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Like many libraries, ours has been shifting attention to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), with a bit of art thrown in for fun and creativity (STEAM). We hired Juan Rubio about a year ago to join our Youth and Family Learning team. He is amazing and procures cool gadgets and funding for work hours to cover us learning about the cool gadgets. A few of the things he’s brought us are Geolocative Games, 3D Printing Programming, Little Bits, and Finch Robots.

So far I’ve had training on the Finch robots. We use Samsung Chromebooks with the Snap Extension. You can use the Snap without the Finch and program a Sprite to move around, so it’s worth checking out if you are interested in really basic programming. There are 4 levels of difficulty in Snap, which is useful in teaching. The picture below is level 3, which I find to have the most functionality and easier to use than level 4.

Screenshot 2016-04-20 at 9.08.26 PM

Here’s where I warn you that I have no background in programming aside from a little HTML, CSS and XML. I do understand that the Snap commands represent a more complicated coding language underneath. I’ve even learned how to have the program show some of that language, but I don’t know what it means.

You can still teach Snap/Finches without knowing coding languages. It’s mostly logic once you get the hang of where everything is. You need a Control and a motion command in order to make the Finch do something. You can add operators and sensors and use variables to do more complicated sequences, as you can see above.

Some things were frustrating for me and the students. The Finches didn’t always behave as they should, even when the program was perfect. Sometimes the problem was that a student would have 2 or more programs running at once and they would interfere with each other. Other times the traction on the floor or table wasn’t good for the Finch’s wheels. Sometimes it just didn’t do what you told it to. Especially when it came to the sensors. I was able to turn this into a learning experience where we tried many different things to get the Finch to do what we wanted, trying different inputs and environments. The students learned that sometimes the environment is going to get in the way of what you want to happen.

I’ve had 2 groups of students so far. I do outreach at a local family housing community center, where families are transitioning out of homelessness. It’s long term housing, so they’re fairly stable, at least in having a place to live. The teens that I work with there are mostly girls from ages 11-14. For these classes, I went once a week for 3 weeks and had an hour each time. An hour was not enough and the teens have a lot of things on their plates, but we had a good time and they learned a lot. We’ll have our party in early May and students will be challenged to make their Finches dance, make music and do a light show.

outreach

The other program I’ve had was at our branch over Spring Break. It was 3 days long with a party at the end of the 3rd day where they showed off the tricks they’d learned. This group was mostly boys, ages 8-12. They’d all had Scratch before, so understood most of the Snap programming basics. I had to modify the first few curriculum for them, then move quickly to the more advanced workshops.

My next training will be on the Geolocative Games. With that, we’ll create a game that is a digital scavenger hunt. There are a lot of ways to make this game beneficial to the community. One of my colleagues did a project with her service learning group where they researched the history of their neighborhood, then put locations named after iconic people into their game, with information to teach the gamer about the history.

It was a really fun and sometimes frustrating experience. Totally worthwhile. I wouldn’t have been as successful if I hadn’t had a very wonderful coworker at my branch who could help me with the more technical stuff. He is also a very patient and intuitive teacher and I learned a lot having him there to help with the outreach programs.

 

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I had the weirdest dream last night. I don’t remember all of it, but I was on a supported ride, and I was riding alone. There was someone I was competing with, who was fairly evenly matched with me. We were racing along, taking turns at the front. At some point I lost him. Then I lost the ride itself. I ended up in sand. It was bright and sunny and I could see everyone up above, on a pathway that was paved and I was riding in sand along the bottom of a cliff.

I felt something go wonky with my bike, so I looked down. Suddenly parts of my bike were gone. The front wheel, my handlebars. I was left holding the stem. I didn’t crash, but I lost momentum and set her down gently. Suddenly I was in an urban area, climbing around an industrial building. I found a Mad Max style bike shop, thinking I could bring the parts of my bike there to get it fixed. I had to hurry though, I was loosing my nemesis.

no_handlebars_by_theacidreign

Then I woke up.

Raven was hauled out this last weekend, so Chris and I stayed in an Air BnB in a nearby neighborhood. It was nice to have a shower close at hand, but the bed was a bit small for the two of us.

Raven now has shiny new bottom paint and Chris was able to get a few other chores done that work best when out of water–sinking the depth sounder in the hull being one of those. Here’s a video about some of the work he did:

I finally got the ripped or degraded sections of the bright work covers mended. I ended up doing them by hand, as it was all a little too tough for my machine.

Chris was able to get out for a sail on Tuesday, while I was at work. It was a beautiful day with just the right amount of wind.

 

We are now back aboard and happier for it. We’re heading off on a trip to Mystery Bay for the long weekend. The kids have been doing a lot of practicing on the PFDs and kayaks after school and on the weekends, so they’re ready to have some fun.

Since moving to the boat, my bikes have not been stored in a manner befitting their status in my life. My Bike Friday Tikit has been a little better off, folded carefully each evening and stowed in the cockpit under the waterproof travel bag–thank goodness I bought that thing, even if it’s never been used to actually hold the bike.

My Surly was on deck under a bike cover that almost kept the water out. My saddle still became saturated and I bought a brooks cover for it, which for a while just kept the water in, but eventually saddle dried out enough for the cover to keep water out.

I was so embarrassed by these lowly forms of storage that I never took a picture of either one. I ride to work every day and no longer have a car of my own, so biking is my main form of transportation. Beats getting worked up driving and paying for a gym membership. I definitely don’t want my bikes rusting.

I was on a wait list for a bike locker, and the marina staff seemed to be having a hard time contacting people to see if they wanted one of the several available. A few days ago, after almost 4 months, I was offered a spot at the north end of the marina, with the promise that once one came available outside of our dock, they would transfer it. The Surly finally has a dry home.

And if you’ve ever wondered what the inside of one of those bike lockers looks like, now you know.

I don’t think I’ll be able to fit Lucille in there as well, even folded, but we’ll see. I won’t try until I get the closer locker. Chris found a better way to store Lucille for the moment, in our Dock Box. She just fits and stays very dry. I even leave my helmet in there to keep it from cluttering up the boat. So, bike storage managed! Finally.

We’ve been on Raven for over 2 months now and we get more and more comfortable there. At the same time, we keep finding things that need to be fixed, finished or could just be set up better. Chris has been revamping a lot of the plumbing and we recently had a wiring setback.

Our panel is old. Original probably, which isn’t surprising on a sailboat. You fix things when they break or you find them inconvenient. We hired a really awesome neighbor to fix it–and that is an awesome thing about boat life. You’re neighbors are often experts on the things you are not. We get a lot of free advice and help and we know when and who to pay when it’s time.

Chris is working on getting the sink drain fixed in the kids head along with hooking up the manual water pumps. I have been installing little battery powered lights in our dark nooks and crannies. I find that these work well:

They are bright and the batteries don’t need replacing often.

Chris and I also made a template of the area where I want all the spices today and we’re going to get some metal cut to fit the space. That will make all the space in there more useful. I still need to get more spice tins to use with it, and decide if I like the plastic or aluminum ones better. I’m also not sure about the magnets they come with, which seem unpredictable. I can replace them with these:

But I think I want to use the new metal plates first to see how it goes. I find that if I jump the gun on the next step, I often end up back tracking.

I’m also looking at an expensive set of nesting pans from Magma. We could definitely benefit from some more space in the galley, and our old Calphalon pans take up a lot of room with their handles sticking out every which way and need for multiple lids. I want to see the nesting pans first though, so we’re going to go to Fisheries later to check them out.

We are also looking at heaters and stoves. There are lots of things to take into consideration–my biggest question is “can it bake bread reliably?” We’ve tentatively settled on the Dickinson Caribbean 2 Burner Galley Range. The benefit being that 2 pans can fit comfortably, which they do not do on our current three burner range–so don’t even try a third pot.

Isn’t she shiny? It will probably be a while before we take the plunge with a range/stove. Heat should come first, and we still have a few other things to do before that’s top priority.

We moved on the boat officially last Saturday and we got a few days in without anything interesting happening. There’s a lot of condensation, so we ordered some small quiet dehumidifiers. They don’t really work though, so we need to get a bigger one. Occasionally the breaker would flip, so we have learned how much we can power at the same time.

Then, the freeze came. The temperature dipped into the 20’s and has been hovering there since Saturday morning. There was snow in my dingy! Click through for more snow pics.

Chris was adventuring in New York with his oldest daughter, so I was on my own. The cold was challenging, but manageable and the sky was beautiful and clear. The wind was a bit rough though, as seen in this video:

The propane to the stove stopped working, so I figured that the tank was empty and I figured out how to switch tanks. It turned out that something else was going on, but I still feel accomplished.

On Sunday, when leaving to pick up the crew at the airport, I had a frantic moment when I thought I had locked myself into Raven. It was so windy the night before that the swinging doors would not stay closed, so I put in the panels and slid the hatch closed. In the morning, the hatch was stuck and there was no way to remove the panels since the hatch covers the opening where they slide out. Finally I got enough friction to move it. What a relief!

Then I went to scraped the windows and heat the car, but when I got back in the door would not close. You can’t drive a car with the door unsecured. Finally that fixed itself after much pushing and pulling of mechanisms and locking and unlocking of the doors.

We had our first visitors that night. First our friends that also moor at Shilshole stopped by to see Raven and say hello. Then some of my family came for dinner. It was a challenge to cook everything in the right order, but I think that it went pretty well, and only 20 minutes behind schedule. I made black cod with basil cream sauce and green bean and cauliflower casserole. I’d also successfully made french bread that day to accompany.

Then yesterday, the water pump wouldn’t stop running, so we had to turn off the power to it whenever we weren’t using it. Chris went and got a new one and put it in and water is now running smoothly again. One thing about plumbing on the boat, everything is a lot simpler than it is in a house.

This morning the breaker kept tripping, even after we went around and turned off everything unnecessary. I finally ran into our neighbor on one of my trips to the breaker and he told me it was happening to him as well, so probably something with the overall power rather than something with the boat. It makes us look forward to wind and solar power.

We’re getting new countertops put in on Raven, hopefully to be done in a week or so. We’re going with a light color to counteract the dark wood everywhere.

This is the sample that Chris sent me. I think it’s going to look nice.

Right now we have a jumble of dishes that the old owner left and that we brought from Serenity. Some of them are ok and some are really junky. I’ve been looking for something to replace them with. My criteria are: must be virtually unbreakable and not look gross after a few washings. I had been mostly looking at malomine, because those are the ones that usually have the non-skid on the bottom. I kind of hate the idea of eating off of plastic every day and they usually get worn looking pretty quickly. I was searching the internet again today when I ran across a post from Boat Galley called Unbreakable Boat Dishes. The writer really lays out the benefits of Corelle. Now I think I want either these:

Or these:

I’m leaning towards the second ones as they’ll match our colors better (don’t I sound like I’m planning a wedding?)

And I think I’ll order these placemats in Cobalt Blue so they don’t slide on the table!

On our travels this week, The Mister and I have talked a lot about wishes for the boat. He mentioned replacing the counter tops with granite and installing sweep sinks (inset sinks where you can push water and debris straight into the sink without that pesky lip in the way). I am all for both of those. Then he mentioned magnetic knife holders. !!!

I was thinking that with the way the boat moves, magnetic wouldn’t be strong enough to hold items without them falling if we went sailing.  Who wants knives and spices caroming around while you’re sailing? Not me. However, the Mister says that Raven will not be rocking as wildly as Serenity does when she’s heeled over or we’re in some weather. He thinks that magnets will work great. !!!

So, I’m rethinking my spice storage strategy. There’s a blank wall in the galley that would be great for mounting both knifes and spices on a magnetic strip or square and then I can use stainless instead of plastic.

 

Place to mount knife and spice holders.

Knife storage example

This is one spice option I’m considering

 

I will want to see these options in person, in order to evaluate size of the container and strength of the magnet. The knife bar is easy–Ikea. I could even get several of those to use with the spice tins, but that could lead to not being able to pry them off when I wanted to use them. Most of the magnetic spice storage sets come with a regular metal sheet and the magnet is glued to the tin. I’d also like to get empty tins, rather than a set that comes with spices. I have plenty of spices, and usually like to buy them as I need them (thus all the little bags in my drawer currently).

In the sailing realm, I’m trying two new apps that I’m hoping will help me remember terms and rules: Sailing Flashcards and Sailing Right of Way. As expected, there are not a lot of apps out there for sailing instruction. I’ve started using Sailing Flashcards, but it is not very complex, either in function or the diagrams used. Cons: In the 2D drawings it can be hard to figure out what part of the boat they are pointing at for identification and the order of the cards doesn’t change each time you start the app, so you always answer the same ones first. Pros: I’m getting more exposure to the terms than I would otherwise and repetition is making it easier to remember them. Once I’ve started Sailing Right of Way, I’ll give some feedback on that one as well.

Afterworlds

 

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved loved loved this. Here is a list of what I loved:

 

The two plot lines: one fantasy, one realistic fiction
The insight into the YA writer’s life, the writing process, and publishing industry
The impressionable young author moving to the big city and taking a chance
The lesbian relationship without the book being about lesbian relationships
The dark plot of the fantasy story, the death lord and new psychopomp, the bad man and the patchcoat man, the ghosts
The complexity of the characters
The bits of the other characters/writer’s books that were included

I could go on and on. I did not want it to end.

This book is fairly experimental and it worked for me. I think a lot of adults and teens will like it.

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Let’s Get LostLet’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Leila is taking a road trip to see the northern lights. We get hints at why she is doing this throughout the story, but author Adi Alsaid does an amazing job of keeping the truth from us until the last portion of the book.

Along the way, Leila meets 4 other teens in various states of confusion and crisis. She imparts wisdom as often only a brave outsider can do and helps these four follow a better path. She is like a mythic fairy godmother, but helping these people also helps Leila; first it distracts her from her own problems, then helps bring them into perspective.

I found the ending a little too convenient, but for the sake of spoilers I won’t go there. Great book, great character building. If you like John Green, you will like Adi Alsaid.

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