Sunday, September 29, 2013

National Science Foundation Fair

A few weeks ago I got an e-mail from HSLDA about a national science fair that would be in Northern Virginia. Hosted by the National Science Foundation and Congressman Frank Wolf, the title of the event was "Change the World: Science and Engineering Career Fair" with a focus on grades 7-12, teachers, and their families. We were told that homeschoolers were invited too.

Since my son is interested in mechanical engineering, I thought this would be a great networking opportunity for him.  The first few exhibits were surprisingly easy. Even I understood all the concepts and many of the activities were ones that I have done with my students over the years, including my own homeschooled kids.  At the George Mason University table, I was surprised to see my son making a flubber-like substance with borax, glue and water.  Surprisingly simple, I wondered what the point was for a high school student.  I mentioned that to him and laughed, saying we used to make that same pliable stuff all the time with a variety of recipes of household ingredients when he was a preschooler.  The professor overheard me and said that they were told to gear the activities for young children.  Hmmm, that didn't match the information we were told.  She and a few others did give my son information more tailored to him, but many of the exhibits were quite simple. As interactive as they all were, which is good, I was quite lost as to the application points. At the few places where exhibitors talked collegiately, which was greatly appreciated, they were difficult to hear because of the echos and noise in the mall, and the crowds that would cut in front of me.  I tended to pull back to let my son and the smaller kids interact and engage. 

At the few places where I was able to listen in, the exhibitors were sometimes needing to pause to think about an answer for a question my son posed for them. Others learned a few tidbits of information from my son. If anything, one thing I learned from the professor was that they are looking for kids who can teach themselves and have an imagination.  That is a rare find these days because she said most kids want to be told and shown how to do things. Well, my son is pretty much self-taught in all subjects.  I guide him through the humanities and find self-teaching curriculums with advisors to contact for the math and science.  My son often has opportunity to engage with historians and literary folk.  This time was a great opportunity for him to engage with math/science people in a two way discussion, bouncing ideas off each other.  At the end of the day, he said he learned a few things, and had fun at a lot of places, admittedly quite simple.

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My son tasted chemically made food, like we've seen on Food Network. This is agar, used to make  Pesto Pasta. The agar made the pesto instantly turn to a jello-like consistency. It was piped to look like pasta. Later that day they made "caviar" which would actually be droplets. The day before they made hot ice cream, which looked like ice cream, tasted like ice cream, but was hot.  That one would have been fun to try.

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I think this demonstrated resistance on bridges to determine how safe they are. I just missed showing my son pulling really, really hard...

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This was a favorite! A weather balloon. We've heard about them but this was the first time we could see one up close.

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Here is the box attached to the balloon.  After learning about that, we learned about the scientific causes of the Derecho from last year. We enjoyed this station a lot!

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I was quite intrigued with this but I was never able to capture her attention to talk about details. This is an oceanography activity, plotting points onto a 2D paper about a 3D box. 

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I couldn't hear anything, but the guy was spinning all the kids on this disc, while they stretched out their arms.  A few, like my son, pulled their arms in to increase the speed.  The sign behind all this was about tornadoes.

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This is one of the few guys who actually talked about the application of something, except I couldn't hear him.  Others could.  I have a bit of hearing loss from head surgery.  I was glad that he explained things for the others.

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Another guy walked up to me to explain these stones, which I appreciated, though they were clearly labeled. I had studied geology in college so I reviewed these with my son.   In the middle is the marble that was used for the Washington Monument. To the left is the sandstone for the Smithsonian. To the right is the sandstone for the White House. This is the original color of the White House before it was painted white.

Around the corner we could see photographs of all the damage around Virginia from the earthquake a few years ago. 

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My son was challenged to balance 39 nails on top of the nail stuck in that board.

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Balancing things...I couldn't hear but my son explained the extremely deep concepts...



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A 3D printer. We got to see one at University of Virginia's School of Engineering. We saw another printer earlier in this fair but it was prodigiously crowded, so I finally got to see it and understand it better.

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On the table are results of 3D printing, which really doesn't make much practical sense to me. I didn't quite see the practicality of what this guy was saying for its application.  I don't mean that he was wrong. He was merely stating fact. I just can't believe that people actually use this thing. I'd much rather see the craftsmanship of a Colonial Williamsburg trade, like handsewing, blacksmithing, and shoemaking. My son explained that it's practical for engineers who need a model made of their design.  That's practical to me. I think here he was sketching out a design that could be used for a program.

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Then my son got to play with this game which teaches how to use the program for more practical engineering matters, not that I fully understand it, but my son seemed to.

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After playing two dimensionally for a while, the guy came around to set him up with the three dimensional application. That's a three dimensional mouse my son is now using.

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He got to really blow the image up...then make it so miniscule it could barely be seen. He even rotated and spun it. Then the guy had me try it.  Well, that was interesting...and fun!

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One of the final experiments of the day...see those color words decorated with colors other than they represent?  Well my son was timed while he read the colors he saw, not the words he saw.  My son got one of the best times and the exhibitor, a student from the University of Maryland, was quite pleased. He just knew my son was multi-lingual. My son studies Latin but doesn't speak it. That didn't count.  Because my son only  speaks English, that blew the theory.  (lol...my kids blow everyones' theories.)  The idea is that the brain, when speaking two or more languages, has to repress the obvious when speaking a second language.

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At the same table was another, and truely the last experiment, about the cochlear devices put on babies who cannot hear.  My son spoke a sentence that was recorded into the computer. Then my son put on a headset to listen to it as it could be heard as the baby with the cochlear device hears it. Then the lady had me listen too.  It sounded garbled.  It's hard to believe that babies learn to hear that way, but they do.

I picked up as many freebies as I could to share:

Water Science for Schools

Young Meteorologist

Geological resources K-12, online lectures, films

Teachers at the South Pole

Sadly some of the exhibitors started leaving at 3:30pm even though the fair was supposed to run until 5:00pm. My son thinks those were the exhibitors we wouldn't have been interested in anyway.  At least my son got to see several exhibits. Over dinner he filled me in on the connections and purposes of the experiments and demonstrations, even if they weren't explained to him. He has studied enough, that he was able to make connections on his own. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Weavers with newly dyed Colors and Much Gadgetry

After our visit to the binder, we went to the weaver whose trade is full of a comforting assortment of fiber and color.

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To my dismay I discovered that I had missed the dying of the yarns the day before.  =( We had walked right by a couple of times, in a hurry to a program. However we certainly were looking for things to do between programs and I love to see the dying process.  Actually it's quite slow, but imagining the fibers being infused with color for different amounts of time resulting in an array of shades is great.  While some colors hang under the trees to dry, others are soaking in more color.  From now on I'm sneaking a peak into the Weaver's backyard on every visit to Colonial Williamsburg.

Aren't these colors scrumptious?  Sometimes these can be found for sale at the Prentis Store. I'm slowly adding to my collection for future period accurate embroidery of a pocket and a petticoat.

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See this, to learn more about the weavers.  There are great links in the right side bar as well.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Binder who Demonstrates the Evening of Pages with the Cutter

When the printer closed at midday, a natural choice for our next tour was across the walkway to the binder, who had just opened for the day.I love all the beautiful leatherbound books, gilt pages, marble work surface, etc, etc, etc. However only the wealthiest could afford such luxery, much as today.; Most simply purchased the simper books, the octets or sextets or similar, which was mostly paper. On this day the binder showed us how he evenly cut them down to size, by shaving off the excess paper.

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Here is an excellent article on the bindery trade, including more photos and info at the links in the right side bar of the article (especially "slideshows.") 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Printer at Colonial Williamsburg

During Under the Redcoat last June, we had lots of time to visit the trades. After escaping the wigmaker with all of our hair intact, we ventured to the printer where even a kitty felt all was safe and cozy!

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See the kitty in the basket next to the boy?

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The printer was quite chatty, regaling us with stories even after the shop "closed."  We weren't at all aware the shop had closed until we left. 

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Here is an excellent article on the printer, which includes great links in the right sidebar.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Wigmaker at Colonial Williamsburg

During Under the Redcoat last June, we had lots of free time between programs, so we visited some the trades.

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My daughter carefully looks at something she deems safe. 

I practically had to drag the kids into the wigmaker, because she is notorious for scheming to make us bald!

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She insists that bald heads were all the rage so we could more comfortably wear wigs!

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One of the guests actually conceded to let the wigmaker shave his wife's head and even arranged for a time for him to bring her back! At about that time my children were ready to split! lol I can never keep them in there for long!

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For more on the wigmaker, here's a great article with more pictures. At the link, check the right hand column for two great podcasts: Great Hair and the Fashionable Wig. Their facebook page has great process photos.

Monday, September 23, 2013

An 18th Century Silk Hat with Organza Trim and Pearls

My latest project has been the retweaking of an 18th century silk hat.  I began this hat at a sewing workshop with the Colonial Williamsburg Costume Design Center in 2010.  We were provided with the hat, silk and trim...along with lots of inspiration and instruction in technique.  When I came home I completed my hat to look like this.  Since then I've been looking at more period renderings (like they showed us in class) and I've never seen scattered pearls on a hat.  I'm not saying it didn't exist, but that I can't find it.  However I did find pearls worked into trim on many garments, so I decided to redo my hat to complement the gown I've been sewing from my Burnley and Trowbridge workshop last November. (More on that later.)

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First I decided to make the hat smaller.  I reused the same silk. I merely cut it down and restitched the edges by hand.

Like one of the inspiration hats at the workshop, I decided to poof lots of ribbon at the top of the hat. I incorporated pearls throughout like I've seen in a period rendering somewhere, but I can't find it now.

The hat is additionally a composite of two paintings.
The Artist's Second Wife and Son by Anton Wilhelm Tischbein.   
Catherine Langdale, Wife of William Constable by Henry Walton


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And this is the gown it will go with.  This is actually my robe l'anglaise for a previous challenge.  I have finally completed the gown and have trim left to go, which will include pearls.  I bought the gown fabric to complement this hat, which I began at the CDC class. We were offered an array of silks and I was espeically taken with this soft green color.  After I brought it home I wondered what I would wear with it.  Then I found the striped silk for sale at Burnley and Trowbridge, and decided to use it at a gown workshop led by the Colonial Williamsburg Mantua Maker.  Then I decided my hat needed to be tweaked to a more historically accurate look, without scattered pearls.  I still wanted pearls, so here it is!


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I've also been experimenting with a rump pad for a few years.  I've not worn one yet because they always seem to be a bit too much. 

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I made the skirts into a train, which will also be polonaised.  Anyway that is the peek into this long project.

Now for the HSF details:

HSF  2013

The Challenge: #19 Wood, Metal, Bone

Fabric: silk

Pattern: self-drafted

Year:18th century

Notions: ribbon, pearls

How historically accurate is it? highly accurate

Hours to complete: About 5

First worn: not yet

Total cost: free, used materials in the stash

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Jean Lafitte, The Gentleman Pirate

Today was pirate day, and everyone on facebook seemed to be making a big deal of it. We aren't huge into pirates, but if the kids were younger and not immersed and nearly drowning in college work and college prep work, we'd probably be watching Walt Disney's Treasure Island and Kidnapped tonight. The memorable portrayal of Long John Silver in Treasure Island came to define the portrayal of a pirate.

However I decided to take a different path, to early 19th century Louisiana and Galveston, Texas, where we once "met" the gentleman pirate, Jean Laffite! For dinner I made a Creole (Spanish/French) dish, called jambalaya. Everyone enjoyed it and it was spicier than anything we could find in New Orleans when we visited years ago.

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During dinner I quizzed the family and my kids remembered Laffite, principally his involvement aiding General Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812. Also they remembered that he wasn't mean and nasty like most pirates. At least, that is what we learned when we were in Galveston where Laffite once headquartered.

I found a Cecil B. DeMille movie, The Buccaneer, made in 1958 and starring Yul Brynner as Jean Laffite. (There's also a 1938 version with Frederic March.) I hope to watch you tube clips I found with the kids tonight. I watched the first one and liked what I saw.  Trouble at the party brought Laffite, who tamed the trouble makers with a sword fight....except he used his walking stick. In typical French manner, he used that walking stick as a sword with class!

Perhaps my first immersion into the intrigue of Lafitte, was when I visited New Orleans'  French Quarter. Everywhere we turned there was mysterious mention of the French pirate. Pirate's Alley was somewhat linked to him, though nothing definitive seems to be claimed. Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop,as well, makes mention that from his innocent blacksmith business he was able to hide his privateering trade.

Numerous sites tell various conflicting stories, legends and tales.

He spied for the Spanish according to one source, but another tale insists that he plundered the Spanish for the Mexican government seeking independence.

To restore his reputation and regain lost property, Lafitte aided General Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans.

Now another resource, written in the late 19th century, says that Lafitte returned to France after the Battle of Waterloo on a private mission to help Napoleon and his fortune escape. When Napoleon failed to arrive, Laffite left with the treasure. 

He dined with Mrs. Jane Long, the "Mother of Texas, at her home in Galveston."

Her husband, James Long, who was originally from Culpepper, Virginia, tried to get Lafitte to help him secure an early form of Texas Independence, around 1819.

For a time he settled on the remote island of Galveston where he continued privateering, but was soon forced to leave into oblivion.

Every resource I read had a different story as to his final whereabouts and demise. Most report he died soon after leaving his operations at Galveston. A mysterious journal written by Lafitte appeared in the 20th century which detailed his new life in a new location with a small family up through the 1850's. Initially this book was claimed by historians as accurate, until recently.

As to Lafitte's burial spot, New Orleans writer, Mel Leavitt, wrote"tongue in cheek...'"He rests, some say, next to the unmarked graves of Napoleon Bonaparte and John Paul Jones.'"

Perhaps the intrigue of the French pirate Jean Lafitte is best left shrouded in mystery, like the old oaks dripping with moss in the bayous he reportedly traveled.