Saturday, September 20, 2014

Kvass: Old World Pop

I was exploring Toronto's St. Lawrence market this summer. Ambling past a Ukrainian deli, I came upon a bottle marked “KBAC”. Suspicious, I called over a Slavic friend who happened to be there and asked her to read it to me. “Kvass”, she said.
I've heard of that! in a book I once read about Mennonite foods. It was some fermented drink involving bread. It sounded weird (even weirder since I was confusing it with kefir, fermented milk.) Of course I bought it.
https://04varvara.wordpress.com/tag/kvass/
I've heard kvass described as low alcohol beer. I think it is more like pop. It has a distinctive flavor and yet reminds me of something familiar. I haven't yet put my finger on it, maybe plum.
Researching, I find that it comes in bread and beet varieties. It has been brewed for over a thousand years (though I wonder if the traditional recipes had sugar for the yeast.) Kvass is enjoying a resurgence in Russia and Ukraine lately. Coca-cola has developed a brand and a monastery near Moscow has started bottling its traditional recipe. Modern enthusiasts rave about its probiotics, which would have been important in the days before clean water.
You can make it yourself. It is basically rye toast tea. I have been trying a few batches at home based on Angelina's recipe. She flavors it with raisins. Others suggest lemon or mint. (Both inhibit bacteria growth.) I tried a batch with raisins, then with raisins and lemon (crushing the lemon and careful to capture the oils from the zest.) My current batch has raisin, mint and lemon.
Compared to Angelina, I make batches a quarter the size, only 2.5 liters. Remember, it is alive and will only last 2-5 days. Where Angelina emphasizes the need to burn your toast, I discovered that there is such a thing as too burnt. You want to see some blackening, but no charcoal. Mine has 2/3 the sugar. You can recover 20% of the liquid if  you put the bread in a colander after scooping it from the pot.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mining Opportunities in the New Frontier

http://www.nss.org/settlement/calendar/2009/BryanVersteeg-asteroid_mining.htmWhether in South America, California, the Yukon or Fort MacMurray, Mining has always been a challenging and rewarding opportunity for ambitious youth.


Last week, the US congress decided that any material recovered from an asteroid belongs to the people that recovered it. In other words, asteroid mining is legal. Now, by all appearances, asteroid mining is real.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

If 20% of Your Students Drop Out...

...whose fault is that? the student's? the university's? the public's? some combination?
If the public invested $50,000 and the student (and parents) invested $50,000 in two wasted years, does anyone deserve a refund?
(In the US, the actual rate is ~40%, in Canada it is harder to find.)

Friday, September 12, 2014

How To Identify Life

...from a few light-years away.

http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2012/06/12/sometimes-size-is-everything/
 If we are looking for life on an exoplanet, What do we look for? Well, radio signals and TV broadcasts would be sure signs, but awfully unlikely. Seeing trees or animals moving on the surface is proof but far beyond the ability of any telescope we can build or imagine building*.


Instead, we hope to analyze light from the planet. From this light we can identify the chemicals in the atmosphere using spectral analysis. Oxygen (O2) would be a good sign. It reacts so well that most atmospheres would use it all to make CO2 or H2O unless there was life to release it. Computer models now show that it is actually possible for an atmosphere to have oxygen and even ozone without ever having life. So even though oxygen is still a good sign. It is not proof. For solid proof, you would need to find oxygen, ozone, carbon dioxide, and methane with no carbon monoxide.
*


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Pinewood Derby Tips

This video is design done right.
  • Identify all the factors you can think of. 
  • Do some testing to know what the effects are and how big they are. 
  • Keep it simple.

Grade Inflation: The Empire Strikes Back

http://www.darkgovernment.com/news/college-degrees-loose-clout/

Would you like me to grade easier? Are you sure?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Strike and Resolution: 4 Views

There are three significant parties in BC. What are their positions on the teachers' strike?

http://bretcontreras.com/random-thoughts-22/

The Liberal government's news releases are here, with strike messaging is here.
  • The minister says he is eager for a resolution but the union won't move enough.
  • They have issued an FAQ sheet.


The official opposition, the NDP, has news releases here.
  • They think we should do mediation and return to school in the meantime.
  • They say the government is "putting up roadblocks."
  • They have asked for education minister Fassbender to resign.
The Green party has called for arbitration, specifically including binding arbitration last Friday, shortly after the BCTF had requested it.

The Conservatives have surprisingly detailed policy ideas on the issue, especially on the government dropping the court case.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Titans of Society, Tremble

http://www.e-profession.com/records/Pink_Floyd_record2.htm

Hannah Wallen wargames gamer culture and discovers the source of their secret power. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What if Memorization IS Teaching How to Learn?

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-illustration-brain-under-construction-concept-vector-illustration-human-head-image41217450
They say kids need to memorize their arithmetic. Other "they"s say kids need to learn how to figure things out on their own. Now they say memorization builds the brain that can figure things out.
 
(The "math wars" refers to a battle between math teachers that has been going on at least three decades now: to emphasize understanding or performance?)

50 years of pop wisdom is wrong

http://www.chubaandcompany.com/2011/09/self-control-pug-pic.html

Aristotle was right.

People with self control are happier.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Scientific Approach to Good Luck

http://wallpaper-sea.blogspot.ca/2011/10/lucky-luke-wallpaper.html






Talk of making luck always reminds me of Heinlein's quote about making luck on a national scale.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

High-School Crushes - Anylysed Mathematically!

John Paulos considers some statistics relevant to romantic crushes.
The second relevant statistical notion is Bayes’s theorem, a mathematical proposition that tells us how to update our estimates of people, events and situations in the light of new evidence.
http://www.allmusic.com/album/high-school-crush-mw0000811155 A mathematical example: Three coins are before you. They look identical, but one is weighted so it lands on heads just one-fourth of the time; the second is a normal coin, so heads come up half the time; and the third has heads on both sides.
Pick one of the coins at random. Since there are three coins, the probability that you chose the two-headed one is one-third. Now flip that coin three times. If it comes up heads all three times, you’ll very likely want to change your estimate of the probability that you chose the two-headed coin.
Bayes’s theorem tells you how to calculate the new odds; in this case it says the probability that you chose the two-headed coin is now 87.7 percent, up from the initial 33.3 percent.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Big Picture of the Summer Job

http://www.raisingarizonakids.com/2014/04/a-how-to-for-teens-seeking-summer-jobs/
 It looks like summer jobs are harder to get than they used to be. It's not just the recession. That was 7 years ago.
So what explains the trend? Are kids today lazy? Do they feel unprepared? Is minimum wage pressure pushing the lowest skill workers off the bottom? Are students competing with China or adults (who are competing with China?) This is US data. Is it competition from low-skill immigration?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

This Summer's Assignment




School can be a good environment to learn academic skills like arithmetic, algebra, geology, grammar, history and essay construction. It is a lousy place to learn how to use your academic skills. That is an executive function.

Your education doesn't stop this summer. Develop those critical skills. Go play.

Monday, June 23, 2014

It's a Show...It's an Education...It's Dinner

http://democritusbound.blogspot.ca/2013/04/cooking-is-science.htmlIn keeping with my easily distracted interest in cooking, let me speak of the Culinary Training Studio.
It looks like a kitchen surrounded by a bar. It has been described as being part of your own cooking show. You might call it a cooking class where you don't have to work and get to eat the food. Or you might call it a six hour dinner, with entertainment in the form of food talk.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Global Warming From a Sunnier Globe


http://www.vagabondjourney.com/airpocalypse-another-smog-storm-covers-china/
What if pollution makes the planet cooler? That's what made the most sense to me when I first thought about the issue. (I think it was grade 2 that I had noticed that clouds make it cooler and my teacher told me that pollution causes clouds.). You'd think someone would have looked into this earlier.

It turns out that pollution does block the sun. The planet's mid-century cooling (from the 50's to the 70's) is explained by the blockage of the sun. The late century rise in temperatures is explained by pollution reductions.


Plus, clarity from the comments:
"If i get this right, industrial pollution masked the natural warming from the Little Ice Age and the clean air initiatives caused the earth temperatures to rebound to normal levels." - Lawrence Todd

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Environment Leaping Forward, If...

http://www.economist.com/node/16103826
The earth's natural environment keeps getting better at supporting life, especially human life.Thanks to new technology we are about to make major progress in carbon emissions, medical science and relief for the poor. The progress would be felt first on this continent. Then, once the technology is common and established, it will be practical for the third world as well.

The problem is that there is an entrenched group of influential and politically connected people who, fearing a loss in their current privilege, obstruct progress.

Friday, May 23, 2014