so violent), but Jess read it first and gave me the okay. Winters does a wonderful job conveying the resolve, the commitment, the character of he and his men without the extreme intensity that I was able to really focus on the men, what they were able to do, what they had to deal with, and how they could handle and be a part of such an experience. Amazing indeed. Toward the end of the book, Winters gives the reader a simple explanation of how to become a good leader, he explains:

How do you become a good man? You start with a cornerstone - honesty - and from there you build character. If you have character, that means the guy you are dealing with can trust you.

And Major Dick Winters did just that. He was honest with his men, they knew they could trust him, and they were willing to do anything he asked. I enjoyed this book so much, I'm reading another WWII book about another amazing company. Happy Belated Memorial Day and a very sincere thanks to all servicemen past, present, and future.



How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

- from "The Swing" by Robert Louis Stevenson