Monday, March 30, 2009

Gravel Beach

This gravel beach is on the west side of El Morro. We ride by it on nearly every ride. On Sunday, the waves were coming in pretty good and the beach was making this cool sound. I paused for a couple of minutes to take it in.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Oscar Blasts

Went riding with Oscar today.

Forensics Competition (Final Results)

I am proud of our students. For a small school/team, we did really well. Our Reader's Theater girls finished 2nd.

Our Debate team got 3rd place almost winning an upset in the semi-finals. They lost by only a single point. Our rookies, went against a seasoned team with several years of debate experience.

Our Impromptu Speaking participant was in the finals and scored 4th place. But my biggest disappointment was in our Original Oratory participant. I feel her topic was much stronger and her presentation was better than most of the other finalists. I was expecting a medal for her but unfortunately she came up empty.

Overall, they have a lot to be proud of and I am proud of them!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Forensics Competition (Day 1, Round 1)

Got up at 5:00 AM to head here to CIPLC. We finally got rolling around 6:20AM and pulled in front of the school right at 9:00AM. Traffic was hell coming through Barcelona.

Everyone of our secondary student is participating and seem to be enjoying themselves. Our team is doing okay. We will probably have some podium finishers.

Other note: The strange thing about coming to this school is seeing so many of my old ELA students. Its kind of sad. Many have come up to say hi. It is amazing to see how they have grown and changed after only one year.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Forensics Competition (pending)

Tomorrow morning I will be going to CIPLC (an international school in Barcelona 180 km away) to help our students out in the forensics tournament. There will be debate, choral reading, etc. I don't remember all the events right off hand. I will be there with my SD1000 and a tripod so I'll be getting pics, so maybe I can post something interesting.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

More Fun with Lasers

Laser pointers are fun. I have found several uses of them in the classroom. I was just goofing off with one this afternoon and showing my literature class (I have some of the same students for science too) the Tyndall Effect. I got an Erlenmeyer flask and stopper. I lit a few matches and dropped them into the flask and topped the flask with the rubber stopper.
The smoke from the matches is a colloid. Smoke is made up of small particles that are suspended in the air of the jar. When shining the laser into the flask, the laser light passes through the glass into the smokey atmosphere of the flask and out the other side. While in the flask, the smoke particles reflect the laser light, making it visible. Nifty!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Mimbres Sister #2

Happy Birthday Mimbres Sister #2! I hope you have a great day!
(birthday wishes from Patchez too!)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Saturday Lunch

Yesterday Tania and I went out to eat with our good friends Daniel and his mom Sally. Sally used to be my boss until she retired. I consider her mom #2. She's a great woman who understands Venezuela from an outside point of view better than most. We met at the restaurant and had 2 kilos of pork! Crazy! Tania love this kind of eating. I like it okay, but I am not that big of meat eater...or that's what I think. We ate our fill and Daniel and Sally took the left-overs home.

Update: There were a lot of left-overs. There is no way that these 4 adults ate 2 kg of pork!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Venezuelan Coffee

When I moved here, I made a few pleasant discoveries; 1.) Venezuelan chocolate is unbelievable. 2.) Venezuelan coffee is unbelievable! Both Venezuelan chocolate and coffee are considered by many to be the best in the world.

Since buying our little condo on the Caribbean, we've been slowly making it into a home. After 8 years of marriage we finally bought a coffee maker (before we were making coffee in the traditional way). I fired this thing up this morning for the first time, and boy howdy, it makes killer coffee! I just made another for Tania (who was out shopping) and another for me. I think I'll be buzzed all weekend. Yeehaw!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Science Fair (post 4)

We have our winners!

Awards in 1 hour!

Science Fair (post 3)

Who's going to win the coveted Science Tiger?

Science Fair (post 2)

More pics!

Science Fair (post 1)

Gonna try and blog my science fair. The primary grades are done. It went fairly smoothly. Have the winners and certificates already printed (love MS Excel, MS Publisher and the Internet).

Have some good secondary projects!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Newton Rings

I took this pic on Tuesday. It is a laser pointer shot though a small hole (a diameter of ~ 4mm) with water in the hole creating a small lens. The rings are caused by wave interference patterns. The bright rings are constructive interference and the dark rings are destructive interference. This demonstrates the odd behavior of light at the quantum level, however I still don't understand why there are so many Newton Rings unless the water drop's edge is scallop shaped, which might be the case because I drilled the hole through a piece of metal with my old Wegner Swiss army knife. The metal was the lid from a jar of jam. Hey...its called small scale/zero-budget science!
Regardless, the universe is a pretty cool place.

BTW to capture the image, I had my camera (Canon SD1000) set on a tripod and on automatic (custom) timer mode. It took 4 shots.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My Wind Tunnel (updated)

Science Fair is on Friday. My students are frantically finishing up their projects. Most of my science plans have been put on hold until next week.

I have a 7th grade student who is really interested in airplanes and flight. This gives me an opportunity to dust off my classroom wind tunnel and let this particular student gather some data on various wing designs for his science fair project.

I built my first classroom wind tunnel in 2003, the 100th anniversary of the Wright brother's flight at Kitty Hawk. A travel version model of the first generation wind tunnel was presented at the 2005 NSTA national convention in Dallas, TX. It was there I met Bill Nye, the Science Guy, and I was able to give him a private presentation of some of my projects. He liked what he saw.
He liked the idea and the design. He encouraged me to build a second generation.

This wind tunnel was built around late 2005 or 2006 by me and one of my high school students. This second generation wind tunnel has a couple neat features like the external lever system and separate test chamber. The main body and test chamber is made from sheets of polystyrene, but unlike the first tunnel, the suspension system, as mentioned above, is external and made from balsa wood. The models inside are attached to the suspension via PVC plastic drinking straws.

It works pretty good but of course there is always room for improvement. Right now it only measures lift, and I still want to build a system to measure the drag force on the model. I've made prototype models of a drag system that I think will work pretty well, but just need to get around making it from balsa.

Some day I'll get around to making a 3rd generation.

Creepy Leprechaun

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I love my Merlin.

I did a great ride today. Nothing special as far as going anywhere, but it was the fact being on my favorite bike for about 2 1/2 hours. It was just nice just being out; being free, and enjoying the morning.
I took a few pics, but this was today's favorite.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

This Evening

This evening near our condo was a Red Bull Night Wind Surfing Free Style Competition, so Tania and I walked down to check it out. Competitors included the current world champion (a Venezolano) and a former 3x world champion (also Venezuolano). Tried to get some pics but my camera has some limits what it can capture.

This Morning

This morning Oscar and I headed out on the bikes. My sessions on the elliptical trainer and in the weight room seem to be paying dividends now. I was feeling pretty good, whereas Oscar was feeling bad. He also had a leaking front tire.

Got a couple good pics of Pedro. He's a good subject to photograph because of his intensity on the bike.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Baby Blanco is home

Got our car back from the mechanic today. The timing belt broke and it made a mess of the engine. We will try it a few days and see how it goes. Seems to run fine so far, but it stalled on me twice when driving home. I think the idle is low and might need adjustment.
Note to everyone: don't let the timing belt break on you car! We got lucky and got off cheap because the mechanic was a friend of a friend.
In Venezuela you need three things; a good doctor, a good lawyer, and a good mechanic.

Swimming Pool

I've been going to the Italian Club to lift weights. I took this pic on the way out.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Our Commute in Black and White

We do this commute every Friday afternoon; Tigre to PLC...180 km (110 miles). It takes about 2 1/2 hours depending on traffic.

Some highlights from last Friday...

Monday, March 09, 2009

Fitness in Tigre

My dad died of heart disease in his mid-60's. He never exercised, worked all the time, and lived alone the last 20 years of his life. I don't know if I'll drop dead tomorrow, but I am trying to keep my heart and body in decent shape. I am trying to stay happy and enjoy life. Let me explain the "trying" part...

Now I am working/living in one place during the week and my wife/bike/and condo are 180 km (110 miles) away where I only get to see on weekends. I've been living in this arrangement for about a year now. It has been mentally and spiritually challenging to say the least.

Being here, one of my big concerns is trying to stay somewhat fit. When at home, I have/had I my bicycle. I would/could ride it after work everyday. It is/was a great routine that I started taking for granted. Now without it, I had nothing to do. I am not a runner, I hate running, so I eventually brought down our Orbitrek, a cheap elliptical trainer. This elliptical trainer might not be the best on the market, it seems to be working okay. I racked up about 1300 units on it (btw, I do about 11 units per 20 minute session).

1279.4 Units (whatever they are)

Anyway the point of this ramblings is, this torture device is working in keeping me somewhat fit. I've been using this thing, then walking to the Italian Club to lift weights in the gym to with Daniel (he runs laps before lifting). This is working. I feel better. I am riding better on the weekends. I am sleeping better during the week (and weekends).

Unfortunately I still only get to see Tania on the weekends and that's sucky. I like being with her. She's a funny woman! She makes me very happy.

Sunday, March 08, 2009


Did get out to ride this morning. The wind and waves have been huge (relative to our area)! After descending Acuario, we watched in awe for a few minutes.

We rode around El Morro, up The Rails (fairly easy for me today...working out during the weekdays helps big time), the Fausto, to the summit of El Morro then we decided to go down The Babylonia Trail. The trail drops from 100 m to 50 m, in about 400 meters in length. The first 200 meters is very steep and slippery where it is almost impossible to stop. My bike, the Merlin, handled it all perfectly! Too much fun! After the trail started leveling out, and at a widespot on a dogleg right, I stopped to grab my camera and take some pics.

We rode back up the cerro (hill) to see who was up at the rendevous point, and after a few minutes of chatting and visiting, we took off back down the hill to eat some empanadas for breakfast.

At home I grabbed our waterbottle 19 L (5 gallons) and headed to the store for a new bottle of water. I put the bottle in my messenger bag and rode to a local bakery. An empty waterbottle does not weigh much when riding, but a full bottle weighs 19 kg + the weight of the bottle. It was okay, but the weight of the bottle caused the shoulder strap on my messenger bag to dig into my shoulder.

Also back at home, I washed the apartment windows. Much better!


I was grounded from mountain biking on Saturday (paying the price from last Sunday's ranch ride) and our car is still in the shop, but we still wanted to get out of the apartment so we headed downtown via por puesto and microbus, so I got to see how a big chunk the population gets around. I did not bring my camera so no pics.

We finally ended up at Makro, which is a Sam's Club/Price Club like place and found what Tania wanted to buy.

At home we started planning our summer vacation. Tania will probably go with me to the USA so we plan on doing the California Zephyr from San Francisco to Denver (maybe to Chicago)

That sums up Saturday.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Sushi in Tigre

Sushi seems to be the latest food craze that has hit Venezuela. Last night me and the other secondary teachers (there were three of us total) went out for sushi. These guys are really into sushi. I like it, but I am not crazy about it. I forgot my camera so no interesting pics. During the course of the evening, the little restaurant filled all its tables plus some carry out food.

We shared 5 trays of sushi; crab, Super Alaska (salmon), California, another kind of crab, and one called "Sex on the Beach". It was all pretty good.

Pepsi no saki!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Don Gato

I remember singing this song in 5th grade in Mrs. Grandi's music class.

Monday, March 02, 2009

More Pics from the Avior Ranch

I found a few more pics from the ranch that I liked. Maybe the composition isn't the greatest, but I like them for the content. This is Hernan and his family. I like Hernan. We ride together from time to time, gone to his house for a mountain bike Christmas party. He is an all around nice guy. It was the first time I met his family.

Old horse with a young "teenage" horse. This guy (the four-legged horse) was half grown and friendly. He liked getting his head rubbed. Don't we all?

I thought this horse has an intelligent looking face. Pondering the horse universe.

The Merlin at the ostrich corral.

This is the most evil plant I've ever come across. It is to be avoided at all costs!! This is a guiatoto [sic]. This plant is dangerous! It can cause serious problems for you if you brush against it or worse, fall into a plant. A friend ended up in the hospital with an irregular heartbeat after landing in a pile of this stuff! It instantly burns with an acid-like substance. Your skin will immediately boil and blister you'll experience extreme pain! Fortunately I have come up with a fairly good remedy. 1.) Get home ASAP! 2.)Wash well with Tecnu poison ivy oil remover, 3.) then wash the area well with Betadine soap, and 4.) finally apply Tecnu poison ivy treatment. My last encounter (a large area on my right thigh after brushing against a large plant when riding) this treatment worked very well. The rash was gone in 3 or 4 days.

And finally watching the Pee-Wee motocross racers (and the Merlin) while eating an arepa and enjoying a Pepsi cola. It was a good finale to a great day!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

A Very Nice Day of Single Speeding

Today was a big family ride out on a ranch owned by the same guy who owns Avior Airlines. It was my first time riding out there. It was alright! I am very content right now.

The first ride was for the whole family.

I am glad I was on the Merlin single speed because the terrain was fairly flat. Turn around point

Between rides I rode down to the horse stable to look around.

On the second ride, we headed into the interior of the ranch on some rolly ranch roads. It was perfect for the single speed gearing. I was cleaning stuff that the geared riders could not. I am 48 years old, 100 kg (220 lbs) riding a fully rigid bike with one gear, yet I still out ride 95% of the riders there. Crazy!

I eventually had to get in front of the slower riders because they were preventing me from cleaning sections of doable climbs. It was very frustrating.

I quickly learned that once I summitted one of these short climbs, I could zoom down the other side without applying the brakes. That way I kept up my momentum on these large whoop-dee-doo-like climbs. It was the same physics of a rollercoaster. It was super fun!

After the ride, we all headed to nearby the motocross track to see the races. I was able to walk right up on the course and have motorcycles zoom by less than 3 meters (10 feet) from my head. I was getting sprayed by dirt clods when their rear wheels would hit the ground.