Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Father-Son Cooking: Fish Calzones

February 5, 2017

Owen’s favorite part was making the olive eyes. The filling was a puttanesca sauce with sardines mixed in.


Method: make pizza dough from 16oz of flour (scale your favorite pizza dough to that flour mass). I mix 16 oz flour with 1.25 cups water, 2 tsp salt, and 2 tsp yeast, and let the bread machine or food processor do the kneading. After the dough has risen, roll it into four 9″ (23cm) disks. Make vertical parallel slits along the top and bottom of each disk up to about 2 inches from the middle. Place filling along the un-slitted middle region of the disk. Criss cross strips over each other to make fish body. Use a fork to flute the tail into a fishy shape. Garnish with an olive slice for an eye. I think we baked these at around 400F for about 20 minutes.

Much of the fun of these was making them super fast while Beth was doing laundry upstairs. Owen then took great delight in making her guess what we had made.

We moved to Connecticut

February 8, 2016

I don’t know how I drifted out of updating my blog, but it just occurred to me to try to get back into updating it. Here is a message I shared with many of my friends this past July.

Dear Friends,

I’m always terrible at making these announcements in a timely fashion. Bethany, Owen, Ilana, and I are moving in August, and I am starting a new job, but still teaching physics, at a private, pre-K through 12, day school in Danbury, CT. Owen will be starting school there in the fall as well, which he is pretty excited about.

For the past four years, I have been teaching physics to some of the smartest, hardest working, young people in the state of Maine, and it has been wonderful. I often enjoyed my previous line of work in full-time-research plasma physics, but teaching here and being a part of this learning community has been the most satisfying work I’ve ever done in my life. During my time here I have had great colleagues and students, I have become a father, doubled the size of my family, learned a lot about myself, and figured out what I want to be, perhaps what I am supposed to be, for the next few decades. I am so grateful for all of these things.

However, for a host of complicated reasons, the time for a change has arrived. Unless we currently live in the same town as you, or you live in Quebec, we will probably live closer to you after the move. (See map for details). I hope that we can see many of you a bit more often than we have while living on the northern frontier.


Jeanbag Juggling Balls

April 24, 2014


Like a Phoenix, old jeans have become new juggling beanbags: now with real beans! I’ve been wanting to make these  for a while. I haven’t been able to find my nice juggling bean bags for a couple weeks, which means I’ve mostly been juggling clubs, and not doing much practice much at home. There’s no good place for indoor club juggling in our house.  So I finally decided it was time to repurpose the holey jeans.

This is the pattern I used: I like that they’re formed all out of one piece, and they’re impressively round given the one-piece design. They were quite easy to sew even though I’ve not done any sewing in years. It probably took me about forty minutes total to layout, cut, sew, and fill the balls. the shape and size are good. I used yellow-eye beans as the filling. Each ball is 2 and 3/8 oz in weight, which I now think is a little light. The best beanbags I use (which Beth found for me right after I finished sewing these) weigh 3 and 7/8 oz. They are spherical, four panel Men’s-Health-Day balls, with an embarrassing message about monthly self-exams for anyone who borrows them. The message would be fine on a sign, but when an unsuspecting would be juggler reads it while holding a few semi-squishy balls, it can be a little off-putting.

These new jeanbags, however, are handier for sticking in a coat pocket or putting in a light bag to take on short walks or  trips around town. They’d be good for numbers, too, if I ever learn to juggle more than three. There’s also no embarrassing “ball message” on them. I think I’ll make five or six sets for use at juggling club. Does anyone have any tips for avoiding hand cramps when hand-sewing small objects?

And by listeners like…my 23 month old son.

July 27, 2013

Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me came on the radio this morning, and Owen said, “EN PEE AHH!!” and started clapping. When Carl Kasell introduced himself, Owen also celebrated: “Kahl Kassell!! Yay!!” We have a young NPR fan.

Liebster Award

April 24, 2013


11 Facts about me:
1. I recently became a Freemason.
2. I love teaching physics.
3. I enjoy wearing bowties. They are safer to wear in a laboratory, harder to spill soup on, and always come out the right length on the first attempt at tying.
4. I learned to knit, and to play the banjo almost entirely using the internet.
5. Since moving to Northern Maine, I’ve gotten more enthused about a few southern foods: cheese grits, and deep fried okra.
6. My blood type is O+, but I can’t give blood anymore because of the part of Africa that I’ve visited.
7. My left thumb pops out of its socket easily.
8. I started playing violin when I was 10, and I know play second violin in the Northern Maine Chamber Society, but I played viola for a year in college.
9. I was on the track team in middle and high school. I ran the quarter mile and the hurdles.
10. I like black licorice. I think many people who remember disliking black licorice as kids might now enjoy it.
11. I’ve been using Ubuntu Linux as my primary operating system for about six months.

Sarah’s Questions:
1.) What is your favorite animal?

That’s a tough one. Narwhals are interesting and have a hilarious name. Honeybadgers are certainly formidable, but sort of trendy. Birds are my favorite animal to photograph.

2.) What is your favorite day of the work week?

I like Tuesday and Friday because I get to play chamber music with my students. Perhaps Friday wins because in addition to chamber music, it features bow-ties. Some of my colleagues and I have agreed to observe “Bow-tie Friday.”

3.) How many pets have you had and what kinds?

I have had five cats in my life, many fish when I was much younger, and a fire-bellied newt when I was between 7 and 10.

4.) What is your favorite blog to read?

I haven’t been blog reading (or blog writing) as much as I did pre-fatherhood, but my favorites have been madtown-mamma-knits.

5.) Have you been to Boulder, CO and, if so, do you think it’s some sort of dream land?

I have been to Boulder. It was alright, but I don’t think it’s some sort of dream land.

6.) What was/is your favorite thing to do on a snow day (if you’ve ever had one)?

Today is a snow day and I went snow shoeing with my family which was pretty great. I think in general I like to play in the snow either with backcountry skis, snowshoes, or a sled. Another favorite though is to watch tv while taking a bath.

7.) Do you own a Snuggie?


8.) What was the last movie you saw in the theater?

The Hobbit.

9.) What is your favorite cookie recipe?

This one, but with orange-flower water and without chocolate:

10.) Did you ever own any NKOTB merchandise?

No. Not even a tape.

11.) Which is your favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle?


Have Sonic Screwdriver, Will Travel

Club Juggling

February 13, 2013

While Beth, Owen, and I were on the road for a couple weeks, I learned to juggle clubs

Juggling really satisfies my desire for progress and clears my mind. I’ve noticed with juggling that if I practice something for, say, two or three weeks, there will be day after day that it just doesn’t work. Suddenly one day, I’m juggling 40 to 60 throws with clubs (not in the video, but many times with the clubs that day on the beach). I don’t know why it works that way. Extreme-feeling breakthroughs punctuate plateaus of seeming incompetence. Physics can be similar to juggling in that way, actually.

Owen uses Chopsticks!

February 12, 2013

Last week I made some ramen, and Owen was very excited about seeing chopsticks applied to noodles. He had to try it out himself. First he took a chopstick and used it to stir his water. Then he dipped it in my noodle broth, which he gave an approving, “mmmm.”
I got him his own pair of sticks from the drawer and rubber banded a wine cork between them to help him out. Here are his first attempts:

I think he did pretty well. I don’t think I tried using chopsticks until I was at least eight years old. I wonder if the average age of utensil mastery varies much between cultures that use different utensils to eat.

Playground Fun

July 25, 2012


Sweetly Sings the Baby

January 14, 2012

Do you know that song, Sweetly Sings the Donkey? It’s to the tune of Itsy Bitsy Spider, but it’s hilarious. I love the idea of a donkey singing sweetly—at the break of day or any other time. In any case, I was making up a version of the song about Owen, “Sweetly sings the Baby” and singing it to him (after an introduction on the recorder, of course). Instead of the hee haws, I inserted an impression of the sounds he makes if he’s unhappy in the morning. Apparently my impression (which included lip quivering, and crying so hard that I had to gasp for air before resuming the cry) was a bit too realistic for Owen, as it caused him to cry exactly the way I was imitating, even though he’d been in a fine mood. I guess it’s upsetting to see dad in distress.

DIY Charkha

January 9, 2012

According to my reading, the oldest evidence of spinning with a wheel (as opposed to with a drop spindle or supported spindle) dates to about 1500 years ago in India. In its simplest form a spinning wheel is just a sharp spindle connected bicycle-style to a drive wheel. The drive wheel is large, the spindle is small. So when the drive wheel turns once, the spindle turns many times to generate lots of twist. Small Indian wheels of this driven spindle type are called charkhas. They are well suited to spinning short fibers that need lots of twist in order to hold together–namely cotton. I figured this would be the easiest sort of wheel to build, and it actually was pretty easy to build a usable one. Here’s Rhianna checking out the finished(ish) product:

The main drive wheel is a 12 inch circle cut from 3mm thick birch ply wood. I used a coping saw and did this at my desk. If one had a scroll saw and a work bench it would be much easier.

The spindle is a smallish knitting needle, probably  a US2 I think, but I don’t remember. The “whorl”, whose only purpose is to keep the cop away from the maidens is a 1″ disc cut from a lasagna noodle box. The maidens themselves are 6″ lengths of 3/8 inch dowels with small eye hooks screwed in about an inch from the top. The drive band would slip if it ran directly over the needle so I fed on to the needle a piece of 1/4″ dowel. I just drilled a centered hole the same diameter as the needle. To put a groove for the drive band into this drive pulley, I mounted the needle (with the dowel on it) into a drill. I ran the drill while holding the edge of a file against the center of the dowel. It’s a poor man’s lathe, probably not the safest thing to do, but I was careful. You can see the groove in the dowel more clearly here:

The drive band itself is a piece of gimp, a.k.a. craft lace, a.k.a. Rexlace–that stuff that you make boondoggle keychains out of at summer camp. I recommend using either “Nite Glow” or one of the glitter colors because they have a grippier texture. I went with the “Nite Glow” because how could I not? It glows in the dark! How many spinning wheels in the world have glow in the dark drive bands?

Now back to those 12″ plywood circles. I noticed in several photos and music videos(?) that many traditional charkhas have zig zag or criss cross lacing between two discs like this (15 seconds into the video):

Notice btw that she does not have a glow in the dark drive band, but that paint job and mirror bedazzling treatment is pretty sweet. I might have to pimp my ride that way, too… Anyway, to lace up the drive wheel I used a compass and some geometry-class-style fun to lay out 24 equally spaced holes 1/8″ in from the rim of the 12″ discs. I drilled the holes simultaneously through both discs, stacked with their centers aligned. Then I separated the discs using a 1″ wooden spool. The spool sits centered in the wheel. I drilled a 1/4″ hole through the two discs and spool then hammered some 1/4″ copper pipe into the hole. The axel itself is some 3/16″ cold rolled steel rod:

This metal-on-metal arrangement makes for fairly low friction and fairly low noise when spinning the wheel. The axel itself does not turn. I used a needle and some lace weight cotton to lace up the wheel:

It took some experimentation to figure out how to do the lacing. In this scheme, the lacing never goes over the edges of the wheels, but if I did it again, I’d probably just do it the simpler way that shoes are usually laced up. Here’s the spindle in action working on some cotton punis that I carded from cotton balls.

The drive ratio is about 48:1.

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