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Take a 3 Minute Vacation Right Now

3-Minute Vacation: Grape Balls of Fire!

For this 3-Minute Vacation, all you need is a grape and a microwave -- and to stand up and walk to your office kitchen. (Surely someone in your office brought grapes for lunch today!)

1. Take a grape and cut it in half through the equator.

2. Take one of the halves and cut it almost through lengthwise. See photo to right.

3. Pat the cut surfaces lightly with a paper towel or something to dry them a bit.

3. Take out the rotating glass turntable and its rotating plastic stand out of the microwave.

4. Place grape, cut side up, in the microwave about halfway between the center and the wall (see photo).

5. Close the door and turn on for 10 seconds.

6. Enjoy the amazing plasma light show!

So what is the science behind this light show? Well, plasma is the fourth state of matter after solids, liquids, and gases. Plasma is most often seen as lightning bolts in a dark sky and plasma science is used in high-definition televisions (i.e., plasma TVs).

Electrical discharges between the two halves of the grape vaporize the sugars in the grape causing them to combust. The continued electrical arcing between the two halves of the grape causes the combustion products to get hot enough to form plasma.

Note: this might leave a cosmetic dark spot on your microwave; when trying this out at Blue Avocado it did, but did not create any problems.

See also: Great (rather than Grape) Balls of Fire with the legendary Jerry Lee Lewis on American Bandstand (goodness gracious, great balls of fire!)

Making the Most of a 3-Minute Vacation with Cables

Christoph Niemann's online story "My Life with Cables" uses cartoons and real cables and cords to ingeniously capture every person's love-hate relationship with these undeniably useful items, which inevitably end up in a tangled mess under or behind desks and "home entertainment centers." Maybe we should all just learn to stop worrying and love the cable - after all, weren't we all born tethered by one?

Haiku Contest Winners

What we've learned from announcing the Blue Avocado Haiku Contest in the last issue:

  • We nonprofit folk like writing haiku: more than 155 entries came in!
  • Many people contrasted the gloom of the economy with the beauty of the season.
  • Once you start writing haiku, you can't really stop.

Thanks to our two judges as well: Ruth Dickey, who has an MFA in poetry(!) and also serves as executive director of the Clifton Cultural Arts Center in Cincinnati. And Nelson Layag, Project Director at CompassPoint (one of Blue Avocado's core sponsors) and a Blue Avocado Steering Committee member. Nelson Layag describes himself as "a haiku ninja." :)

After much debate over the 155 entries, we do have a winner:

Needs skyrocketing
While donations spiral down.
Inhale. Exhale. Ask.

Judge Ruth says this haiku provides a "mantra that I could imagine repeating daily. More than any other poem, this one stayed with me." Judge Nelson adds that "the cynic in me adds, 'but don't hold your breath.'"

Congratulations to winner Sarah Martinez-Helfman of Eagles Youth Partnership (EYP) -- the charitable wing of the Philadelphia Eagles . . .

Marshmallow Peep Sushi

Blue Avocado project manager Susan Sanow of Washington, D.C. writes: "I think the first sign of spring is Peeps: those marshmallow concoctions that magically appear right around now. We are never too old to play with our food."

We like the idea of combining the ultimate iconic American Easter candy with traditional Japanese cuisine, too. :)