A couple of days ago I read this web comic on the Internet. In the comic (for those of you who opted to not click the link), a kid blows a bubble in the freezing cold Saskatchewan winter, it freezes, falls to the ground and shatters.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I reasoned that freezing would not alter its mass or volume, so it shouldn’t fall to the ground and shatter. But if it were cold enough, it would have to freeze, right? Or maybe the warm air inside it (from the inflation process) would cause it to expand and burst?

Luckily, it was cold enough today to consider some experimentation (it was about 1 degree F outside). I found a two gallon jug of bubbles under the kitchen sink and hauled it out. I bet the kids didn’t even know those were there.

To avoid the hot lung-sourced air, I decided to try waving the wand first. I couldn’t make any bubbles that way. I don’t know if it was because of the cold or not. David wanted to give it a try, and he reasoned that if he inhaled a lot of cold air and blew it out before it warmed up too much, maybe that would work. And it kind of did. He blew several bubbles. Some floated across the yard and into the woods. I didn’t chase after them, but I never saw any fall out of the air and shatter. He got too cold and came back in. Then I went out and gave it a whirl.

On my first attempt, I dipped the wand in the solution, pulled it out, inhaled deeply, and then blew into an ice-coated bubble wand. I dipped it in again and gave it another go. I blew several bubbles, but the wind was blowing, and they all escaped.

Then the wind died. I blew several more. The first one I tried to catch with the wand popped immediately, but I kept trying. Then I caught one. I tried to set the wand down on top of the bubble jug, but as soon as I did, the bubble popped. I tried again, eventually catching another. I set it down, dashed in the house, and grabbed the camera.

Frozen Bubble

Frozen Bubble

By the time I got back outside, the bubble had frozen. I touched it to see if it was like glass. Nothing seemed to happen. It didn’t pop. I touched it again. When I pulled back, I saw that my finger had melted a hole in the side of the bubble.
Holy frozen bubble, Batman!

Holy frozen bubble, Batman!

If you look closely, you can see the hole.

That is, in every sense of the word, a very cool bubble.

Sometime last week I discovered Irregular Webcomic. This web comic has been running for about six years, and the guy who created it updates it pretty much every day. I’ve read about half of the archive now, so my eyes are bleeding.

The funny thing about that is that the guy who makes this comic has also created a website called Archive Binge, which lets you catch up on deep archives a few strips at a time. Eventually, you’re caught up, and without making your eyes bleed. But I couldn’t help myself. I just keep reading them.

These strips are clearly not for everyone. If you like the majority of these topics, you’ll like Irregular Webcomic: math, physics, astronomy, poetry, Shakespeare, wordplay, puns, computers, Lord of the Rings, Dungeons and Dragons (which I haven’t played in over twenty years), Star Wars (which I have never seen), James Bond, and Steve Irwin. Actually, liking puns is not optional. If you don’t like them, you’d be well advised to steer clear. Oh – and you should probably like Legos too, because almost all the art in the strip consists of Lego scenes he builds and photographs. This must take him three hours per day. I dunno how he does it!

Today I did a lot of running around. As in, like a chicken with its head cut off. At work I was oscillating between two projects that were both competing for my attention. When I got in, I thought there would be a third project, but another engineer found that problem, and it has been addressed (and it was not in any of my code).

For the other two problems, I would work on one until I got stuck or was able to hand it off to another guy. Then switch to the other. Rinse, repeat. I think I was able to sufficiently nail down the problem on one of them, and again, the problem was not of my making (but I may have to implement the work around).

Add to that my lunch plans. I called Cliff around 8:30 so I could rendezvous with him to get his signature on the fruit company’s contract. We set one up at lunch time, so I drove all the way to Northfield. I got there 15 minutes early, and he was 15 minutes late (but he did call).

A long time ago I saw a poster in a coworker’s office that said “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” I have adopted that in reverse. Because I was the one who didn’t think to get the contract signed two weeks ago, I should be the one to drive 30 minutes and wait another 30.

I was in the parking lot of a micro-shopping center (gas station, laundromat, and a convenience store with a deli). I went in and ordered up an egg salad sandwich, which I enjoyed very much. I listened to the pundits on the radio talking about the election. Then Cliff showed up, signed the paper, and I was off again, this time to the school to get Va’s signature on the form (she’s the Pathfinder Club treasurer).

Then back to the office. I faxed the form, and got that out of the way. I had called them earlier in the morning to place our order too. We don’t have enough for them to deliver it directly to us, but they will look for a place near us. It’ll most likely be in Freeport, Maine – a three hour drive. Each way.

Luckily for me, one of my staff members has shown an interest in driving up there to get the fruit, especially if it involves an over night stay. I don’t know why – all I know is that I am very much in favor of her doing this instead of me.

After I ordered the fruit, including a couple of extra cases, I got a few more orders. The new orders cannot be covered by the extras, so I will have to amend my order tomorrow (I have until noon). Once I amend it, our order will top the 50-case mark. I would sure love to double that so I won’t hafta drive halfway across New England to pick it up. Also, the money would be nice too.

So… how about that historic election? Here’s my favorite comic strip on the matter: I seriously do think that we’ll come out of this OK. I’d have preferred a McCain presidency to any other, but I’m not going to get upset about this one.

After reading yesterday’s edition of Dinosaur Comics:
(Click on the pictures if they’re too small for you to read. I had to shrink them to make them fit on this page?)
i couldn't find any other reference for "frigedun" except for wikipedia, so wikipedia, you better not let me down on this one
I decided I needed to send an email to Ryan North. Here’s a copy:


“Friday” is named after Frigg.

Sunday – The Sun’s day (Roman mythology)
Monday – The Moon’s day(Roman mythology)
Tuesday – Tyr’s day, (Norse mythology)
Wednesday – Wodin’s day (aka Odin’s day)(Norse mythology)
Thursday – Thor’s day (Norse mythology)
Friday – Frigg’s day (Norse mythology)
Saturday – Saturn’s day (Roman mythology)

He wrote back with this:

JW this is awesome! I’m going to work this into today’s comic. Thanks!

– Ryan

So, here’s today’s strip:
it's true, gentle reader! in a better world, you're looking forward to Casual Frigday

My guess is that history will view my contribution to be at least as significant as the development of TCP/IP. And it was also perhaps the best of all possible ways for me to start my day.

We were away from the house from 8:30 to 8:30 today (and a little more, actually). After church we went to the Haggett Farm for the annual Adventurers Farm meeting. Maybe there’s a better name for that, I dunno. But every year, the Adventurers Club goes to the Haggett Farm on the day of the Harvest Party and does farmly things. A little later, a lot of other people from the church show up for the party too, and we light a big fire.

The weather was nothing short of perfect. It was cool, but not cold, and there was not a cloud in the sky. I made a second copy of the Aloo gobi and brought that. A lot of people said they liked it, but the objective measure says “not so much.” I had a bout a pint of it leftover, which I have put in the fridge now. This time when people brought enough food to feed eight people, they also brought more people (not eight, but say… five?) But the upside here is that Jonathan finally got a taste of it (he said he liked it, and I’m pretty sure he would say he didn’t if he didn’t), and I got to take some home for myself. Yay!

While we were there I found some cheeses, aka Malvo neglecta. This is a plant I have actually been looking for for about a year and a half, beause my Edible Wild Plants book says it should grow here. And it does! It’s serving as a weed in Ken’s garden! I couldn’t remember which part of it was edible though. It was in bloom though, so I have logged it on the Bloom Clock.

Jonathan spotted a turkey track in a cow patty. Ken suggested that we scoop it up and take it home with us, but I didn’t think Va would like that too much!

David had me write “Meanwhile: In the future” on his Dinosaur Comics T-shirt. That mostly confused people. We also brought Penny with us, and I think she really had a blast. There was no shortage of people to throw sticks for her. She’d pretty worn out now.

And… so am I.

This morning I got up thinking I would be going to the Conference Camporee with the Pathfinders. I had decided to take the day off, but I still had to get up at the same time so I could take Beth to school. After I dropped her off, I went to Home Depot so I could get some 2×4’s for David’s stretchers. I was still looking around when Va called to tell me the Camporee had been canceled. The forecast had worsened. They are now expecting high winds and 6-8 inches of rain – and that’s before TS Kyle comes rolling through on Sunday. Also in the forecast: flooding! So maybe we shouldn’t be camping in that.

I did not buy any 2×4’s. Instead, I went out to my car and started calling Pathfinder Staff, starting with Joyce who was already on the phone with one of the area coordinators. The first things she told me was “Camporee’s canceled!” She was at Sam’s Club loading up a grocery cart with food for the camping trip. Instead of checking out though, she unloaded it. Then I called the rest of the staff and the parents to let them know the news. Then I figured there was no need for me to take the day off from work, so I went to the office.

When I left the house, the plan was that I’d be back in 90 minutes or so. Because of that, I didn’t bring my laptop with me. So I was laptopless when I got to work. I do have another PC in my office though, so I used it until Va came into town to pick up Beth. She brought my laptop to me, and normal life resumed.

Because it was raining so hard, the guys at work decided to order Chinese for lunch instead of walking somewhere. I needed cash, and I had some brand spanking new rain pants, so I put on my gear and walked to the ATM in the down pour. I guess the rain suit worked pretty OK! There are a few things I might do to it though to make it better. I’d like to mount a large pocket on the inside back to hold the rain pants. I’d like to put some zippers in the rain pants so I can access the pockets in my jeans (the rain pants go on over them). Since there were no such zippers, I got to dig into the back of my pants and fish out my wallet when I got to the bank. That’s a sure fire way to impress strangers!

I put in a full day’s work and then came home. It was raining. I always have mixed feelings about stuff like this. I really did want to go camping, but at the same time, I prefer to do that when it’s not raining. But I had new rain gear! All of this goes perfectly with the Calvin and Hobbes story line running (or re-running) this week. Here’s the best one of this story so far:

Calvin's Dad Takes the Family Camping

Calvin's Dad Takes the Family Camping

On the one hand I very much identify with Calvin’s dad. On the other, I identify with Calvin.

I read several Internet comic strips each day. Today, I really liked this one In Which a Dog is Sneaky. You might wanna take a look before reading further, or I’ll spoil it for you. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

It always amazes me when dogs engage in scatophagy. Penny does that every now and then, particularly when I find a pile of deer scat on the trail. I was trying to get a photograph of some once for the Animal Tracking honor when she saw what I was doing, scooped up my subject, and ran off with it in her mouth. Ew! Don’t say she was trying to prevent me from taking a picture of that which should not have its picture taken! She’s done the same thing even when I was not taking a picture. She is not the only dog that will do that either.

Great. That’s two days in a row I’ve posted about scat. Sorry.

I have been reading about Scrabulous, a Scrabble-like game that has up to now been available on Facebook. I don’t do Facebook, so I haven’t played it, but the game has gotten rave reviews. Unfortunately, they did not have permission from Hasbro to make a Scrabble-like game, and were taken down in the US and Canada today. I had an idea back when I was in college that might save their butts though, and being the nice kind of guy I am, I gave it to them. The idea is to make a 3D version of the game played on a 9x9x9 cube. They got back to me with this:

Alright, lets see! Will try out a demo 🙂

So… if you see this happen, remember you heard it here first. You’re welcome. I do have to admit that my main reason for giving them the idea is because I want to play it, but I do not want to develop the game. I have had the idea for over 20 years, but have not written a single line of code to make it happen, so it’s safe to assume that I will prolly never write a line of code to that end. But I still want to play it. Good luck Scrabulous guys!

Beth and I counted 11 Rana clamitans (green frog) specimens in the storm water pond tonight. I have been taking their pictures for pretty much the same reason I take pictures of flowers – such as the one in my banner up there – Sisyrinchium montanum (Blue-eyed Grass). The NH Department of Fish and Game runs a program they call “Reptile and Amphibian Reporting Program” or RAARP. They want to know when and where citizens have spotted any species of reptile or amphibian. So I said “Hey! I’m a citizen!” I have been keeping the data they want, and I will send it in this fall. I wish they would implement a program more like the Bloom Clock, because it’s a lot easier to participate in, and it lets the other users interact with one another. Kinda like Facebook I guess.

After our frog spotting concluded, we went along the trail in the woods behind the house. I started picking some of the wild blueberries growing there, and pretty soon, I had about more than I could hold in one hand.

One handfull of blueberries

One handfull of blueberries

Now that’s not really a lot of blueberries, but you have to remember that I did not plant any of them, fertilize them, or in any other way provide them with care. Beth insisted that we save them for this fall and winter “like squirrels do” and I thought that was a fine idea. She ran to the house and got a plastic container and we collected a little more. Then I chucked them in the freezer. I will add to it as I can, and maybe by this fall we will have a quart.

Afterwards, I cut the grass. I think it was the third time this year. I don’t have what most people would consider a great lawn, but it suits me pretty well. Instead of a grass monoculture, I have all sorts of plants (most would say weeds) growing there, and I enjoy them all. I hate cutting them down! I mowed around a couple of my friends (i.e., more weeds), but here’s a list of the fallen:

  • Trifolium pratens
  • Trifolium repens
  • Potentilla arguta
  • Prunella vulgaris
  • Ranunculus spp.
  • Oxalis stricta
  • Vicia cracca

Sniff! I’ll miss you little guys!

I really liked today’s “Get Fuzzy” strip:
Get Fuzzy, 23 July 2008

I think what I liked the best was the phrase “Interfenestral monkey penetration.” I learned the German word “Fenster” (meaning “window”) back in ninth grade when I took German. Then I learned the word “defenestrate” (meaning “to throw out a window”) in the 80’s when Windows 3.1 came out. In fact, I used a binary editor to change the phrase “Now exiting Windows” to “Defenestrating” in windows.exe (yes, it was that easy back then).

Around that same time, I used to play a game called WordZap. They still make a version, but it’s not quite the same as the original. The game would present you with a grid of random letters from which you made words. The words had to be between 3 and 7 (?) letters and as you made them, they would appear in a “rack”. When your opponent (which could be the computer) made the same word you had, the words disappeared from your rack and from your opponents. The first player to get seven words that the other one did not won the round.

I was quite addicted! Around the turn of the millennium, I had the idea that I could write something similar which I will call “MathZap.” In this version, you’d get numbers and operators (plus, minus, times, etc) and would have to make a true equation. I think I could get addicted to that too. Maybe someday I will write this program.

Va called me just before lunch. We were out of nearly everything, so she was coming into Concord and thought it would be a good idea if we all ate lunch together at the Pizza Hut. So that’s what we did. When we got there, I immediately noticed some Monarda didyma (Bee Balm) which my sister Kathy posted about the other day. My friends Andy and Sandy Cheney have some of this growing at their house, but I have not been over there this summer to log their blooms on the Bloom Clock. I am in the neighborhood of the Pizza Hut on a semi-regular basis though, so I will be able to log these through the rest of the summer (or for however long they bloom).

Speaking of the Bloom Clock, I identified the mint I found along the banks of the Merrimack yesterday as Mentha arvensis.

After work I went to Walmart so I could buy some supplies for David’s science project. He’s trying to simulate and measure erosion, and he needed a steady source of water. I bought an aquarium water filter for $10. He also needed something to erode (sidewalk chalk, $0.97) and some carbonated water (another buck). We spent part of the evening rigging up the filter. Now he’ll run water over his chalk for a day or so and see how much of it erodes away. He also plans to repeat the experiment with quartz and sandstone. He’s been freezing some sandstone in water too, and to his delight, a small piece flaked off! I have an aquarium air pump we’ll rig up tomorrow so he can simulate wind erosion, but I do not really have high hopes for that. An air compressor might be a better choice, but I do not have one and they are a lot more than $10. He’ll hafta make do!

My squash is doing nicely. I still don’t know if the growing season will last long enough for me to get any squash out of it, but hey! Maybe next year!

Squash sprouts

Squash sprouts