Posts Tagged "fire"

Indoor S’Mores | Don’t Mess with a Good Thing

Dear Kid,

When you have a good idea, go with it.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

And if it’s raining when you’d planned s’mores, bring out the candles for a repeat performance of indoor s’mores.

Last night we had a horde of teenagers for dinner. Pasta salad, corn and black bean salsa, burgers, and (wait for it) s’mores.

(Sorry if I’m making you hungry. Go eat breakfast.)

But the rain and the wind made the idea of sitting outside around a firepit less than appealing, so we set out candles and everyone had a wonderful time.

Hope you’re staying relatively dry.

Love, Mom



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The Sky is Falling! (Emerald Ash Borer Infestation)

Dear Kid,

There are random tree limbs falling in our yard.

We have several ash trees and they are infested with the Emerald Ash Borer.

Apparently, this is potentially good news for woodpeckers (yum, another brunch tree opened!) and really bad news for everyone else. Especially the trees.

One of the signs of Advanced Borer-ness is parts of trees falling off at random times.

This is where I would have put a picture of an Emerald Ash Borer, but...ick. DearKidLoveMom.comMe: Do we have to worry about the tree falling down and crashing into the house?
Dad: Nope, just limbs fall off.
Me: Are there any limbs we have to worry about?
Dad: Just a few.
Me: That is not a comforting answer.

I decided to look up EAB (that’s how people in the know refer to the bug) and found that there are many sites devoted to the subject. After picking one at random I picked another one at random (just didn’t like the first one) and found several papers about EAB. One was titled Wood Options from Infested Trees (or something like that) and I thought that would be great information to read since we clearly have wood falling from the sky.

Turns out the paper was written by scientists who wanted to be “Published” and not by someone who cared about communicating with the public. I made it through 9 pages of preface (you can tell because the pages are numbered in itty bitty roman numerals), 11 pages of introduction, and 23 pages of the paper before I gave up.

My feeling is we should invite the woodpeckers for a final meal and then have a fire. (If anyone knows any reason why this would be bad, or any other good uses for EAB wood, now would be a good time to speak up.)

I also made a note to buy a hard hat for sitting in the back yard.

Love, Mom

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Plasma, Neon Signs, and Other Electrifying Information

What do neon and lightning have in common? Plasma! DearKidLoveMom.comDear Kid,

The weather is starting to display signs of being fall and I’m hoping we can find some time in the next several weeks for a fire pit fire or two. I’ve written about fire mythology, and the history of fire, but for some reason I found myself looking up fire today. Scientists have made what should be simple (fire) much more complicated by creating A Definition: Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the exothermic chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products. If hot enough, the gases may become ionized to produce plasma.

Which of course got me thinking about plasma. Until recently, my only encounters with plasma were the type related to blood and the type related to TVs. As I recall, there were only three states of matter when I was in high school (liquid, gas, solid) but it seems someone added plasma when I wasn’t looking. Actually, they’ve added a whole bunch of weird states that are common knowledge now that weren’t when I was in high school and college.

You know how we have to renew our Driver’s Licenses every however many years? And if you move to a different state you have to take the written test all over? I wonder if we should require adults to take HS refresher courses every so many years. Most of us would fail (for proof of this, you need only watch one episode of Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?).

There is a lot of information on the internet about plasma. I have thoughtfully taken out all the technical stuff (which means if your professors expect you to know something about plasma another source of information is definitely in order. If you are just looking for chit-chat conversation, this is more than sufficient.).

Plasma is the Switzerland of matter, meaning it is neutrally charged. (Neutrally charged means you returned your purchase the same day you used your credit card.)

In my (rather unscientific) mind, plasma is a lot like oobleck. Turns out my mind is, um, unscientific at best. Wrong is probably a more accurate term.

Like a gas (and sort of like oobleck), plasma does not have a definite shape or a definite volume unless enclosed in a container; unlike gas, under the influence of a magnetic field plasma may form structures like filaments, beams, and double layers. I have never heard of oobleck forming a structure with or without a magnet.

Plasmas are by far the most common phase of ordinary matter in the universe. Which raises the question: why did it take so long to figure out that there are more than three states of matter? Answer: because plasma is not at all like oobleck and most of it exists either in neon signs or outside the gravitational pull of the sun. Stars (including our very own sun) are made of plasma, much of interstellar space is filled with a plasma, and even black holes are fueled by “accreting ionising matter” (i.e., plasma). Lighting is plasma. Who knew? Well, you probably did, but I didn’t. All very difficult to hold in your hands.

Plasma is also a euphemism for alcohol which is easier to hold than lightning. Except when you are underage.

Here’s to keeping plasma (the blood type) inside you, plasma (the TV type) in front of you,* and plasma (the lightening type) far away.

Love, Mom

*Except when you’re in class or studying.

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The History of Fire and S’mores

Fire Charles Dudley Warner quoteDear Kid,

Once upon a time, there was the first fire. Since there were no newspapers around to record the event, scientists who care about such things are busy arguing about when it actually happened. I’m not a scientist who cares about such things, so I am not worrying. My in-depth research shows it was a long time ago and that ever since then “don’t leave the fire burning when you go out!” has been bellowed by parents everywhere. At least until 1915, when the British song Keep the Home Fires Burning was recorded.

People began to actively use fire once someone figured out that steak tartare is quite delicious when served medium rare on a bun with various condiments, and that fish fries are considerably better when the fish isn’t sushi style.

There is lots of mythology about fire. The Greek god Hephaestus (the Romans called him Vulcan) was the god of the forge and volcanos, and Prometheus gave the gift of fire to man. (It is not clear if anyone ever wrote a thank you note.) Gerra is the Babylonian and Akkadian god of fire. Jacawitz was the Mayan fire deity. In Norse mythology, Logi was the fire god. There are lots of other cultures that have fire gods/goddesses; you are a Bright Young Thing and can look them up in the comfort of your own home if you are so interested.

As an aside, Prometheus and Hermes,  both have a claim to the gift of fire. Prometheus gave fire to people. Hermes is credited with discovering how to produce it. More importantly, Hermes is the god of business people and thieves (I love that) and the symbol for Columbia University’s School of Business.Hermes Columbia Business School Logo

The point is, we are fascinated by fire. It is a wonderful useful thing that can also wreak tremendous damage (just ask Shere Khan). For as long as there have been people (a date I leave others to argue about), we have controlled and been controlled by fire.

Fast forward to the early 1900s when Milton Hershey got around to inventing the Hershey bar, completing the triad of ingredients necessary for scouts to make s’mores around a campfire.

Since then (possibly before then too) people have been arguing over the proper way to roast a marshmallow. On one side of the football stadium we have the “Gently rotate the marshmallow until it is a rich, golden brown on all sides” group. On the other side we have the “Char the sucker!” camp. Each side shouts at each other (“Less filling” “Tastes great”) until someone’s marshmallow lands in the fire and everyone starts concentrating on the task at hand. Or at stick.

In my opinion, the only improperly roasted marshmallow is one that has dirt, pine needles, or ants on it.

As I mentioned, s’mores are the proper campfire food. S’mores and banana boats, but banana boats are basically bananas stuffed with s’mores and what can be bad about that?

In recent years there have been lots of variations on s’mores. Pi prefers them with a Reeces peanut butter cup rather than plain chocolate (although will happily use peanut butter and a Hershey bar if there aren’t any peanut butter cups in the vicinity). Pinterest has taken the whole s’more thing to an entirely new level with Peppermint Patti s’mores, s’more brownies, pretzel s’mores, s’more pancakes, s’more fudge…sigh. I love Pinterest. There was an entrepreneur on Shark Tank who made S’muffins which (presumably) were s’more-like muffins (although the sharks didn’t think they tasted like s’mores).

Thanks for building a great fire last night. A good time was had by all.

Love, Mom

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