There has been a lot going. One of those things has been coding. I have been trying in my spare time to update my science website with new calculators for the students to use in their studies. These calculators are meant to provide a resource that allows them to check answers or even answer randomly-generated questions.

I had created a heat equation calculator last year for my honors class. Unfortunately, I hadn’t finished it before the unit was complete, but this year the students were able to make use of it. I wrote it in C# when I was first getting into a contemporary computer language. Kevin helped me to translate it over using to run on my website through JavaScript. Part of me wants to rewrite it in pure JS to apply my coding skills and see where I’ve grown. But I have other pressing things to do.

I created a density calculator too. It’s not the ideal for what I wanted, but it is a start. Put in any two variables into the equation d = m/V and the calculator will find the missing variable. It will also show if the object will float or sink in various materials, and it also shows a prediciton of where the object would float in water. 

These are all part of my normal curriculum, but now I have a page set up where the students can practice. I still need some time to work on the image scale and the layout, but at least the info is there. I’m trying to balance fitting everything on a computer scfreen, but I’m also aware that some students may use their smart phones. I know it is possible to have a stylesheet set up to accommodate media type, but I haven’t delved down that path yet.

I was also able to figure out a factor label calculator, which I hadn’t been able to do in C#. I didn’t create it the way I wanted to… The applet doesn’t “think” through the answer like I was hoping. Instead, I hard-coded a set of possible paths and let it work itself out from there. It works, but it isn’t as easily expandable as I wanted it.

For later this year, I wanted to have that “thinking” model in place for when I get my honors classes up to multi-step calculations. I wanted the applet to be able to generate workable questions and show solutions. I need to master the concepts of breadth-first searches and depth-first searches to see if I can get to the answer. But I need more work with data structures to get there.

The next calculator I need to create is for the Ideal Gas Law. There are three types of questions that can be asked and I want to be able to provide that calculator as another resource for the students.

Lastly, I also created a quiz program, which I dubbed, “The Quizzler”. It currently only has questions for density and phases of matter, but I’m hoping to add to the question libarary through the year and deepen its use. The phases questions are all pre-written, but the density ones include randomized calculations for endless questions. I can use the structure of it later for when we’re into physics and we have a lot of similiar-format equations, like F = m a, W = m g, p = m v, and so on.

So, go on and practice some science!

For most of the links, the calculator is located at the bottom of the page, after the notes.


JavaScript in Short

img_6773September is going to be an interesting challenge. I am developing a new course and have been prepping for it all summer by familiarizing myself with as much code as I can. I feel confident that I can handle JavaScript, HTML, and CSS in the coming school year. Presenting it and teaching my students to debug it all will be the next challenge. In the meantime, here is a very brief overview.


JavaScript is case-sensitive, like most passwords. A capital “J” is different than a lowercase “j”. Keywords, which instruct the computer what to do, are all lowercase. Developer-created variables and functions have to have a single-word name with no spaces. So we use camelCase to show different words in a chain. It’s like a hashtag with each word starting with a capital. It makes it much easier to read: carStartingPosition, ShowTextOnScreen, testScore2. A few other special characters can be used, but they’re frowned upon. Stick with standard letters, numbers if needed (but not the first character), and underscores. There’s more to the rules of convention here, like variables and properites should begin with a lowercase letter, while constructor functions begin with an uppercase letter, and constants are all caps with words separated by underscores. The main concepts are not to use spaces and to make it easy to read.

Each statement should end with a semicolon. If you don’t put them in, the browser will do its best to parse your code to make sense of it and figure our where each statement ends. It is a better practice to just tell the computer where you want each statement to end. Consider this:

thebrowserwillreadthroughyourcodeontheflywhileitisrunningyourwebsitesometimesitwillstumbletryingtodecipher ambiguousstatementsyesitwilldoareallygoodjobmostofthetimebutwhychanceitjustputpunctuationintheretohelp

Consider that statement. Could you read it? Was it easy or did it take a minute to parse the words and figure out what it was saying?

JavaScript can understand ‘single quotes’ or “double quotes”. Either is fine, but be consistent. I stick with double quotes except in special circumstances.


Insert comments in your code to explain what your code is meant to do. You can also comment out lines of code to skip over them while you debug your work. There are two ways to add a comment. Use a double slash // to comment out a single line of code. Wrap a comment block with /*     */ to hide several lines of code.


These are used to store values in a program. They allow for values to change and to be tested against repetitive conditions. If you’re going to make a cold cut sandwich, the variables would be things like the type of bread, the type of cold cuts, the number of slices, etc. The sandwich itself is made through a repetitive process; bread slice, spread, cold cuts, bread slice. You can swap out the actual parts, but the underlying process is the same. That’s one of the powers of variables.

There are three types of variables (for simplicity I’m separating out other types into their own categories): numbers, strings, and booleans. A number is what you’d expect: 3.14, 42, -12. A string is any collection of characters, like words, set inside quotes: “hello!”, “This is a test.”, “32”. (Yes, you can treat a number like a string, which can cause different behaviors.) A boolean is a flag that is either set to true or false.

Variables are declared using the var keyword. You can just declare a variable, or you can assign its value when you declare it. var x; var y = 33; var myName = “Steve”;


In many programs, you want the user to input some information and then react to it. You also want to provide feedback to the user when a task is done, or with updates along the way. In JavaScript alone, you’re limited to the console window or alert/prompt boxes. More commonly, the input/output is passed to a webpage by updating HTML. To write to the console, use the log method of the console: console.log(“Hello there”); It is possible to pass variables in there too: console.log(myName);

You can also pop up a dialogue box with information using the alert() function: alert(“Hello again!”); This also accepts variables: alert(myName);

To get text input from a user, use the prompt command. Typically, you assign this to a variable so you can run tests on the answer: var yourAnswer = prompt(“What is your favorite color?”); You can also supply a default answer: var yourOtherAnswer = prompt(“What is your name?”, “Steve”);

There are different methods for HTML and they all look scary at first. Top priority is to have a unique id for each element you want to access, then you call the element through the HTML document. You can do this to retrieve info or to update it. 

To get information from a user from a tag that has “answer” for its id: var yourAnswer = document.getElementById(“answer”).value;

To post information to a tag with an id of “response”: document.getElementById(“response”).innerHTML = “That’s a good answer.”;


There are several operators. Math operators are great for numbers (+, -, *, /, %). Modulo (%) returns the remainder after division, so 20 % 3 is equal to 2, because 3 goes in 6 times to get 18 and 2 is leftover. 

Operations on variables don’t look like regular algebra. If you have a variable (x) and you want to increase its value by five (5), you use: x = x + 5; In algebra, this wouldn’t make sense. If you tried to solve for x, you’d get 0 = 5 which is crazy. Instead, the computer evaluates the express on the right side of the equals sign (x + 5 in this case) and when it has the answer, it then replaces the value on the left side (x in this case) with the answer. 

++ increases the value of a number by 1 and — decreases the value by 1. Example: numberOfCookies++;

Strings are concatenated (joined together) with use of the + sign. “Hi” + “there” would give “Hithere”.

The dot operator is used to access properties of objects. To find the size of an array, for instance, use myArray.length; 


A function is a set of code used to complete a single or small task. It can be called as needed over and over. It is possible to pass parameters into a function and it is possible to return values from the function. Declare a function with the keyword function.

function CalculateArea(w, h)


  return w * h;


Call the function: CalculateArea(4, 7); //This would return a value of 28. The value can also be stored in a variable: var area = CalculateArea(10, 22); 

Functions do not need to return any variables. They can just carry out actions.

function SayHello(name)


  console.log(“Hello, ” + name + “!”);


They also don’t need any parameters, so they’re very flexible based on your needs.

function sayGoodbye()




 Conditional: if/else

Computers need ways of making decisons. An ‘if’ statement tests for a condition. If it is true, then a certain code block will run. You can also set up an else statement that activates if the condition is false. Conditons can be comparisons, such if a number is greater than another number, or it can test if a boolean is true.

if (x > 5)


  console.log(“It’s greater than 5.”);




  console.log(“It is not greater than 5.”);


The else statement is not required but it is a good way for controlling code. It is also possible to nest several if statements together to make a logic chain. When one part of the chain is activated, the program steps out of the conditionals and runs the rest of the code after the logic chain.

if (y < 0)


  console.log(“y is negative”);


else if (y > 0)


  console.log(“y is positive”);




  console.log(“y is equal to zero”);


It is also possible to test for two (or more) conditions at once. Let’s say you want to decide if you should wear a jacket. You’ll need one if it is cold or if it is raining. Use the OR operator || if only one condition needs to be true. If all conditions need to be true then use the AND operator &&.

if (temp < 50 || itIsRaining)





if (temp > 70 && itIsSunny)




Conditional: switch

When you have a lot of conditions to test against a single variable, you could use a whole set of if/else statements, but a switch statement is a cleaner way to go. A switch can be used for strings or numbers. Set up all the cases to test and it is prudent to also include a default at the end. Each case needs a break statement. If two cases give the same result, it is possible to have one case drop through to the next.
switch (day)
  case “Monday”:
    console.log(“Wake up early!”);
  case “Saturday”: //this case will fall through to “Sunday”
  case “Sunday”:
    console.log(“You can sleep in!”);
    console.log(“Check your calendar.”);


When comparing two values, it is possible to test if two values are equal. To do so, use a double equal == to see if the values are the same. There are some things going on behind the scene so you may get some unexpected results. For example, if you compare a number and a string, JavaScript automatically tries to turn the string into a number for you. Likewise, when comparing a boolean, it converts true to 1 and false to 0. While this may make some comparisons seem easier, unless you’re aware of what the rules are, you’ll get some unexpected results. You’re better off with cleaner code anyway.

JavaScript also allows you to test if two values are the same number and the same type. For this, use a triple equals sign ===. Because variables in JavaScript are dynamic, it is always a good idea to use the triple equals for all comparisons. It is otherwise possible for two different variables to test as equal.

“2” == 2 //true because the values are the same

“2” === 2 //false because the first value is a string and the second is a number

You can also test for “less than or equal to” using <= or “greater than or equal to” >=

You may also need to test if something is not true. For this, use ! at the front of the comparison operator, such as !== for “not strictly equal to”. Examples: x !== 7; !snowingOutside;


A loop is useful when you need to repeat a block of code a certain number of times. It wouldn’t be good to write the same code over and over. It is better to use a loop. Let’s say you needed to fix a part of the code, you would have to change all the different lines you wrote in. But if you wrote it as a loop, then you only have to change the code once, inside the loop.

There are two types of loops, a for loop and a while loop. Use a for loop when you know how many times you need to run the code. Use a while loop when you don’t know how many times to run the loop.

while (itIsRaining)



  isItRaining = CheckForRain(); //this checks to see if it is still raining


There is a variation of the while loop called a do while loop. The difference is that the code in the block always runs at least once, whereas in a while loop, it is possible for the loop to be skipped entirely if the condition started as true.





while (handsAreDirty);

A for loop is set up differently. It has three main parts: an initializer that sets a starting counter (var i = 0), a condition thats keeps the loop running as long as that is true (i < 10),  and the incrementer for the loop (i++). You can use any variable name, but “i” is often used as an abbreviation for “iteration”  The incrementer can go up or down and it can do than count by 1. To count by three, use i = i + 3 instead of i++.

for (var i = 0; i < 10; i++)




A loop can also be controlled from within using the keywords break; and continue;  A break; command will exit the loop and move on outside the loop. A continue; command is used to jump to the top of the loop and keep going without finishing the code in the loop.


An array is a variable that holds a list of information. Think of a shopping list or a set of test scores. Arrays are set up with square brackets []. Individual items are separated by commas. Elements in an array can be added or removed and so programs can be flexible. Also, it is possible to access individual iitems in an array using the index of items on the list. Index numbers start at zero.

var scores = [75, 88, 95, 82];

var foodList = [“lettuce”, “loaf of bread”, “cheese”];

Access items in the array using the index. Remember, indexes start at zero. scores[0] would be 75 and foodList[2] would be “cheese”. You can set items using the index number too. foodList[3] = “milk”;

You can also use array methods to alter the list. Use the name of the array, a dot, and the name of the method you want to use.

scores.push(83); //adds 83 to the end of the array list

scores.pop(); //removes the last item from the list, which can be saved to a variable: var last = scores.pop();

scores.shift(); //removes the first element and shifts the other elements an be saved to a variable

scores.unshift(91); //inserts a new value at the start of the list

scores.sort(); //alphabetizes or sorts the items on the list

scores.splice(2, 1, 77, 78) //at index 2, remove 1 item, then insert 77 and 78

scores.concat(moreScores) //add the contents of one array to another; this produces a new array


An object is like a super-variable. It holds several pieces of information related to a single object. It can hold variables, arrays, and functions, etc. Each variable is considered a property and is accessed using a dot operator. Properties should be set up when the object is created, but JavaScript lets you create properties on the fly. As convenient as that can be, it can lead to debugging problems and inconsistency in the code.

To understand an object, think of a car. A car has a make and model, a year, a color, cruise control, etc.

var myCar = {

    make: “Subaru”,

    year: 2015,

    cruiseControl: true,

    drive: function() { alert(“Zoom!”); },

    registrationDue: this.year + 1;


You access the information using the dot modifiers: myCar.year; Properties can also be reassigned in this way: myCar.cruiseControl = false; You shouldn’t, but you can make new properties by assigning them: myCar.color = “blue”;

If your object has functions inside, they’re called “methods” to distinguish them as belonging to an object. They’re just regular functions, but you call them with the dot operator.; There’s a lot more complexity possible too. There is the “this” keyword that lets the object reference itself so it is possible to perform operations or methods within the object on the object itself. It is advanced stuff and takes some getting used to.


It is possible to set up variables that only exist in small, temporary locations. This is called scope and it is very useful. Whenever possible, sll variables should be the local scope. The global scope should be avoided whenever possible, but sometimes it can’t be helped. As the name implies, a variable in a global scope can be used anywhere in your program by any function or operation. This may work for some things, but let’s say you have a counter variable, it could accidentslly be changed by another counter variable that has the same name elsewhere. The only way to change scope in JavaScript is to use functions. A variable that is declared inside a function is only visible within that function. Note: there is an exception to this rule through the use of closures, but that’s more advanced stuff. 

var numberOfSandwiches = 5; //this is a global variable

function makeASandwich()


  var slicesOfBread = numberOfSandwiches * 2;

  console.log(numberOfSandwiches); // shows: 5

  console.log(slicesOfBread); // shows: 10


  console.log(numberOfSandwiches); // shows: 5

  console.log(slicesOfBread); // shows: undefined <– slicesOfBread was defined inside the function so it doesn’t exist outside of it


There are many other nuances to cover but this guide is meant only to be reference or a refresher. You can’t really learn to code until you try to make your own programs. Typing in someone else’s is s good place to start, ut you have to try creating your own inorder to understand what is happening. Even with what I know and understand, there are times where I will overlook a nuance and something won’t behave as expected. The best practice you can get comes from debugging your code and figuring out why the unexpected happened and figuring out what you have to do to fix it. Ask for help, sure, but you’ll learn better if you try to fix it yourself. Good luck.


…as in “renovation”, not the city in Nevada. Last year we had a lot of damage due to a leaky roof. The damage spanned across the house in the upstairs rooms and it was awful. It’s never supposed to rain inside the house through the ceiling or fire alarm. We had the roof replaced but we never got around to fixing the damage because we were planning our wedding.

Then one fateful day in May, I was holed up with a summer flu — and I never get the flu. It hit me like a ton of bricks. And at that time, the curtain rod fell and clocked Kevin and he decided it was time to fix the upstairs at last. I couldn’t help. I wasn’t even going to work, I was so ill.

Kevin’s friend, Rodger, came over and the two of them started the process. There was a lot of scraping walls and ceilings, patching with spackle and drywall tape. A spray sealer was a great idea too. When the damage was mostly fixed, it was time to prime the room. It took two coats of primer to cover over the blue I had put in a few years ago. This in itself took two weeks, there was so much to do.

The room needed new colors. (And I may be getting the order wrong here.) Kevin wanted a warm beige with a dark blue accent wall. It’s a similar concept to our living room and I was all for the change. We painted — well, mostly Kevin painted because I was still weak. I got two walls done, but I wasn’t able to help with the rest of the room or the ceiling. Or the second coat.

The moldings needed to go also because we were going to put in laminate floors and apparently they need the molding gone to do so. Well, ok. And to help with everything, Kevin and Rodger had moved most of the furniture out of the room. When I could, I tried to pitch in moving the rest.

Then Kevin started ripping up the rug. It had to go. It’s been here for about fifteen years — though I like saying twenty for some reason. Our cats sometimes cough up a furball, so Kevin had gotten a spot cleaner to help. And using it in the same spot several times still picked up a lot of muck. Clearly there was a ton of dirt under the carpet. Time to go indeed.

I was starting to feel better, so I helped by ripping up the carpet padding. And then… the dreaded staples. They were certainly up to code, less than two inches apart all the way along every edge of every strip of padding. I sat on the fooor with a screwdriver in one hand and needle-nose pliers in the other. Not hard work, just tedious. And for whatever reason, there were so many padding fragments that the number of staples was unbearable.

We’ve been told we could hammer them down but every staple had a nub of old carpet pad under it. We wanted those gone, so dig, lift, twist, pull. Repeat. Ten thousand times. (That might be an exaggerated number.)

The dust and dirt! Hooey. Thank goodness for the shop vac!

Then it was off to do the closet in that room. The bedroom is large but the closet isn’t, so that made it a one-day, one-person project. I was able to get the carpet up, the padding, the staples, the carpet tacks, clear all the clothes out and the cabinet, and then paint it all. It took about eight hours on my own but I got it done.

Kevin’s dad came over at some point and showed Kevin how to replace the electrical outlets. That was cool because all the outlets were that almond beige color which never matched the moldings or any part of the room. The two worked a while and then Kevin finished up replacing every socket and light switch.


Curtains.jpgThe floor itself was one thing we were not comfortable doing ourselves. We had someone come to put that in for us. It was just one guy and he did an awesome job, though it took a couple hours longer than he had anticipated, mostly because the room is an odd shape and there were many, many cuts he needed to make.

Then it was off to curtain quest. We wanted to balance the new colors and I think we picked a great match set. Kevin also got new high hats for the ceiling that would complement the new floor.

Not done yet… new moldings were needed. Rodger was a godsend for this task too. He and Kevin took care of it all.

From there, it was time to bring back the furniture. Kevin was sorting things out before returning them to the room, taking the opportunity to pare down some things.

So that’s it… nope. We wanted to do all the rest of the upstairs too. We let the bedroom sit in its finished glory for a few days, maybe a week, and then we started clearing out the rest.

Kevin has a few antique pieces of furniture, one of which is cumbersome and hard to move. I used three sets of those moving men sliders to get it from the spare room, across the hall, and into the bedroom, where I switched from the plastic movers to the felt ones. I really didn’t want to risk scratching the floor. I also moved another heavy piece of furniture into the room, but that wasn’t nearly as bad.

Then it was time to rip up the carpet, padding, staples, strips, and moldings. What an ordeal. We also wanted to go with a new color there too. I was picturing a deep red. We went through several possibilities and got stuck between two. At some point, my gut said one thing and everyone else either said the other or didn’t know. So I went with No More Drama. Um, yeah… it was pretty dramatic. It was a vibrant lipstick color. Pretty… but not at all what I was going for.

Well, at least we were certain now. Dark Crimson was next. And we also needed multiple coats of it. I really didn’t have a good time with the Behr paints this time around. Even the paint and primer cans needed two to three coats. Anyway, I still want to bring the color down into the stairwell, but that’s going to wait for now.

The new red looks awesome. It is a lot darker than the faded peach that was up there, so we may need to consider other lighting options, but still… I love it.

Kevin tackled the ceiling in there in between the red coats I was applying. And the length if this ordeal was wearing on me. I was making messes all over the place and needed to patch lots of paint splats up.

Two more rooms to go… one of them had a lot of water damage from the original impetus for this project. It took me two days and a lot of trips to the basement to clear the rooms. A few things went to the bedroom but everything else was relegated to the basement, which is a disaster zone of its own now.

Kevin continued his work with all the spackling and sanding and spackling again. The dust! White sand everywhere. But there was a lot to fix in the ceiling and the wall, so it was needed.

Next up — you guessed it — carpets. This time I had a dresser and a treadmill to work around in the one room. My trainer, David, helped me to move the sofa, chair, and bookcase out of Kevin’s office, so that was a great help. Kevin tackled half the carpet in that room and I took care of the rest while he was at work.

Jared came over and though we were supposed to be hanging out and playing games, he wanted to pitch in, so he helped with the moldings in both rooms and a handful of other stuff. Meanwhile, I was pulling up carpet staples and then tearing the other carpet out of the final closet. 

With the carpet all gone from the entire upstairs, we found the cable and phone wires coming up into Kevin’s office. They weren’t off in a corner, tucked away. No they were a few inches from one wall and a foot away from the other. That would really interfere with the flooring and it would look terrible having a hole in the floor for that in that location. We debated it but then decided we didn’t need either wire upstairs. We don’t even have cable TV in our house, nor a phoneline. So, sorry future owners of this house in twenty years… you will have to live off wi-fi. Merlin was a big help with untangling the wires.

This past week was all about paint for me. Of the seven days, I painted for six of them. Monday was Kevin’s office, and the mustard yellow we picked was perfect! I wanted to get that done first because we still had to get the flooring upstairs and I figured it was the best place to put it. But I was so frustrated with that paint! It just refused to cover. I started getting really sloppy with it, which meant fixing things later. (Grumble, grumble) 

We had almost 900 pounds of flooring that needed to be moved from the garage, up two flights of stairs and into the office. We asked for help with this. James was willing to carry the cumbersome boxes up and he came on Tuesday and shifted it all for us. Huge help!

My painting day on Tuesday was the spare room. We went with a deep green for it. Funny enough, it is called Garden Cucumber, and I’m allergic to cucumbers. In fact, three of the four colors on the swatch were poisonous to me. But it was a great color, so I’ll just have to avoid eating it.

Wednesday, I went through both rooms and gave them each another coat. I had to start with a second gallon of Saffron Strands because I had used a whole gallon on Monday. I should have gotten more Garden Cucumber but I hedged my bets and lost. Halfway through the extra coat in the green room, I ran out of paint.

Thursday, we didn’t do much of anything. Then Friday, it was time to do the rest of the green room’s additional coat. Saturday was ceiling day. Kevin handled the bulk of the ceilings with the roller while I worked the edges. And in doing so, I saw a lot of yellow and green places that needed patching, which was today’s task, along with the window trims. I’m officially tired of painting.

Merlin, our dear Project Kitty, was around for all of this, while Monty kept his distance. Merlin likes to know what’s going on, so he lingers. Well, today he jumped up onto the dresser, where I had out the tray of white paint. I just didn’t interrupt him in time. He scampered out, ran down the stairs with a white trail behind him, and sauntered into the living room, trekking across the area rug. When I went down to nab him, he shot off awkwardly — sticky with paint — onto the rug in the dining room. Fishing him out from there, he ran back into the living room and up the stairs, into the finished bedroom! White footprints on the new floor and the area rug. And he hunkered under the bed and needed to be chased out. His chest had taken paint, so squeezing under the bed made some white paint drag marks. Kevin teased him to the other side of the bed and I dragged him out — sorry kitty. Then it was a deep bath for him, while Kevin started the paint-paw cleanup process. This whole ordeal took almost an hour. He’s all back to normal now.

Returning to our tasks, Kevin switched out the other outlets in the rooms and he installed Nest smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and a thermostat. The number of outlets upstairs is wild — yet not a one in the hallway somehow — and there’s an alarm in every room. Oh, and I almost forget, he did the light switches too.

We then emptied everything out of the three rooms because tomorrow is floor installation day! I carried the boxes and ladders down, and Kevin vacuumed everything once we replaced the filter on the shop vac.

After the floor goes it, we have to reset the rooms, which should be easy enough. Then we’re calling Rodger back to help us with (read: do for us) the moldings in the hallway and two rooms. Then we sort through the stuff in the basement and then we finally call this project done. 

But what a project it has been!