Clematis in Bloom


clematis in bloom

This has been a very rainy May, which is great for young plants. Everything in the garden is growing quickly – literally overnight plants double in size. Green is still the dominant color but there are buds and every day a new flower joins the show. Clematis opened up yesterday with one flower – now there are three.

What do shoes and lettuce have in common?

They both fit nicely in this container:

Growing Lettuce Vertically

Growing Lettuce Vertically

I used potting soil. Since the lettuce is separated into various sections it will be easy to replant as it is used. Right now the weather is cool. It will be interesting to see how this method holds up as it gets hotter.

Out in the front of my house I’m developing a rain garden. A rain garden is a collection of plants with roots that are deeper than lawn grass. When it rains heavily these plants keep the soil firmly in place. It is an opportunity to learn about some native grasses. I’ve added a few different kinds of plants to vary texture and color.

Rain Garden

Rain Garden

As the season progresses some of these plants will bloom. This will be a fun garden to watch. And what is a gardening blog without the occasional superstar – the rose! This beautiful specimen is the latest addition to my garden:

Peach Rose

Peach Rose

Who wouldn’t fall in love with this flower.

Finally, here is a bird’s eye view of the backyard garden plan:

Overview of Backyard Garden

Overview of Backyard Garden

There are many wonderful plants that are out of sight but in this image you can see the overall effect that I’m trying to achieve. My goal is to maximize food production but keep everything beautiful. The crops that are growing include: parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, hyssop, tarragon, dill, chocolate mint, chamomile, sunflowers, eggplant, carrots, cucumbers, cantaloupe, asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, lemon grass, cilantro/coriander, tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, chives, celery, peas, beans, cabbage, beets, lettuce, chicory, potatoes, raspberries and fennel. The biggest challenge so far is to keep the aggressive plants contained and help the less aggressive plants thrive. I haven’t used any fertilizer yet – only worm compost and coffee grounds. To be accurate I have started many of the seedlings in miracle grow potting mix.

It’s been a long time since I posted anything…

I’m working hard on my garden this Spring. The pond is gone. Why? Many reasons but they can be summed up in a word – my dog likes to eat Koi fish. Without fish the pond is really too much work. But no worries. Soon the space will be home to lots and lots of grapes. Last summer I painted the garage with a mural. It really changed the entire atmosphere of the yard. The colors were dark – and the green plants show up nicely.

back yard patio

The begining of an illusion...

Notice the mural isn’t quite finished. I’m still trying to decide if I want a window into the garage. I’ll finish it this summer. So in the foreground you are looking at parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. They really do fit well together in one container. Only the sage survived the winter and this container was in the greenhouse. The very cold winters are making it hard to save more herbs. The raised beds to the right will soon have cucumber vines, egg plant, beets, and carrots.

spring flowers

another view

The Spring flowers really are spectacular. We’ve had lots of rain lately. The container on the right will grow one very large cabbage plant. Growing food crops in raised beds and containers really discourages the rabbits. The delicate fern in the center just past the logs is asparagus. Every year a few more stalks come up. I suspect it will be ready for harvest next year.

A little bit of snow…

Lots of snow, lots of shovelling

The snowstorm we experienced ranks as the fifth greatest in Chicago since 1900 in terms of the inches of snow that fell. I think Ms. Mendez captured this well in her picture from her parents’ house:


Albedo Demonstrated by Stop Sign

A demonstration of differential absorption and conduction of heat

Brandon Melby sent me this photograph which is a very cool demonstration of albedo. What color are the letters in the word STOP? What color is the sign? Which reflects light better? Therefore which surface would be cooler? And which surface would absorb more heat and conduct it to the back of the sign? Think about it!! And thank you Brandon!

Infrared Image of a Methanol Fire

This is an image of methanol burning. Notice the various temperatures of the flame.

Physical Science 111: Cloud Journals

These cloud journals were created by the students of Physical Science 111: Spring 2014

Curt Adkins

Oscar Aguayo

Albert Bacchus

Jennette Bennett

Pavel Coria

Genesis Correa

Jasmine Flores

Brandon Gonzalez

Kevin Hill

Veronica Martinez

Lina Maxe

Miguel Moreno

Chidi Okocha

Ana Rivas

Trent Thomas

Khara Williams

Chemistry 121: Exam on Tuesday

On Tuesday you will have your first exam. Here is a checklist of problems and concepts you will need to know:

Be able to:

  • count significant figures in a number
  • perform addition/subtraction and multiplication/division and present the answer with the correct significant figures
  • explain the difference between precision and accuracy
  • convert numbers from decimal form to scientific notation and vice versa
  • carry out metric conversions with the units of milli, kilo, and centi
  • carry out metric to English conversions given the correct conversion factors
  • solve density problems
  • explain the difference between kinetic and potential energy and give examples
  • give the symbols and names of the most common elements (highlighted in yellow on your periodic table)
  • classify matter as gas, liquid, solid, and colloid and give examples
  • name the types of phase transitions: melting, condensing, evaporating, etc.
  • calculate heat, mass, change in temperature or specific heat using the heat equation
  • calculate an unknown specific heat using the heat transfer equation
  • explain the terms of the scientific method: hypothesis, law, theory, qualitative and quantitative data, observation

What will be given to you:

I will print the heat transfer equations on the exam. I will also give you any English – Metric conversion factors. I will remind you that the density of water is 1.00 gram per milliliter and that the specific heat of water is 1.00 calorie or 4.184 joules per gram-degree. I will also give you a copy of the periodic table with the symbols but no names printed on it.


Email me if you have any questions…

Chemistry 121: Coming up next…

Thursday will be a special day. We will have our elements party. Come with 35 copies of a business card about the element you chose. Here is a video of the elements party of a previous class. Look at the samples to get some ideas…

Also we will have a quiz on density. Be sure you can find the mass, volume and density given two of these three quantities. Also be sure you understand that mass can be measured by difference (subtract out the mass of the container) and that volume can be determined by the displacement of water (final water level – initial water level). Know that gas densities are expressed in grams per liter, liquids in grams per mL and solids in grams per cubic centimeter. Also know that 1 cubic centimeter (1cc or 1 cm3) = 1 mL.

See you on Thursday!!

Chemistry 201: Quiz One Topic List

1. Classification of matter including types of colloids

2. Classification of types of energy – potential vs. kinetic. Also be able to give examples of both types.

3. Temperature conversion Kelvin to Celsius and vice versa.

4. Density conversions (d=m/v)

5. Who’s who: Dalton, J.J. Thomson, Rutherford – main contribution

6. Subatomic particles: relative size, location, charge

7. Terms of the periodic table e.g. alkali metals

8. grams to moles and vice versa conversions

9. Names of elements – common elements

10. Polyatomic ions

Chemistry 121: Quiz on Thursday!!

Study definitions of scientific method, states of matter, classification of matter (see powerpoints). Know how to count significant figures, convert to scientific notation, round, present answers with correct significant figures after adding/subtracting and multiplying/dividing numbers.

Chemistry 121: Reminders for Tuesday Sept. 3rd

Please remember to bring your laboratory notebook!! Also you need to have the laboratories for September 3rd already printed. Keep checking the syllabus to know what each class day will require. We will have our first quiz on Thursday and it will cover material in Chapter One and Chapter Two. You should be reading the textbook. Also remember to dress appropriately for laboratory – no sandals, no shorts, minimize bare skin. This is for YOUR safety. Enjoy the holiday. See you soon!

Chemistry 121: Small Group Study Session

There will be a small group study session for Chemistry 121 held regularly on Wednesday in my office – Room 3824 - from 12 to 2. Mark Carter will conduct the session.

Chemistry 121: First Day Homework


1. Bring a laboratory notebook and a calculator to every class. The notebook should be left blank until we discuss how to set it up. For more information visit:

2. Fill out the student interview and email it to

3. Sign up for website log in section

4. Read “Introduction to the Scientific Method” by Frank Wolfs and answer the questions.

5. Begin to learn the names and structures of the polyatomic ions. Don’t wait until this comes up in class – start now to have enough time!!

Chemistry 201: First Day “To Do” List

1. Sign Up for the course website
2. Fill out student interview and email to
3. Memorize all of the polyatomic ions (as soon as possible – begin NOW)
4. Print first lab (remember No Sandals and No Shorts in lab)
5. Buy a lab notebook (less than $5) but do NOT write in it.

Chemistry 203: Link to Article on Cold Vapor Mercury Analysis

Chemistry 203: Confirmed at Harold Washington on Monday July 15th

We are confirmed for class at Harold Washington on Monday July 15th. Please arrive by 9:00 AM. Professor Tom Higgins is our host.

We will meet in room 913. You will need to take the elevator to the 9th floor. Send me a text message or call if you get lost:-)

Gardening: Composting


Gardening: Rain, rain and the garden goes wild!

There has been a lot of rain and the plants are loving it. In just one short month the raspberries have exploded:


A few weeks resulted in tremendous growth for the raspberries.

And here is the latest photo from today:

june raspberries

June Raspberries

The pond continues to present challenges. The bleeding heart plant was moved to better show off the dwarf maple tree. The gooseberry bush was moved to stop it from taking over all the space. A new ground cover is being attempted to fill in the area that tends to erode.

Pond Changes

Pond Changes


Sometimes you just have to try different approaches until you have the right plants in the right places. Right now there are no fish in this pond. They are easily eaten by wandering creatures during the night. Once these plants have stabilized the next step will be to try lilies again.

My son Paolo has set up hydroponics in the greenhouse. All the fish are safe inside closed doors.

Strawberries Grown Hydroponically

Strawberries Grown Hydroponically

And to finish this posting I would like to share some photos from today of blooming flowers of various types:

Roses and Wild Flowers

Roses and Wild Flowers

Asiatic Lilies and Delphinium

Asiatic Lilies and Delphinium

Chemistry: Scientists Capture First Images of Molecules…

This article is highly recommended for reading!


Switch to our mobile site