Thursday, 22 July 2010


A fellow Twitter user recently posted, attention is valuable; be careful where you spend it.

I always promised myself that I would never be owned by things. So often, when people become attached to material possessions, they lose a bit of their freedom. The item must be cared for, maintained and protected. We invest our time and attention to the item. It gains value through our own personal investment. In doing so, we can lose objectivity and forget what is truly important and worthy of our time and attention. Sometimes the care of our possessions becomes more than we can handle, so we must recruit others to help. In doing so, we also lose privacy.

Let's take cars or instance. I use this as an example because I am not a big car fan, have little if any emotional connection to any particular car, and generally find them annoying, somewhat necessary evils.
But others see it differently. Some wash their cars weekly, inside and out. They wax them, buy accessories for them, even "soup up" the engines. They buy air fresheners to simulate the vinyl and synthetic upholstery off-gassing smells of a new car. They buy fancy stereo systems just for car use.
In spending so much time and effort, they become owned by the car (or substitute your choice of material obsession, because the idea here can apply to most material things).
We all have our weaknesses.
My own weakness is my website. I spend an inordinate amount of time and attention on it, and need to apply a little discipline to return to a more balanced place.

There is nothing wrong with taking care of our things. Maintaining our belongings can help them last longer and reduce waste. It is when we go beyond that line that we get into trouble.

In one of my child development classes, my professor made a point of reminding us about how these material obsessions of ours appear to children. He had some examples of how children made poor choices about their own safety based on their perceptions that certain material items were worth more (at least to their parents) than they were. I will spare your the examples here, but some were tragic, and the parents weren't greedy obsessive monsters, they were ordinary people acting much like any other people in our society.

How many times do we admonish kids not to touch a cherished item, or worse, spend as much or more time maintaining an item than playing with the kids? Or even just make them wait until we are finished doing so before it is their turn for our attention? This sends a strong message to kids. They learn that "things" are important and that they come second (or later) in importance.

In fact, this is a message that resonates through society; often we make choices that work towards our own material gain rather than the general benefit of humankind. These choices do not bring us joy or happiness, nor do they always reflect our true values. From financial investments, health care (esp. mental health care), immigration policies, foreign aid and development programs, low income housing issues, taxation, education reform, even wars, these obsessions accumulate and begin to shape our larger decisions and value systems on personal and national levels in subconscious ways.

It's time for a wake up call! I'm making a personal commitment to become aware of where I spend my time and energy so that it reflects the values I hold dear. I challenge you to do the same!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

The Lemonade Energy Pages are Up!

The Lemonade energy pages are up now. There are dozens of energy-related experiments and activities to try out.

The categories are divided into electrical, solar, wind (including a sub-section loaded with experiments on air pressure), kinetic/potential energy, chemical, and insulation/conductivity.

The activities include lots of interesting and diverse concepts from practical tips for building your own Rube Goldberg machine, to making endothermic and exothermic reactions, building your own solar still and using a balloon to light a florescent light tube. You can see how energy can be stored in a flywheel using your own bike and see just how heavy a sheet of newspaper can be (you may not even be able to lift it!).

I chose these particular activities because they are hands-on, lots of fun, and memorable. They also lend themselves well to group work as well as further exploration into the given topic.

This time there are a couple of experiments that we didn't pre-test that are external links (stomp rockets and elephant toothpaste). When I get to these, I will provide any feedback if needed. I usually try and pre-test everything that goes onto the site before posting. If you have tried either of these, (or any other activities on the Lemonade site for that matter!) I would appreciate your feedback so I can make the site as useful as possible for all visitors.

Side note: I did pre-test the tempera paint stenciled t-shirts that I posted here on the blog earlier, but my most recent batch ran when I washed them. I suspect I did not use a hot enough iron this time, or it could be that I accidentally used washable tempera. If you try this one out, you may want to try out a piece of test fabric first.