Wednesday, April 30, 2014

On the road again!


DC is now just a colorful memory, and we move ever onward. Believe it or not, the schedule is just as full as ever, we just have to drive slower because the Northeast is rather populated. Monday can be divided into two separate halves: the part where we left my Aunt's house, and the section where we drove until Newark. However, it's worth mentioning that Shane's girlfriend brought Tucson Tamale Company, and our last meal in my Aunt's house was a taste from home.

We left the bus at the Newark Charter School (NCS), which was the site of our next performance, and met up with an old student of my Dad's. He met us in the freezing Delaware parking lot, and we gave an impromptu presentation to his kids who weren't part of NCS. We all carpooled back to their spot in a nice little neighborhood and dug in to an unreal BBQ spread for dinner. I spent the rest of the evening attempting to catch up on blogging posts, and soon found myself up far too late. I rubbed my eyes to try to make the clock turn backwards, and upon failing, decided to turn in for the night.

We did a couple of lightning fast shows at the school the next day. The folks we were staying with had lent us a car to get back to the school, and we pulled in with time to spare. Luckily, this extra time gave us the chance to figure out how we were supposed to boil down our show into about 25 minutes, because that was all the time NCS was giving us. Honestly, I liked the whole performance better, but it was a tad bit rushed. If we could figure out a way to still connect each separate demonstration, then we would have a real power-packed number.

Once the shows were all done, we hit the road for PA, and accomplished both of our goals for the rest of the day: we found somewhere to rest, and we sniffed the air in Hershey, PA. The air wasn't that delicious, but it's nice to be under the roof of another road trip veteran.

---Tasty Bits:

We finally found something else we can pass on the road: a horse and buggy. That's right, today we crossed through Amish country!

End of the Convention


Sunday was a reflection of sorts for our booth at the festival. I had stayed out rather late into the evening and as a result slept like the dead well past the time that everyone else had driven into the District. I arrived several hours into the final day of the convention and tapped out Shane and my Dad so they could rest their joints and vocal chords. I helped more people understand what harmony looks like and taught them how to do several sound experiments with everyday stuff.

There were several key differences worth mentioning though. Later on, I happened to be walking past one of the stages when I noticed that the next show was going to be the traveling arm of the Franklin Institute. I have never considered myself above a little bit of spying, and so I immediately ran back to the booth to get my camera. I returned, and watched 40 minutes of well-executed and finely packaged science. Following the show, I grabbed their contact information, so there may come a time soon where they find themselves as members of our own captive audience!

The convention closed half an hour later, and we moved on to evening plans. It took us a while to pack everything away, but you need to understand that our gear needed to fit into a fraction of its original space in order to leave the festival: we had borrowed my Aunt's tiny Honda Fit to shuttle our entire show to the convention center. I believe that there exists footage of our exodus from our booth, but it might take some time to reach you. Until then, trust that we are capable and inventive when the hour demands it of us. The next stop in the day was getting dinner with another old friend of my Dad's out in Bethesda, MA. I had a fantastic time catching up with the guy, because I am starting to realize that I am the age now where I can appreciate my Dad's friend's company fully. We said our goodbyes much later and officially wrapped up the last day of the SCI FEST.

Tasty Bits:

According to the founder of the convention, it is absolutely necessary to allow for an entire year to pass in between each festival. I believe we scientists are a little harder to host than the Comic-Con crowd.

At the Convention with 35,000 others!


Today we got to move into our 10'x10' booth in the sub level cavern of the convention center. The time had finally come to show the people of the world what the Arizona Mathematics Road Show was all about. We were in the best shape of our demonstration lives thanks to the 30+ shows that lay behind us across the southern half of the U.S. But wait, something wasn't quite right: where were the crowds of small children who would undoubtedly tear the place apart unless we appeased their every wish? Hmm, it suddenly seemed like we might be able to ease into this booth thing, as opposed to a metaphorical leap of faith.

Really, I won't say that I was disappointed, but by the time the VIP party started, we hadn't even done 50 harmonograph drawings. However, I mustn't look a gift horse in the mouth: the gentle start to the weekend gave us much needed time to fine tune the few instruments that we weren't in the habit of bringing in with us for shows. The harmonograph was creating better and better graphs of harmony, and all of a sudden the PA system boomed above us, “Thank you for coming to the Science and Engineering Festival, the halls will be shutting down in 15 minutes. Please come back tomorrow for even more fun, and STEM.” Holy Smokes I thought, the time was 2:45 pm, and at 3:00 we were basically done. For the next three hours we were invited to wander through the convention center, and explore the other booths that were a part of the Festival.

I mean this place was full of intrigue, where were we supposed to begin? I found it very interesting to observe how information trickled from person to person by word of mouth, and eventually we discovered that there was an opening ceremony happening on one of the halls above. I followed the masses up escalator after escalator until I came to a truly impressive display of bodies in motion. I had the fleeting impression of being a single water molecule flowing down a gradient and coming to rest in a landscape depression alongside fellow molecules. At this opening ceremony, I let most of the pleasantries drift through one ear and out the other; however, one piece stuck, and I filed it in my mind under convention trivia: imagine this, we were about to experience a wave of people numbering somewhere between 30,000 and 35,000. WHAT?? We were going to need at least another packet of paper for the harmonograph.  

Once I had recovered from that shock, I followed my group out to dinner with some old friends, and put any disturbing thoughts of large numbers out of my mind.

Tasty Bits:

It turns out that you can use other people's mouths as musical instruments if you have a long enough series of straws joined end to end. All they have to do is mouth A E I O U while you blow the improvised reed instrument. 


This is the day we have all been waiting for: Science and Engineering Festival day one! I would be hard pressed to explain why it is that I am not always interested in chasing down details even if I am involved in the final version of a plan. All I am trying to introduce to you is that on Thursday I woke up, and found out that I was going to be riding the metro into the city with my step mom, and we were supposed to find our way to the convention center. Deal, no prob; I mean, I grew up in the grid system city of Tucson, so navigating DC (also grid) should have been a cinch. So, the two of us went out the door and made our way to where we would catch the Metro. After riding into the District with little or no effort, we emerge into the sunshine with little or no clue of what direction is north, south, east, whatever. Luckily, we looked exactly like the folks who needed a friendly push in the right direction, and that is just what happened: two seconds after looking up and down each street, someone nearby says “The convention center is that way.” Perfect, but my pride wasn't thrilled that someone knew I was a tourist seconds after getting out of the Metro.

We made it to the Walter Washington Convention Center with no further trouble, and pretty soon the rush of activity took the day away. We had the opportunity to give two separate performances, which were now being called workshops. The small difference between a workshop and a show is just the amount of time you take to explain how members of the audience might find themselves in our shoes: “We're not the myth busters,” my Dad explained, “you can try this at home.” The workshops went very well. In both of these separate cases the three of us got into a finely tuned rhythm, and the additional questions from the audience gave us the chance to provide greater depth than what we have become accustomed to. The only noteworthy punctuation between one show and the other was our Indian food lunch break: each of us was soon stuffed to the gills, and their curry was the perfect level of too hot to handle.

Tasty bits:

I had heard about the DC film festival while I was at the Embassy last night, so today I went off in search of some quality cinema. Just three city blocks from the convention center, I found the Goethe Institut where they were showing the film Cairo Drive. This is a must see Egyptian slice of life all done in the backseats of cars suffering from traffic in Cairo. Don't knock it till you try it.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Here's a link to a newspaper article about a presentation Bruce, Devin and Shane did in Maryland.

They are now heading north to New Jersey, New York, New England ("new" territory, for sure)!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Great Falls National Park


The sun came out for a little while today before disappearing in the clouds, but we still found adventure in a drizzly DC area. I woke up after everyone in my Aunt's house had gone on to various activities. My first thought was that it was the middle of the day and I had done a miniature Rip Van Winkle. However, I saw a clock, and Shane came back shortly. He then explained what everyone else was up to: he and my Dad were set to perform at the Immanuel Christian School in Springfield, VA, and my step mom was waiting to take me to Great Falls National Park

Pretty soon, Shane's prophecy was realized, and everybody left the house heading in different directions.

My step mom and I went off in search of some nature. Honestly, it was an act subconsciously aimed at the fact we had spent most of yesterday wandering around Sears looking for suits I could wear. The whole place did much more than give us a dose of nature: I felt like could have stayed forever and watched the waters of the Potomac cascade over rocks. When we returned back to my Aunt's house, we were greeted by my Dad and Shane who had finished their performance. According to them, the show went as good today as shows get: the audience was incredibly responsive, and now they all love science. Naturally, after that the two of them were napping on sofas in the living room, and suddenly looking at them made me realize how tired I was myself. I went straight up to the guest room and fell into a solid sleep instantly.

By the time I woke back up, I could smell various aromas that were climbing the stairs, and filling the room. Downstairs Shane was fiddling around with a curry, and by the time I was fully awake, it was time to eat. Well, I have to hand it to him, the man knows his way around a yellow chicken and rice curry. But as I write this, I am starting to smell something altogether new. Allow me to end this short posting here, and I will go investigate the source of these smells.

Till tomorrow!

Tasty Bits:

My step mom and I almost got to witness a rescue in progress out at Great Falls today. Unfortunately, it looked like the folks at Cabin John Rapid Rescue were only interested in practicing, which consisted mainly of determining the speed that would keep them in exactly the same spot on the river. Even if this is a rather difficult trick, it is altogether unimpressive to watch.4.22

Monday, April 21, 2014


Today we were in hunter gatherer mode. Yes, I'm aware that we are near that hot spot of civilization called the District of Columbia, but we thought we should get it out of our system. Although we spent most of the morning hunting and gathering small necessary items, Shane and my Dad managed to evolve as far as being able to use power tools: they spent the afternoon building, and fixing various demonstrations for the upcoming conference. However, I am not sure how their trajectory fared into the evening, because they went to go play disc golf with someone who graduated from the U of A. Either disc golf represents the final rung in humanity's ladder of evolution, or their development asymptotically petered out after using the rental jigsaw cutter.

I on the other hand did little to better myself for most of the day, but instead caught up with my Aunt, and her partner. I went on the errand run in the morning, which took us to four different hardware stores, two toy stores, a Michaels, and finally a grocery, all before lunch. That's right, somebody call Guinness World Records. Our final stop was in a shopping center called Seven Corners. The name has to do with the seven roads which join just outside of this location. Whether this is necessary, or some form of civic engineering jape, it doesn't matter; the plaza is a truly fearsome place, and I barely made it out without turning into a gibbering mess.

Perhaps I'm guilty of exaggeration, but it was a welcome rest getting back to my Aunt's house. After we had eaten lunch, Shane and my Dad began a careful execution of the second half of the top paragraph, and I stuck around to talk to our hosts. At length, we covered just about all the subjects involved in a well rounded catch-up session, and pretty soon her partner said he was going to take a drive to Barnes and Noble to look at a book. I rarely pass up an opportunity to be surrounded by paper and words, so I jumped in his Jetta and shouted “Giddyup!” Actually, that last bit didn't happen, and instead we had a nice drive, talking about diesel engines. Fast forward, neither of us found anything we were particularly interested in, and we returned home. Later on in the evening, the two of us started a French thriller by the name of Cache (hidden), and got very near finishing it. Suddenly, Shane, my Dad, and my step mom all were in the room! I had completely forgotten the date of her flight. Not long after, the excitement subsided, and we all settled down to eat a delicious salmon dinner with broccoli and couscous. .

The following day we planned a trip to scout out the Walter Washington Convention center. Once we were all ready, my Aunt drove us into the city. Shane didn't join us; instead he went to Maryland to visit with another cousin who, according to Shane, has quite a green thumb. There was almost no warning before reaching the District: all of a sudden buildings that housed important offices of state surrounded us on all sides. I began to imagine that it was just a little bit unreal, but DC is really not that big, so I guess there can't be much in between each national this or that. We arrived at our destination, and quickly found the convention center busy with something called “Awesome Con.” Again, I was shocked: my expectation must have been that the convention center was waiting patiently for the science and engineering conference; however I see how little sense that makes now.

We continued our tour through DC after realizing we could do no reconnaissance of the building while it was crawling with costumed creatures. My Aunt then took us to two other important stops: the Swiss Embassy, where we have an evening event this week; the apartment of her partner, which we might use for sleeping during our stay in DC. Now well into our city tour, I began to marvel at the sense of direction my Aunt possessed. Maybe I'm easily impressed because I grew up in Tucson, where everything still largely is arranged in a grid system, but still the nerve center of the nation, and all of its surrounding metro area, are somewhat labyrinthine.

The trip concluded just after lunch time, so we followed it with food, and then I became a free agent with an afternoon to spend in Falls Church. Our party size decreased one more time when my Aunt stayed home to work around the house. This meant the group now consisted of me, my Dad, and my step mom. We drove my Aunt's little car out to get dim sum at the Seven Corners Mall. The food was excellent, and soon we all were groaning happily. The two of them collapsed at home for a short nap, and I went out to find a coffee shop. I almost made it to a fun little spot called SpaceBar, but Falls Church takes Easter very seriously, so it was closed. Taking refuge in a nearby Panera, I spent my next few hours, but soon I returned home to have dinner with the gang. I think I'm starting to get some bearings, because I only got lost once riding back on bike!

The next day I found my way back to Seven Corners (again), and my Dad went with Shane to do a school visit. My step mom and I were on a mission to do some suit shopping, and I have to say I think I am going to have unpleasant dreams about silky things crawling up and down my arms. Somehow I found an argument for a particular set of pants, shirt, and jacket, so we bought them and left to get lunch at a little Thai restaurant. To keep us from plowing into a nap afterwards, we went out for a ride miles along a cute little bike path. Although it leads all the way to DC, we went only 20 miles round trip. Without planning, we got home just before the other two had returned with the bus.

Over dinner I got to hear how the show went without me. According to Shane, the audience was a slight struggle, and he wound up exhausting himself by trying to keep up the energy in a vacuum. He might even go further and write a short description to add to this post after the publication, so keep your eyes out if you want more details. According to my Dad, the show went perfectly, so I think they must have performed at different schools. Anyways, the dishes are done, and everybody is getting ready for bed, so too must I.

I hope everyone had a pleasant weekend!

Tasty Bits:

The Rufous-Breasted Wren makes a “KettleKettleKettle” noise.
I wrote the wrong name of a wren. Its the Carolina Wren, not the Rufous-Breasted.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

4.17-4.18 -- HEADING NORTH.

Good morning Myrtle Beach! What a wonderful sleep; I certainly couldn't complain about the smell of breakfast which accompanied my waking. Someone had made scrambled eggs with mushroom, complete with toast, and bacon. When I had taken a shower, and changed clothes, I found everyone still sitting at the table happily digesting. I could tell that this wasn't going to be a day where we rushed anywhere, so I got outside a plate of my own in a leisurely fashion. In fact, we had so much time that we even got to do a load of laundry while staying with Shane's Aunt! What did they ask for in return after all this hospitality? Well, nothing that strange: just that we help take a recliner back to their neighbor. I decided this was perfect blog material, so I pulled out the camera. When I had finished shooting, I smiled as I thought about how maybe our presence had transformed this manicured community into a rather interesting place.

Mischief managed, we then hit the road once more heading North, and put in a days worth of driving again. The day lacked any real punctuation, and once we had loaded some P.G. Wodehouse onto the radio to provide company for my dad, Shane and I both took afternoon naps. Waking up some time later in the evening, He and I noticed that the bus was no longer the only vehicle moving far below the speed limit: we had run into some serious traffic. All of us waited quite a few minutes before receiving any clue as to what had created the delay. Presently, the metal clot steadily dissolved, and by that time
we saw several state troopers pulled over at 20 yard intervals. Forward another standard 20 yards was the crisp remains of a compact no longer distinguishable my make, or model. I dwelt upon this scene even after stopping for the day, and brought one thought to the surface: perhaps speed on the interstate is a pool on which we all draw upon, and when one party exceeds their allotted share, the pool shrinks to create droughts in the form of traffic jams. However, situations like these are as intense as they are brief, and I surrender myself to the mystery on the side of the road.

My sleep held no fiery crashes, and pretty soon I joined the ranks of the living in Richmond where we had stopped the night before. Not for the first time, I woke to discover my Dad and Shane had made tracks, and were no doubt off doing something productive. Soon after finishing two bowls of  cereal, I learned from my Dad that Shane was pants shopping, and would be back soon enough. In the meantime, he said I could go check email at the restaurant inside the TA truck stop if I wanted. While sipping a hot chocolate, I caught up with things electronic, but discovered little. Not too much later, Shane came back, and told us that we needed to check out the mystery machine before leaving Richmond. I gawked at him not understanding the reference for a second or two. Well, he wasn't kidding, and all I can say is it was pretty special to be there with two infamous vehicles in proximity. Without anything else to distract my Dad, we made decent time all the way to my Aunt Rachel's house in Falls Church. The bus pulled into the city around 4:00 pm, which seems to be rather standard, and we spent an hour at the Mary Riley Public Library down the street from Giants grocery. Not only is this a special place for being so close to the a store frequented by fairytale creatures, the Library has an incredible story. Rather, the story is inspiring, but not altogether new: Mary was a remarkable woman who devoted flesh and bone to making sure folks around had access to literature, so the branch was named in her honor. Thanking Mary in my mind, each of us settled in. Before I had even made it past my book's introduction, a librarian on the loudspeaker announced it was closing time. As we packed up to go, I had the thought that a perfect demonstration of the pervasive magic of books is the way time behaves in the buildings which house them.

Anyways, we left the library and steered to our resting place. Currently, the air carries a hearty aroma, and Shane is prodding me with the hope he might dislodge me from my writer's trance to come eat dinner. I think I will end things here, and another day goes!


Tasty Bits:

Before driving out of Myrtle Beach, Shane's Aunt's husband Henry humored Shane's request that we might get a photo of the front of the bus in Henry's car's review mirror. Now, why would we do something that would force me to use so many possessives to describe? Well, I'll give you the background, but I want you to try to figure it out: while we were stranded in Florida I had a clever moment as I watched my Dad adorn the back of the bus with three words; once he finished, I painted “WOHS HTAM ZA ” on the front above the windshield. Do you understand?

Three separate things occurred today that have me convinced I'm being haunted by Harlan Ellison: I was reading one of the comic books Shane carries with him on his hard drive and a particular issue contained an introduction by Harlan; when I got to the library I checked into a catalog computer, only to discover that the last person had been searching for books by, guess who, Harlan; on the way to getting groceries, the directions I was using steered me down Ellison street for .3 of a mile. However, I'm not excessively alarmed.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014



But I'm getting ahead of myself . . . Where did I leave off? Oh yes, we spent the night in Bonifay at the mechanics shop: the owner of BST, Billy Sellers himself, had left the office open for us to spend the night. Although the upstairs office windows would have been perfect for watching the eclipse, a huge storm rolled in. Just as a piece of trivia, this was the very same storm that had convinced the Governor of Alabama to cancel his travel plans that week. Anyway, the weather that night seemed only to suggest further complications with the bus.

The following morning the sun rose on a windy and wet world. I wasn't inclined to wait around the shop all day, so I suggested that we make the Holmes County Library the second base of operation for the duration of our stay in Bonifay. All in favor, we drove into town, and grabbed breakfast. Following our large meal at the Waffle House, Shane and I settled in at the library for the long haul.

However, the haul turned out to be rather brief. After several hours had passed, my Dad called Shane with good news: Warren, the prodigal mechanic, had managed to get the engine running! Shane and I couldn't believe what we were hearing, because Warren had originally stormed off after a particularly long, and dirty, session under the bus. As soon as the bus pulled up outside, we jumped in. and sped off without one backward glance.

Since then, we have been slowly readjusting to life aboard the bus. We spent most of that day driving towards Jacksonville with no real excitement to speak of. Following the bleak day, we then found a Kangaroo Truck Stop to spend the night. As the evening went on, Shane pulled another pasta dinner out of his sleeve. Despite its dubious origin, the pasta went down nicely, and soon we were all asleep.

The three of us had almost got back in the swing of things: only problem was it had been more than week since our last official show. Shane hit the phone early to remedy this situation, and pretty soon we found ourselves booked for a show at the Myrtle Beach Boys and Girls Club. All that lay in between was 300 miles, and this really cool bridge! I will make sure a video of it gets onto the YouTube channel, but some photos are included.

Well past the bridge, we came to South Carolina territory. Apparently, the majority of businesses we passed were focused on beach supplies, miniature golf, and Jaws themed seafood restaurants. The notable exceptions to the above are the existence of two gigantic water parks located half a mile from the Atlantic Ocean.

Instead of stopping to talk sternly to each park manager in turn, we kept driving along the bus only lane (sadly, bus stands for business) all the way to the clubhouse. An enjoyable show ensued, but we were cut short as a result of strange traffic patterns. Perhaps I should just say we were late . . . by almost an hour. However, I must point out Myrtle Beach rush hour comes on early and strong.

With driving and demonstrations all done, Shane directed us to the house of his Aunt. She lives in this gorgeous house ensconced in a Highland themed neighborhood. He is now cooking up Thai chicken curry, and I'm salivating, so perhaps I should just wrap this post up.

Until next time y'all!

Tasty Bits:

So, the bus was looking pretty hopeless for a while, but the night before it started running again three special things happened: firstly, a lunar eclipse occurred; secondly, the bus was left outside in a thunderstorm (think Frankenstein); thirdly, my step-grandmother lit a candle to help us with our trials. Unfortunately, this is a classic example of a weak technical experiment, because we cannot conclude that any one of the three played a critical part.

We had a Princess at the club today; that was really her name.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

And Now for Something Extra!


Our show today was at the Lagniappe Academie which is a small charter school in downtown New Orleans. We had parked at the school early, and went looking for a nearby cafe to use their internet. This quest deposited us at the Starbucks symbiotically nestled inside a French Quarter Sheraton. I was impressed by their gazebo-esque bar and infinity loop positioned bathroom mirrors, but their espresso was just average. Time ran away with itself, and we were soon walking back to the school. We were greeted at the gate by our contact: a teacher named Thomas Mickley-Doyle. I'll only describe him as the science teacher everybody wishes they could have. He was a delight to get to know, and his enthusiasm during our visit was palpable. With the help of the other teachers, he got all the kids seated, and we began. I thought both shows went great; I have the fond memory of one little girl explaining that in order to shoot square smoke rings we just needed to try harder. She is bound for greatness no doubt. All in all, it was a treat to visit the Lagniappe Academie.

The next destination was an early supper date with Ricardo Cortez at Tulane University. Ricardo is a mathematician who is currently working with one of my Dad's colleagues at the university. The two of them are both looking for ways to introduce the concept of mathematical modeling to high school students. As we walked to the student union to grab food, Ricardo took the time to answer our questions about the city. During this time, he told us that the name Lagniappe is actually a term to describe that little bit extra which comes with something else; more or less, the equivalent of our phrase of a baker’s dozen. I still don't know quite how to use the phrase correctly, but it solved the mystery of school’s name. He gave us a tour of the campus, and we gave him a tour of the bus; we got the better deal. Pretty soon after, he waved goodbye as we made our way back to I-10 East. I really enjoyed having a chance to see Tulane, and I'm glad I got to meet Ricardo.

It had been another full day all things considered.

Tasty Bits:

While it took several days to pass through the state of Texas, we managed to pass through three different states in one day before stopping in Alabama.

I almost got a nasty glass bottle cut on my foot while walking along fraternity row. Goes to show, not all the shapes in Crescent city are safe to handle.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Broke down in Alabama and Florida -- Marilyn the Math Bus on the side of the road!


We hit the road for a day of driving after staying over at the TA truck stop in Grand Bay, Alabama. The only items on our schedule included stopping in at the M.E.S.S. (math, engineering, science, stuff) Hall in Pensacola, FL, and then getting to an RV park in Tallahassee before the end of the day. Our connection to the M.E.S.S. Hall came from someone who overheard us talking at the Sheraton Inn in New Orleans. His name was Billy Howell, which sounds like a rock star pseudonym, and he works in robotics. At the M.E.S.S. Hall, we got an eyeful during the tour led by Megan Pratt, an associate of Billy's. She showed us an assortment of things including square flexagons, harmonographs, and fractal art. We gave her our card, a road show shirt, and a few goodbye waves as we got on our way again.

I didn't know then, but things were about to become interesting. Did you know, veggie oil catches fire at a higher temperature than diesel, and much higher than gasoline still? On the last 100 miles to Tallahassee, our engine began spraying its contents everywhere under the hood; in a regular car, this results in a fire, but for us a hot mess was all. Yes, that was all I thought it was at the beginning. Now, I see it as an adaptation of a story I know: Marilyn the math bus drove on I-10, Marilyn the math bus broke two engine tubes, all Billy Sellers Trucks (BST), and all the mechanics couldn't get her back together again. Without the rhymes you might still recognize the original story of one famous egg's plight.

Fast forward two whole days. The engine still robustly busted, Shane wound up taking an active role in unraveling the shows he had painstakingly arranged. More or less, each of us was left to our own devices: me to climbing trees, and taking naps in the shade of the bus; Shane to hours juggling, reading, carpentering; my dad to smooth talking state troopers, and emails. When the cabin fever kicked in, we took turns riding bikes first to Carryville one day, and then to Bonifay the next. Believe it or not, the smaller of the two towns afforded the greater intrigue: the Thirsty Turtle tavern in Carryville had run itself into the ground, resurfaced with the new name “Half Moon Bluff,” and joined the nationwide narcotics node network. I think I won't look at small towns in the same way for a while.  

Tragically, our time on the side of the road came to an end. The legal limit of 6 hours was a milestone long since passed, and Gordon the state trooper played a critical role in helping us leave the nest. Far from spreading our wings and regaining our independence, we needed a Ferguson tow truck to drag the bus over the BST world headquarters in Bonifay. By now, the mechanics had exhausted themselves at our remote location, but quickly recovered their morale thanks to the home team advantage. Excited mechanics are fine and good, but we were still stranded. Fortunately the BST Company loaned us a pickup truck, and we got another shot at our weekend plans. We gladly accepted, and left our spot on the side of the road behind us headed south.

Next stop, Chris DiScenza, and the city of Gainesville, FL. Even without any engine trouble, we still had a long drive from Bonifay to Gainesville. To our satisfaction, the truck worked perfectly, and I could see signs for Gainesville when I woke up several hours later. We pulled up at Chris' cute blue house on 7th Ave around 2:00am, and found him still caffeinated after a presentation he'd done earlier that day. I'll now take a moment to shed some light on his connection to our science outreach outfit: Chris has been with the Physics Factory almost since the beginning, is a veteran of three different road trips, and should be the author of the demo manual “So cool: Liquid nitrogen and you.” He is a busy graduate student in Coastal Engineering, but he had managed to arrange for a slot of our very own in the line up at the Swallowtail Farms spring festival nearby. We did an abbreviated show, and then transitioned to a platform near the stage to further enter-cate (entertain/educate) anyone who stopped by. I would be hard pressed to think of anything that was missing from the events that day.

Following the festival, the three of us went south to make visit extended family. Shane has a cousin named Lindsay who lives an hour from Gainesville, so we got in the truck and drove off in her direction. Lindsay works as a math coach for elementary school teachers, and soon enough she and Shane were talking excitedly with their computers sitting side by side on the countertop. My dad and I took our leave in order to visit my Aunt and cousin down in Tampa. It was such an incredible treat to see them especially considering the five years that had passed since our last rendezvous. After a day spent catching up with relatives, we followed our tracks back up to Gainesville for our last night in town.

A hint of trepidation hung over the events of the day which followed. We had no conclusion to the issues with the bus, and no word from the mechanics. Assuming that no news was good news, we clung to thin strands of hope. An answer came soon enough as my Dad pulled the pickup truck into the yard at BST: the bus didn't look like it had moved an inch. Our fears were confirmed when one of the mechanics named Eric began revving the engine, and great clouds of smoke began to fill up the considerable sized shop. Everyone, Eric included, looked to be thinking more or less the same thing: “the bus is still broken, now what?”

Well, I knew that one thing that we needed to take care of was in my control. I asked if we could go camp out at McDonalds, and use their wifi to update the blog. Given Eric had just left on his lunch break, my suggestion made some sense. I understand altogether too much time since a blog post had come out. That said, there is more that can be said than I have included, and certainly the reverse is true as well, but I have aimed to strike a balance in readability. If you want to know more, ask away; I'm not qualified to help you if you want to know less. Regardless, the period of silence is behind us, so feel free to stop biting your cheek.  

Tasty Bits:

The areas around Gainesville boast some serious sculpting talent, just take a look at the creature we found at the fair (picture below).

Trooper Gordon recommended visiting the Crystal Rivers along our drive. At Weeki Wachee, we found two solid swimmers sporting flippers and some beautiful clear depths true to their water's namesake.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Can it be? Fourth Day on the Road and Still in Texas?


These days I'm having trouble connecting the end of one day with the beginning of another; many things about the world when I fall asleep are missing when I wake up. In the early morning of our 5th day on the road, I woke up shivering from the intermittent blasts of cold air coming in the window located next to my bunk. All I could do was wonder what had happened to the tropical air of Austin that I had been enjoying just after sunset. I rolled over and went back to sleep. Upon waking for the last time I decided it was time to get up, and at first glance I didn't recognize any of my surroundings. Apparently my Dad and Shane had been busier than usual. The first load of trip laundry was in the drier, Shane was cutting 2x4s, and the bus was in the midst of an overhaul. Luckily my wits and my sense of humor were where I left them, so I turned the metaphorical key in the ignition one more time.

My fully awake senses tell me Texas is beautiful. I'm sorry for any of you who can't separate the landscape from the people in your connotation, because you are missing out. Readers let me tell you: there are carpets of wildflowers crowding the highways, reliable charismatic hawks, and meadows of tall grass that dance and reflect the sun off their luscious stalks. I have even seen a few serene young bulls (probably named Ferdinand) lying in the shade, deliberating quietly on the gustatory qualities of the plants within reach. I'm just saying, being on the road through Texas has been a sort of lesson for me.

Another thing I like about Texas is every Boys and Girls Club has its own unique properties. This makes a certain amount of sense right? Each is dependent on so many separate variables, not just the individual children and staff. So, what I'm getting to is that today's show was another first of sorts. At the Jim and Barbara Morefield club, we started around 4:00 pm with an audience of just 30 kids, and past 5:00 pm I found myself willfully breathing deeper to calm my nerves.


What happened? Well, the regular show, but with our most energetic audience yet. There are certain points in the routine where we know the kids are going to get into the demo, but today's excitement even exceeded that of San Angelo two days ago. We were, as my Dad put it, compelled to become Jazz performers; we had to improvise methods by which we could still carry out the show, but in circumstances far different than that we were used to. The ultimate off the cuff trick today came from my Dad: he blew us away by climbing to the top of the step stool with the toroidal vortex generator (inside out trashcan with hole cut through bottom), and firing off a series of rings higher than most of the kids could jump. The same materials, just used in a new combination: tweaking the variables, you might say. I dare to summarize that today helped me see the show as a big experiment.

The rest of the day was made up of Freebird's burritos, fitness, and frozen treats. Shane's friend made another great recommendation for a place to grab some food in Houston, and we let him direct us to Freebird's burritos. After finishing three monster burritos, we headed to a park to make use of Shane's PVC gymnastic rings. Once fully pumped/toned, we each devoured a cup of Amy's Ice Cream (guilt free), and bothered the folks at Freebird for the use of their Wifi.

I'm going to sleep like a baby at the Love's truck stop.

Until tomorrow!

Tasty Bits:

I was busily reading The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm when my attention was grabbed by something disturbing in the upper periphery. My eyes showed me something I wasn't inclined to believe: A semi truck cab facing us, but driving 50 mph in reverse. I came up with the working hypothesis that this cab was being pulled by another semi, and began to calm down.  

After leaving the Morefield Club we ran into (just a figure of speech) a boy riding his horse home from A to B; his daily grind, I suppose.     

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Getting to Austin, Texas -- with detours and challenges to overcome!


I awoke to morning was full of motion and intrigue. My Dad and Shane had already gotten up and were pumping oil. Let me tell you if you don't know already, but your sleeping environment filters into dreams into the strangest ways. Once I was up, I went looking for the bathroom, and stumbled upon a bald eagle perched across the water. It turns we had pulled into a quasi nature preserve the night before, and had spent a peaceful night next to the Spring Creek Lake. We did some more maintenance on the bus, and got on the road around 10:00am. Our high hopes for no filter frustrations were dashed as the bus stalled out before even getting out of the city. It took a series of no less than three separate pulling over sessions for us to get going for more than 15 minutes at a time. By the time we broke the 15 minute threshold, we had some of the smoothest driving this far.

All was not smiles and rainbows like we thought though. Pretty soon Shane checked out our GPS position, and apparently we had committed a navigational foul. It was getting on for 3:00pm and we were being forced to backtrack in order to make it to our show in Austin at the Boys and Girls Club. As we got closer to the city, Shane held up the phone and pointed to a section of our route that was outlined in red. He asked me briefly, “What's the red part mean?” Honestly I couldn't have conceived that it was going to be some of the slowest moving traffic in history. We took the first alternate route possible and got an impromptu introduction to the Austin downtown scene. Although I still don't quite understand, my Dad was vocally gleeful about the whole detour, and several times along the ride he said,”Austin is my kind of town!” Maybe it is going to be smiles and rainbows after all?

Our show was in another gym, and you might know how I feel about that. However, the presentation of material came up against a whole new kind of friction. Because of our various complications, we were suddenly sharing the gym with a basketball game. It was pretty interesting to observe the attention flitting back and forth between our show and their warm ups. I felt like I was getting a very clear idea of what demonstrations appealed to this audience. By the time we were packing up, the game was in full gear. However, our send off recovered a touching note because of an incredible thank you card from the clubhouse director.

With the sun setting, we turned our attentions to the rest of the evening’s entertainment, and I can't really believe what we found. Shane made a phone call to one of his friends and asked what we needed to do with our short spell in Austin. This friend recommended the Barton Springs which are part of the Zilker park downtown. Please take a look at the photos included, because it defies my description at the moment. Needless to say, we couldn't believe our luck.

Having our swim followed up by the small feast from a food truck fleet was the epitome of comfort.

I'm ready to follow this trajectory into my dreams. Till tomorrow!

– –
Tasty Bits:

During the times when the engine was performing best, we accomplished the impossible. Not one, but two cars ate our vegetable oil fumes. We went wild inside!


Driving across Texas (it's almost a neverending journey)!


Science has observed that natural systems must experience a lull following a period of great activity, and after yesterday we prepared ourselves for a rest day. The three of us left our nest at the Pilot gas station and got on the road around 8:00am. I was still fast asleep enjoying my spot on one of the wooden benches made by Shane, but gradually the sensory information flooding in turned the tide towards being awake.

We occupied ourselves during this drive with small projects. I spent time repairing my knowledge on splicing three strand ropes, but my fingers protested the mason twine I practiced on. Shane wrote out descriptions for several acts in the performance, and read on the kindle. My Dad occupied himself with driving to the San Angelo Boys and Girls Club, and we were grateful for his concentration.

We made it to our destination with no hassle. When the director showed us our show spot, I flinched slightly. After yesterday I was somewhat wary of doing shows in gymnasiums, but my fears were not validated. We all set up, and got ourselves ready for the 5:00pm show. For me this consisted of taking advantage of some internet time to update our blog from yesterday. Sorry folks, it's a wild world out there, and I apologize for breaking my record of uninterrupted postings (one in a row is going to be hard to beat). 

Our show went along the expected lines with only minor deviations. These exceptions were due to our expert showmanship no doubt: we had quite the time taking a step without a gleeful kid finding her way into the place where the foot was to fall. I can honestly say I have seen my share of audience participation, but nothing quite like this!  After the hovercraft was shut down, my Dad attempted to deliver the closing lines and was immediately set upon by a field of outstretched hands: Behold the prophet of math! Before I had a chance to act on my first instinct to call in a rescue heli, the director assumed control of the situation. We packed up to a chorus of tiny voices saying “THANK YOU,” and set about our last errands of the day.

The sun is setting, and we have a few more miles to go before we sleep. Next stop, Austin!

Tasty Bits:

We had almost pulled out of the parking lot before we realized there were two boys standing in our stairwell. After answering most of their questions, and one riddle about the Eiffel tower, we realized no one was coming to get them. My Dad ushered them back inside, and we made a cursory search for stowaways. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

April Fool's Day post from Devin Bayly -- no joke!

After an evening at the Gaslight trailer park, we closed the distance to El Paso, and had a whirlwind day of schools with one truck stop thrown into the mix.

We had an impromptu clean up session at 8 in the morning and almost got ourselves stuck with a 10 minute setup time. The first show of the day can sometimes feel rough, but after we rubbed all of the sleep out of our eyes using the leaf blower, we were fine. One notable event did occur however, during the series of demonstrations based on principles of gravity and energy transfer, we shot our little raquet ball so far into the air that it landed in the gully next to the parking lot. I should also mention we were outside for the Bridges school.

After retrieving the lost rubber object, we pulled out and made our way into the center of El Paso for bus parts, and our second show of the day. On our way to Paul Moreno, we picked up an entire box full of filters for the vegetable oil system. Very exciting!! Now we won't have a repeat of our trials on the road to Las Cruces. Once we arrived at the school, we ate a hurried cafeteria lunch while talking with the vice principal. She told us we should be ready to perform for approximately 100 students, and my jaw dropped. It was a big crowd to face down on the second day, but they seemed to keep better attention than smaller audiences I have seen in the past. Really, I was just happy watching Shane conduct an orchestra of boom-wackers while standing in a sea of kids (boom-wacker is a hollow plastic tube of variable length).

We then took the cramped downtown residential streets to the El Paso Boys and Girls club to round out the schedule for the day. On a side note, this particular clubhouse had been in operation for roughly twice the amount of time I have been alive: there is serious history in those walls. Unfortunately, all that history is bad for acoustics. The gym in which we performed echoed so much that your previous sentence destructively interfered with the one being made. I left with the impression that for some people in the crowd, our show was like a television in a room with its volume down.

The next stop is San Angelo, and another packed day goes by.

Tasty Bits:

The stretch between El Paso and San Angelo features a tremendous fatality rate increase due to a recent oil boom in the latter city, so we found another route.

About 7 minutes after giving away our broken microwave, we watched as a boy from our last show went past the bus dragging the machine by its cord tied to the back of his bike. His name? Noey.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Here's the (freshly painted) Math Bus in El Paso at Bridges School this morning.