Christmas and New Year 2009

Stedry den 2009We have decided to spend Christmas Eve this year at the Hampls, since this was the last Christmas before the birth of our child and I wanted to know, how Christmas looks like there. The result was a completely perfect evening; and it would not really be us, if we did not do something traditional. Although ... maybe this made the evening so perfect.

The day was interesting right from the morning. Lenka planned skating with the Vančuras and others. But they changed their plans and did not tell her. She luckily had an inspiration and called them before she left, so she did not go in vain. This at least gave us a quiet morning.

Lenka made an excellent Christmas bread that we took to the Hampls in the evening. We went there sometimes right after three, since Lenka planned to cook turkey for us and Blanka and in general prepare some good stuff for the evening with Franta. Blanka was dressing a Christmas tree and I with Věra started to look through some old family photos. The quiet did not last long, since Věrka’s sudden health problems caused us to go to an emergency room. This was the first time in my life when I had to go to emergency on Christmas Eve. And it was not even because the obligatory fish bone in the neck. Luckily in Bulovka it did not last long and we managed to come back with an easy time to spare for dinner.

The dinner started almost exactly at six as planned. We had a choice between fish and noodle soups, carp and turkey, potato salad and fried potatoes. And of course Christmas cookies, strudel and Christmas bread after dinner. Although we could not eat a lot of this any more. So we kind of snacked on it and drank a little and then Jesus baby up.

See pictures from the first part of the evening here.

The gift unwrapping is well documented in the photo galery, it is hard to add anything to it. We had fun checking and commenting on every gift. There were a lot of gifts that we wrote Santa for, but there were some surprises, too. Lenka received a book from Viewegh as a surprise and I a book about Kája Gott. And also "a voucher for chemical experiments". That was long discussed, but still not performed event. Take a look at the pictures, the voucher is just funny. It was a big surprise and the great thing is that the presentation is on the specific date and hour, so it will really happen. :-)

Also Honza came in the evening, too and continued unwrapping presents. Everybody was falling asleep then (well, except me), so we finished it around eleven, but the fun continued. There was no lack of excitement. We did not manage to completely agree, what, where and how. At the end both of us were outside of the building and the keys were left in the apartment lock. Luckily the neighbor was still awake and she let us in after three rings.



This was the morning after Christmas Eve, and as Lenka said at noon, this day definitely was not ordinary. Exceptional Christmas went on. It started at night already, when I properly turned the lights off at midnight, but I could not fall asleep no matter what. I don’t know when I managed to fall asleep; it had to be around three. I woke up at 9:30 fairly tired and disoriented.

That was not the worst, however. Around eleven the network collapsed, computers could not communicate with a router. I took the router from the rack, connected it with a cable and found that it worked fine over the cable. I just could not see any wireless signal, either from the computers or the phone.

I decided that the box broke down, got another router out of a chest and connected it in the rack. Lo and behold, I could not connect to it either. So, the router went out again from the rack, everything was working over the cable, no wi-fi signal. I was getting depressed and wondered what to do. I unplugged the routers from the plug and Lenka said: “Hey, I can see DTS-Mirovická” (this is our ESS). I checked my notebook and it could see even the both unplugged routers. Even after three refreshes in a row.

Although in the beginning I thought that something was jamming our signal, now I started believing in IT ghosts. I know that sounds crazy, but I tried to connect to one of these networks. Luckily it was not possible. If I had managed, I would probably move to Tibet and started to meditate.

After two hours of trying I said that this was nonsense, and we would just work over the cable this Christmas. So I wired the modem, router and our two notebooks and went to the study to switch on Budulínek (my table PC), from which I needed some photos. All of the sudden Lenka calls: “I am connected to DTS-Mirovická".

“This is impossible, I plugged a cable into your notebook,” I said with superiority of an expert, who knows, that combination of Windows + Dell switches off the wi-fi card automatically, when you plug in a cable.

“That may be, but I am still connected through wi-fi”, insisted this foolish creature. So I went to make sure and really! So I tried to connect my notebook through wi-fi and it worked also. So did Budulínek. Again it had shown that there had to be some work put into it; at the end our computer settings were exactly the same as in the beginning ... only the set up did not work for those two hours.

Luckily, the rest of the day was calm and quiet.

On December 29 I finished the book “Golden Voice from Prague” (one of the Santa’s gifts), and the day to collect the chemical experiment gift had come. At 15:30 we started in the direction of Dejvice, The Institute of Chemical Technology. Franta with Anička already were there and were preparing ingredients for the experiments. Franta and Daughter Ltd. prepared the following experiments for me, Honza, and other spectators:

  1. Na + phenolphthalein
  2. Dry ice + wash detergent
  3. H3BO3 + MeOH
  4. Hydrogen + detergent water
  5. H2SO4 + filtration paper
  6. Evaporation of ether
  7. KMnO4 into H2O
  8. Presentation of gas burner
  9. Proof of presence of metal by annealing
  10. Volcano

Franta started by pouring sulfuric acid on a glass through a filtration paper. The bottle said 96%, so I expected quick disintegration of paper, bubbles and rising smoke. Nothing happened. Franta even poured some of the acid over his thumb. He calmly finished pouring, closed the bottle and then went and washed his hand. The acid dissolved the paper in about half an hour.


Anička then took four small dishes with powders (all of them different) and tried to prove that these were different metals. Aluminum was not there for understandable reasons. Unfortunately, the school did not have necessary inert platinum wire, but only iron one that bonded salts, caused by burning, on itself (= the powder got glued on it), and so there was no colored burning. Not even after Vojta tried to make a spray dispenser. Things just don’t work every time.


In the meantime Franta prepared a green fire. This was the item no. 3. He poured some powder into a metal dish, poured methanol over it and set it on fire. It burned beautifully plastically and in green. This demonstration worked great.


While we were watching the green fire, Franta prepared some water with detergent in a beaker and showed us “Boil pot, boil” in practice. He brought frozen CO2 and tossed it in the water. The carbon dioxide started to evaporate, in other words changed to a gas, and as its bubbles rose (and there was a lot of them), the detergent was foaming and there was a bubble snake coming out of the beaker. Frozen CO2 has -78°C and we verified that we could hold it without being burned if we didn’t compress it.


The next demonstration was very similar; we tossed a piece of Sodium into water. According to stories Sodium should ignite and run around the water tank, in reality it only started to bubble a little, floated to the side a got stuck there. It was slightly better when Franta tossed in a bigger piece; it tried to show itself better. At the end Franta added some phenolphthalein, and when Sodium was slowly burning, the water colored itself more and more pink.


Then we moved over to a large hydrogen bomb. Well, it sounds interesting, but no, the Institute does not have any weapons of mass destruction, but they do have tanks with Hydrogen and Oxygen. These gases can be entertaining when you mix them together. Using the Hydrogen cylinder, detergent water and funnel we created a bubble maker. And when the detergent bubbles full of Hydrogen were rising in the air Franta lit them with a burning match, and they gave out a nice pouf! and for a little while you could see a fire in the air. That is what I call applied chemistry.


The top of the program was a gas burner exhibition. That was really something. Franta showed us that he is not only a theoretician, but a handy lab hand. He lit a glass maker burner (huge thing, noisy as a welding torch and with two adjustable and independent flames), cut off a piece of a glass pipe and showed us how to make (blow) a beaker and an elbow. He was very skillful and beautiful to watch. It was clear that he had practice, since Vojta explained that this way he can be dashy in front of lady students. Honza tried it then and managed a nice, several times bent, little thing. If you were ever to try it, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  1. Hot glass looks exactly the same as the cold one, but it burns your fingers much better.
  2. The finished product needs to be cooled in a flame, it cracks otherwise.

Then it was already after five, and we had to move over to the building D, so it did not come to diffusion of permanganate and water, but we all non-chemists stated that we remembered it from a grade school, and that it was more physics than chemistry anyway.


In the D building they waited for us already, and we could start tasting wine. We tasted for about two hours and after it went home. On the way we promised to ourselves that we were going to make a level 2 demonstration sometime. It was fantastic from the beginning to the end – thanks Santa. See the photos here. Photos here.

We decided to spend the New Years Eve in our family circle also. This time we met in Mirovická, with the exception of Vojta and Anička, who preferred meeting friends. We had a good time, although not as good as it could seem from the photo documentation. We split at about two in the morning, just to get together again in few hours for the New Years lunch