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Neat Stuff

Hair on Fire | Birthday Memories

Last year for my birthday, I asked my friends to send me stories related to our friendship. I spent my birthday taking a trip down memory lane, reading through all of them. This year, I asked some of my friends if I could share their memories with you.

12 Molar Hydrochloric Acid by maticulous from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

12 Molar Hydrochloric Acid by maticulous from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

This final memory comes from Tavys Ashcroft, one of my classmates from St. Vincent High School. I remember this day from Mr. D’s Honors Chemistry class our junior year. (NEAT STUFF!) It was an experiment that required an acid that was so strong that thick white fumes rose from the bottle when you opened it. Mr. D. selected me to be the one who administered the acid, advising me to hold my breath.

Here’s how Tavys remembers that day:

I think it was 10, maybe 12 molar hydrochloric acid (mid-to-high thirties percent concentration). The kind of acid that could ruin your whole day. There was a story about highly diluted test-tube splatter dissolving pants.  

Only one was to be chosen to dispense this liquid danger. Who among them had the implicit trust of the man at the front of the room?

This was a serious production. Lab coats. Check. Goggles. Check. (Put down your strikers!) Notify all nonessential personnel to vacate the area. Do not reenter the laboratory until the “all clear” is sounded. 

Out came the bottle, a surprisingly large plastic jug. Aitch Cee Ell. The cap only just removed and already a fine mist began to appear. And the clock was ticking.

Bench to bench, beaker to beaker, she carefully administered each allotment.  

Slowly enveloped in a faint fog, the room faded away. Out in the hallway, the wafting swimming pool aroma gave way to burning eyes and tightening throats.

She emerged, lab assistant triumphant. The incongruous wisps from her brow a steaming halo of pride and sublimation.

Was it sugar hydrolysis? Did carbon snakes leap from glassware? I don’t quite recall the purpose of the lab (me neither), but I clearly remember the poison cloud and the smoking hair.

During the experiment, Mr. D. asked if I could smell the chlorine. When I said, “Yes,” he said, “You’re burning your lungs.” I probably damaged all the cilia along my respiratory tract that day. Ah, the sacrifices we make for science.

Greenhorn Gardener

The beginning of my patio vegetable garden

The beginning of my patio vegetable garden

I started a little patio vegetable garden in flower pots about a week ago. I thought it would be fun to try to grow some of my own food.

My expectations for this project are very low. Remember, I’m the person who killed a cactus.

I’m having so much fun with this science project. Every morning when I wake up and every afternoon when I get home from work, I’m like a kid on Christmas morning. One of the first things I do is open the blinds to the patio to see if I have new growth on my plants. I’ll stand there for minutes observing the taller talks and emerging leaves. NEAT STUFF!

A few days ago, I had just woken up and in my pre-coffee stupor, I was so excited to get out to my mini garden that I walked straight into the screen door instead of opening it first. That’s how much I love this garden.

I have 6 flower pots in my patio garden. So far I’ve planted cucumbers, beans, and broccoli. The peas and parsley will be planted in a few weeks. The seed packets said there should be sprouts within 7-14 days. I had sprouts within 3 days on the cucumbers. I was filled with glee to see this project off to a good start.

Every day I see new growth. The beans and cucumbers are doing well. The broccoli . . . eh, we’ll see what happens. I was warned growing broccoli from seeds is challenging.

One of the things I’m enjoying most about this garden is the lack of expectations and wonder that goes along with it. Besides providing water, quality soil, and placing the pots in sunlight, there’s nothing I can do to impact the results. Either they’ll grow or not – and since all of this is new for me, it’s exciting to see the progress. And since they’re such tiny plants, there’s a noticeable difference every few hours.

Yup – I’m a big dork who loves her garden.

SALK Day 7 – The Ruth-Mr. D Story – Part 5

I think my favorite part of the Ruth-Mr. DeShazer story is the fact that what I learned in his classes has stayed with me.  For the rest of my life, whenever I see a fruit fly I’ll think, “Oooohh…drosophila.”  When I go on vacation and the ocean glows at night, I think, “Oooohh…bioluminescent algae.”  I still celebrate Mole Day every October.  And thanks to Mr. D.’s chemistry class, I will never forget about the dangers of dihyrdogen monoxide.

I opened my senior yearbook last night.  Next to his picture, Mr. D. wrote, “Study Life.  It’s Neat Stuff.”  I’d like to think that that is what I have endeavored to do with my life – always learning and seeking new adventures.  They say law school teaches you how to think.  I think that I was challenged to think critically starting in Mr. D.’s class.

I remember when I told him and my high school friends that I was changing my major from chemistry to psychology.  Everyone thought that I had lost my mind.  I remember Mr. D. had some choice words.  He didn’t want me to throw in the towel just because I was frustrated.  He tried to convince me that I was just going through a rough patch and that it would get better it I stuck with it.  He and my high school friends had not seen me for the previous six months, yelling across the lab every day, “I’m changing my major!”  They couldn’t see how unhappy I was via email.

I knew that there was going to be a backlash from my friends and family.  I knew I needed data to back up my decision so I went to my career services office and took personality tests.  The results showed that I was well suited for science, but that I was also suited for human services.  My love of science had not changed; I just didn’t want to be trapped in a lab all day.  I think everyone calmed down when they saw that I wasn’t giving up my science roots; I’m using them in a different way.

I’m grateful that the DeShazers sponsored my entire first week of Sponsor A Law Kid and gave me the freedom to tell this story.  It’s been a blast for me and my fellow classmates.

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsors are Darvin and Jane DeShazer. For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

SALK Day 5 – The Ruth-Mr. D Story – Part 3

My classmates and I who took all the advanced science classes at St. Vincent High School had Mr. DeShazer twice a day during our junior year for Advanced Placement Biology and Honors Chemistry.  They were some of my hardest classes but also my most enjoyable classes.  My classmates and I have been reminiscing about high school memories the last few days…

Chemicals in flasks (including Ammonium hydrox...
Image via Wikipedia

The ceiling of Mr. DeShazer’s classroom had what appeared to be circular burn marks on it.  As sophomores we had no idea why they were there.  As honors chemistry students, we learned that they were created by bubbles that we ignited.  Neat Stuff!!

Before every chemistry lab, we had to write out the procedure, including a section about safety precautions.  Since this was a high school lab, this usually meant “Wear your goggles” and “Be careful when working with acid.”  Somehow we got into the habit of adding safety reminders like “Don’t chew glass.”  Mr. D. went along with it as long as we had the real information in there too.  I think he was entertained by us and joined in our lightheartedness as long as we were serious about the science.

The school created a more restrictive dress code while we were students.  Our rebellious response was to follow the dress code but to wear the most outrageous things we could.  One day my friend BJ walked into class wearing a neon orange reflective safety vest over his shirt.  Without skipping a beat, Mr. D. said, “I see BJ was out directing traffic this morning,” and went on with the class.  It was hilarious because he understood what we were doing.

Sesame Street is doing something right by connecting learning to music.  Mr. D. is doing the same thing.  When we were learning about the ideal gas law, he played a song for us about it: “talkin’ heavy duty chemistry…we’re talkin’ PV=nRT!”  My classmates and I have not heard this song for 16 years, but we still remember it.

I have never met the great Mrs. D.  She must be a wonderful woman because she puts up with the great Mr. D. and she made us mini muffins on the day of the national A.P. Biology test – a four-hour exam that determined whether we got college credit for taking the class.  She knew it was a big deal and did what she could to help us.

Mr. D. had a strict rule about no food in the lab, except for one day a year.  At the end of junior year, after the A.P. Biology test, Mr. D. chili cheese omelets with wild cantrell mushrooms and bagels with truffle butter for his A.P. Bio students.  A.P. Biology was one of the most work-intensive classes I took in high school.  We had a test about every three days, and he pushed us hard to prepare for that test.  I think the end of the year breakfast was a congratulations/thank you celebration.

If any other St. Vincent graduates want to share their DeShazer experiences, please let them as comments.

Click here for Part 4 of the Ruth-Mr. D Story.

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsors are Darvin and Jane DeShazer. For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

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SALK Day 4 – The Ruth-Mr. D Story – Part 2

Every student at St. Vincent High School gets to have The Mr. D. Experience in sophomore biology.  One thing that I have come to appreciate about Mr. D. is his enthusiasm.  He will do whatever it takes to help a student love science, or at least learn it.  Mr. D. wore these ugly red-brown shoes just so he could be on his feet, jumping around, all day without being in pain.  He said the wackiest things in class.  One year, students kept track of these DeShazerisms for two weeks and published them in the school newspaper.  I wish I had kept that issue.  I don’t remember what was on the list, but I remember laughing very hard.

MAGIA EN HYDRODICTYON
Image by PROYECTO AGUA** /** WATER PROJECT via Flickr

One thing every student gets out of his class is a strong feeling about the Latin language – either an appreciation for it or complete disdain.  I remember when we were learning about the different types of algae.  He would put a species name on the overhead and cold call on people to try to translate it out of the Latin.  Every time he did this, I would cringe and pray that he wouldn’t call on me, kind of like the way I cringed and cowered in Professor Clinton’s Constitutional Law class my 1L year.  I now realize that he didn’t expect us to know the answer, but he wanted us to try.  As the year progressed, we learned a handful of Latin word roots: hydro = water, philic = loves, phobic = fears, chloro = green, rhodo = red, etc.  They were useful to know while I was studying vocabulary for the GRE and still come in handy with random legal terms.

I remember one day he put up a species name and said, “Ruuuuth, would you like to translate out of the Latin?” I honestly answered, “No.”  I think he was surprised by my response but realized that he asked a question instead of give a direction.  He turned to my friend sitting next to me and said, “BJ, you’re her lab partner.  You translate it out of the Latin.”  I never tortured my lab partner like that again.

Looking back on my biology class, I remember doing a lot of labs.  It wasn’t enough for us to talk about science; Mr. D. wanted us to do science.  Given that he had four full classes of sophomores every day, and only 45 minutes per class, that was quite an undertaking.  I’m sure he went home exhausted those days.  We did a lot of work with the microscopes – creating and looking at slides.  We dissected worms, grasshoppers, and frogs.  I remember when we were studying bacteria, each student was given the task of growing bacteria from a different source.  I grew the bacteria that was on the top of my shoe and my lab partner BJ grew the bacteria from the bottom of his shoe.  Neat Stuff!!

Click here for Part 3 of the Ruth-Mr. D Story.

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsors are Darvin and Jane DeShazer. For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

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