Week of 22 January 2007
Update: Saturday, 27 January 2007 09:45 -0500
Like all Border Collies, our older dog Duncan is smart, very smart.
He's terrified when we take him to visit the vet, which Barbara did
last week. The vet wanted a urine sample, so Barbara collected one by
holding a small bottle under Duncan while he urinated. No problem, and
Barbara had a full bottle in short order.
Unfortunately, the lab where the vet sent the samples lost them. I took
Duncan in Friday to get another blood sample drawn and to pick up
another sample bottle. Alas, Duncan saw the sample bottle while we
still at the vet's office and now he obviously associates urine samples
with going to the vet. Friday afternoon, I walked Duncan around the
vet's yard while one of his assistants tried to get a sample. Every
time she approached him, Duncan simply stopped urinating. We finally
gave up. I told the vet that Duncan would let Barbara collect a sample,
so he gave me another collection bottle to take home.
When Barbara tried last night to get a new sample, Duncan simply turned
off the flow every time she tried to get the bottle under him. This
morning, we decided to use a different container, but we couldn't fool
Duncan. He now knows that urine collection is a veterinary procedure,
and he refuses to cooperate. She managed to get perhaps one mL last
night and another mL or two this morning. The vet said they needed 3
mL, so this is going to be a close thing.
I'm starting to get a very good idea of how the Home Chem Lab book is all going to come together.
One issue that I constantly keep in mind is the cost of chemicals and
equipment. I'm in the process now of categorizing everything
(chemicals, equipment, and experiments) into Basic, Intermediate, and
For example, Chapter 3 (Equipping a Home Lab) has a table of
recommended glassware and a second table of recommended equipment and
supplies. Each of those tables lists many items, with recommended
quantities appearing in three columns labeled Basic, Intermediate, and
Advanced. Everything appears in the Advanced column, a subset in
the Intermediate column, and a smaller subset in the Basic column.
Quantities may also be larger in the Intermediate and Advanced columns.
I'm doing the same thing in Chapter 4 (Chemicals), with the
additional factor that more hazardous or expensive chemicals or those
that are needed for only one or a few experiments appear only in the
Intermediate or Advanced columns.
The bulk of the book will be the Laboratory (experiment) chapters,
which I'm organizing by category (stoichiometry, acid/base reactions,
equilibria, redox reactions, thermochemistry, pigments and dyes,
forensics, etc.) I'll make sure that each of those chapters includes at
least some Basic labs, additional Intermediate labs, and additional
The goal is that hobbyists or home school parents who can't or don't
want to afford buying a whole lot of equipment and chemicals can still
get a lot of fun and useful stuff done, but those who can or are
willing to afford more equipment and chemicals can do still more. The
B-I-A breakdown also will pretty much match what home school kids
can/should be doing in early middle school through late middle school
and high school.
I plan to fill out the allotted page count with Basic stuff first
and then as space is available add the Intermediate and Advanced stuff
in each category. It's possible, although unlikely, that I'll fill the
book with just Basic stuff. It may be that Basic and Intermediate will
fit, but that I'll have little or no room left for Advanced. Of course,
if that happens, I'll talk to O'Reilly about doing a second (or
third) book in the series.
- Here is something truly foul. Slate reports that favorable book reviews are for sale.
According to the article, it seems that for a mere $399 wannabee
authors who use Amazon's self-publishing service can buy a favorable
review from Ellen Tanner Marsh, an author of bodice-rippers who
appeared on the NYT Bestseller list more than 20 years ago. Apparently,
if you don't like the review you've paid for, you can re-write it yourself and still have it appear under Ms. Marsh's name.
What do you call a person who would do that? I have some thoughts about that, but I'll keep them to myself.
I was on the CNN web site yesterday, and accidentally clicked on a link
to a Sports Illustrated photoessay, "Ten Great Quarterback Rivalries"
or some such. As always, I was struck by the preponderance of
quarterbacks who played high-school football within a stone's
throw of New Castle, Pennsylvania, where I was born and grew up. A
quick Google search turned up the startling fact that hundreds of
high-school quarterbacks from Western Pennsylvania have had successful
careers as college quarterbacks, and that nearly fifty modern-era NFL
quarterbacks hail from this small region. Some of these guys are
household names, notably Joe Namath, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, and
Johnny Unitas. Others, including Johnny Lujack, Terry Hanratty, George
Blanda, Jim Kelly, and Willie Thrower, among many others, may not be
household names, but they're certainly familiar to any football fan.
I'm sure I'm not alone in wondering how this small region, with
something like 0.5% of the US population, can produce so many great quarterbacks. It must be something in the water.
Barbara and I have been watching Bleak House,
which we recorded from PBS nearly a year ago. At first I was worried
that we'd somehow missed recording a lot of it, because IMDB lists it
as being 15 episodes and we had only six discs. As it turns out, we
have it all. There was one one-hour episode and 14 30-minute episodes,
which PBS apparently combined into six longer episodes.
When Barbara announced she wanted to watch Bleak House,
I resigned myself to watching it with her. I dislike "literary" books,
and have done ever since my eighth-grade English teacher forced several
of them down our throats. She must have been one of the original
deconstructionists, because she was always asking us what the author
meant when he wrote this or that (to which my response was always, "He
meant what he wrote.") and telling us about the symbolism of one thing
or another or the "real meaning" of one or another passage. If Dickens
had been in that classroom, he'd probably have slapped her upside the
head. I sure wanted to. But she poisoned me against reading literary
novels, and my distaste for them persists to this day.
That was reinforced a few months ago when I suffered through something like a hundred episodes of Brideshead Revisited.
A hundred episodes of obnoxious characters and nothing happening. I
wanted to strangle every character in that program. I wished I could
have strangled the author before he wrote it. I wished I could have
strangled the author's mother before she had him. Reading the program
notes, I saw that the first cut at the screenplay had run only six
hours, but they decided to expand that. I kept wishing they'd done the
original screenplay instead so that I'd have less to suffer through.
Better still, they should have cut the original screenplay to one hour.
So it was with some trepidation that I put the first disc of Bleak House
into the player. In fact, after watching a few minutes of the first
episode, I went back to the bedroom to take a nap. I could hear what
was going on, though, and I finally decided I might as well watch it.
I'm glad I did. It's very well done (although I can still hear faint
echoes of my eighth-grade English teacher deconstructing it...) Unlike Brideshead Revisted, many of the characters are admirable and likeable. Unlike Brideshead Revisited, there's actually a plot and things actually happen.
Mary asked Barbara to borrow Bleak House
when we were finished with it. I suspect we'll finish it this
week. I hope Paul and Mary have also finished the second season of Veronica Mars. Maybe we can trade.
And Sunday I recorded the first episode of Jane Eyre from PBS. I'll think about watching that with Barbara, but that may be pushing it.
Wednesday, 24 January 2007
Paul just stopped by to drop off their boxed set of the second season
of Veronica Mars, so I know what Barbara and I will be doing for the
next several evenings. Mary wanted to borrow Bleak House,
which we'd recorded from PBS nearly a year ago. I handed those discs to
Paul, and he said he'd be sure to give them to Mary. Clearly, Paul
must also have had an eighth-grade English Teacher From Hell who taught
Literature as Punishment. I told him that this one was actually pretty
good and that I thought he'd enjoy it.
Ed Foster posted an article
about a reader who has had bad experiences when returning Toshiba hard
drives under warranty. Why would anyone, particularly a business, send
a hard drive back for repair when that drive might contain data that
should remain private?
Like most businesses and many individuals, I treat hard drives as
disposable items. If one fails, I don't even consider returning it for
warranty repair. In order to do that safely, assuming the drive was
still accessible, I'd have to run DBAN or some other wiping utility on
it, which is more effort than the drive is worth. If the drive is not
accessible, the only way to protect the data on it is to physically
destroy the drive.
Even if the failed drive comes out of a workstation on a network where
all data are stored on servers, that drive may contain temporary files
and other remnants that include proprietary data. Sure, there's only a
small risk that anyone would attempt to retrieve the data, let alone
succeed in doing so, but that's a small risk that's avoidable at low
A few years ago, an O'Reilly author (Simpson Garfinkel, I think) did an
experiment. He ordered a bunch of used hard drives on eBay and then
tried to recover sensitive information from them. Many of the drives
hadn't even had their files deleted. But even on those that
had, he was able to retrieve information like passwords, Social
Security numbers, bank account numbers, private email, medical records,
and so on from many of the drives. Why would anyone take that risk by
returning a hard drive for warranty repair?
From another mailing list I read, with the subject line "Neologisms of 2006":
Washington Post's "Style Invitational" once again asked readers to take
any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting or
changing one letter, and supply a new definition.
Here are this year's winners:
1. Bozone (n.): The substance
surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The
bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the
2. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
3. Giraffiti (n.): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
4. Sarchasm (n.): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
5. Inoculatte (v.): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
6. Hipatitis (n.): Terminal coolness.
7. Osteopornosis (n.): A degenerate disease. [This one got extra credit.]
8. Karmageddon (n.): It's, like,
when everybody is giving off all these really bad vibes, right? And
then, like, the earth explodes and it's, like, a serious bummer.
9. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
10. Glibido (v.): All talk and no action.
11. Dopeler effect (n.): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
12. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
13. Beelzebug (n.): Satan, in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at 3:00 in the morning and cannot be cast out.
14. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.
And the pick of the publication:
15. Ignoranus (n.): A person who's both stupid and an asshole.
A few people didn't quite follow the rules, but nevertheless these are
all pretty good words. Alas, I know from personal experience that #15
is not a neologism of 2006. I've used it myself for at least 30 years.
There's some discussion over on the messageboard about the horrors of
eighth-grade English class. Apparently, I'm not the only guy who
destested being forced to read the classics, or, more specifically,
being forced to deconstruct them. I posted the following:
I think a lot of the problem is having
teenage boys taught English by adult women. As should be obvious to
anyone, men and women have very different communications styles. Men
are simple and direct, both when talking and when listening. Women are
complex, subtle, nuanced, and indirect. Women read things into simple
statements that simply aren't there, at least as far as men are
The problem arises when men and women attempt to communicate with each
other. Men follow their usual practice, saying what they mean, and
expecting it to be taken at face value. Women interpret what the man
has said--"what does he *really* mean by that?"--when they should take
it at face value. Conversely, women offer subtle hints that blow
straight past men, and are then cross with the man for missing things.
I remember when Barbara and I had a discussion upon which this bears.
She swore that she'd told me something, not just once but three or four
times. I didn't remember her ever mentioning it. As it turned out,
Barbara had mentioned it the three or four times she claimed, but she
didn't do so directly. She indeed told me, but indirectly, expecting me
to understand. It blew right past me, of course, so we were both being
So I've learned that women's communications are complex and subtle, but
I still miss a lot. I've also tried to educate women as to the way men
communicate, but it simply doesn't take. Women simply can't believe
that men's thought processes are as simple as they in fact are.
I remember trying to convince a woman friend who was annoyed at her
husband for responding, "nothing," whenever she asked him what he was
thinking about. I explained to her that he was telling her the absolute
and literal truth. There was a carrier wave in his brain, but it wasn't
modulated. Well, every couple seconds there'd be a spike when he
thought about sex, but that was it. She refused to believe me.
So here we have adult women glorying in the subtly nuanced writing of
these so-called great authors, most of whom are male. With regard to
the female authors, the English teachers might even have been right.
But with respect to the male authors, they were wrong entirely. Those
guys weren't thinking about symbolism or inner meanings. They were
Thursday, 25 January
I'm thinking about banishing Adobe Acrobat Viewer from my systems. Part
of the reason for that is the critical vulnerability that was recently
announced for versions 8 and prior, but the real reason is that Acrobat
Viewer is a complete pig. I frequently have 20 or 30 Firefox
instances active on my system, each of which may have half a dozen or
more tabs open. If Acrobat Reader is active in even one of those tabs
in one of those instances, it sits there in memory, growing and
growing. At times it grows to consume 600 MB or more of memory, which
is simply unacceptable.
Until recently, I couldn't kill the acroread process without killing
every instance of Firefox at the same time. That changed a couple of
months ago, whether from an update to Firefox or Acrobat Reader I'm not
sure. Now I can kill acroread by itself and it simply blanks any
Firefox tabs that were displaying a PDF file. But still I dislike using
an application that leaks memory like the proverbial sieve.
There are several open-source PDF readers available, and I think I'll
try some of them. All I really need is something that displays PDFs,
lets me zoom in and out, print them, and ideally search them. I don't
need all the bells and whistles that Adobe has built into Acrobat
Our neighborhood is still all atitter at events that occurred a couple
of days ago. First, the morning paper reported that a man had been
busted for cocaine trafficking who lived at 4220 Mill Creek Road, which
is the street adjacent to ours. That house backs up on that of our
neighbors two houses down.
That same afternoon, there was a street fight in the front yard of the
people who live diagonally across from us. Stephanie, our next-door
neighbor, called me late Tuesday afternoon and said, "There's trouble
out front right now." I headed out the front door and saw a dozen or so
people in the yard diagonally across the street from us, and straight
across the street from Stephanie.
It looked to me like a group of teenagers getting ready to fight, so I
headed over to see if I could break things up. Stephanie's father,
Danny, was standing at the curb in front of her house, so I stopped to
ask him if he knew what was going on. He didn't, so we stood and
watched for a while. As far as we could tell, Myeesha, the younger
daughter of the folks who live across the street, was mixing it up with
another girl. It was a typical girl-fight, with lots of wild swinging
and flailing, but not much connecting.
Things soon broke up, and three people headed for a black SUV that was
parked in front of the house. The driver pulled diagonally across the
street to where Danny and I were standing and started telling us about
what had happened. When I leaned over to talk to her, I found that she
was the mother of the two girls in the SUV, one of whom had been one of
the principals in the fight. According to the mother, Myeesha, who is
just about to turn 16, had been picking on her 14-year-old daughter at
school. The mother was very upset and said she was going to call the
police when she got home. I told her she might want to think twice
about doing that, because she could end up opening a can of worms
better left closed.
As it turns out, my advice to her was better than I'd realized. I later
got the story from Kim, Jasmine's mother. Kim is one of those women
who's a mother to the entire neighborhood. She watches over Jasmine
like a hawk, but she also watches over the other kids. Kim will defend
Jasmine and any other kid like a lioness if the kid is in the right,
but she won't put up with any nonsense from anyone, Jasmine included.
If the kid is in the wrong, Kim won't attempt to cover it up. Kim is
very fair-minded, so I'm willing to bet that what she told me happened
is exactly what happened.
According to Kim, the 14-year-old daughter of the woman in the SUV was
the instigator, and Myeesha had pretty much ignored her. The mother had
brought her two daughters into our neighborhood to confront Myeesha.
The mother had not only encouraged her daughters to attack Myeesha, but
had actually physically attacked Myeesha herself, punching her. She
also brought along a stick as a weapon, gave it to her daughter, and
encouraged her daughter to attack Myeesha with it. I saw none of
that--I'd have intervened if I had--but I don't doubt that it happened.
Later that evening, there was a police car parked in front of
Stephanie's house when Barbara and I took the dogs out after dinner. It
was there for quite a while, and eventually two cops returned to it,
apparently after talking to Myeesha's parents. I don't know any details
about what transpired, but I'd guess the mother in the SUV is in deep
doo-doo. An adult physically attacking a juvenile is serious business.
But that's not all that happened that day. Stephanie was very upset
because a couple of days previously two boys had been at the curb in
front of her house and had dropped their pants and underpants and
mooned the neighborhood. Stephanie closed all her blinds because she
didn't want her little girls to see it. She didn't know for sure who
the boys were, but thought that one of them had been Josh, Myeesha's
younger brother. I told Stephanie I'd talk to Kim and find out what was
going on. I told Kim what Stephanie had seen, and Kim told me she'd
look into it.
I told Kim I was concerned because this was the kind of thing that a
teenage boy would think was funny, not realizing that he could end up
being busted for it and ending up with a record as a sex offender that
would follow him for the rest of his life. Kim has had a talk with all
the kids to explain that pranks like this can have very serious
consequences, so I don't expect it to happen again.
And there certainly won't be any more street fights in our neighborhood if I'm around to break them up.
As I build my home chem lab and write this book, I'm constantly aware
of safety issues. I'm also constantly aware that much of what passes
today for safety considerations is in fact an irrational dread of the
unknown. Back in the 60's, when I started doing chemistry at home,
people took sane safety precautions but had no irrational fear of a
substance merely because it was a "chemical". Over the past few
decades, we've seen chemicals in general and some chemicals in
Sure, there are chemicals that will kill you with even the slightest
exposure. I've mentioned dimethylmercury, which I and every chemist I
know is scared silly of. Fluorine (and indeed anything that produces
free fluorine ions) is another scary chemical, and there are many more.
But most chemicals, including many of those that have been demonized,
are relatively safe to handle as long as you take common-sense safety
Metallic mercury is a good example, and here's a good article
about the level of danger that it actually presents. When I was a
teenager, I had a bottle of the stuff in my darkroom. A friend whose
mother worked at the hospital had gotten a pint or so of mercury for me
when they were changing the mercury in an anesthesia machine or
something. I kept it stored in an old Alberto V05 bottle on the shelf.
I used that mercury to make mercury salts such as mercuric chloride and
mercuric nitrate, which even then were a bit hard to come by for a
teenage hobbyist. I also used it in metallic form when I made
Daguerreotypes. That involved (gasp) vaporizing the mercury in a fuming
cabinet to develop the latent image on an exposed Daguerreotype plate.
I knew that mercury vapor was a bad thing, so I took common-sense
precautions. I vaporized only a drop or two of mercury at a time, and
my darkroom had a dark-protected exhaust fan that expelled air out the
basement window to the side of the house. When I opened the fuming
cabinet after developing a plate, I made sure the exhaust fan was
running on high, and opened the fuming cabinet near its intake. That's
all I did to protect myself against mercury fumes, and that's all that
needed to be done.
Most of the irrational fear of chemicals results from extending
cautions or recommended maximum levels of exposure that are valid in
one situation to a completely different situation or level of exposure.
Here's a concrete example. The NFPA rates hazards for specific
chemicals based on hazards to health, flammability, and other factors.
The NFPA rates dilute acetic acid as an extreme hazard to health.
Dilute acetic acid is otherwise known as vinegar.
Now, everyone knows that the pint bottle of vinegar sitting in the
kitchen cabinet poses zero health risk, so why would the NFPA rate it
as an extreme danger to health? Because the NFPA rating system is for
fire fighters who may be dealing with very large amounts of the
chemical in a burning building. If I were a fire fighter about to enter
a burning building with a 5,000 gallon tank of dilute acetic acid, I'd
want to know about it, too. If that tank bursts, I may find myself
flooded in acetic acid and choked by the fumes. But the difference
between that 5,000 gallon tank of dilute acetic acid in a burning
building and the pint bottle of vinegar in my kitchen cabinet is the
difference between lightning and a lightning bug.
The same thing holds true for chronic versus acute exposures and
allowable exposure levels. Workers who were exposed day-in,
day-out for years on end to asbestos or lead or mercury developed
serious diseases as a result of that extended exposure. But it's
irrational to extend that to demonize the risk of casual or infrequent
exposure. We spend billions of dollars tearing down or renovating old
buildings that contain asbestos insulation or lead-based paints or
mercury-treated materials, when those substances present essentially
zero risk to those using the buildings.
If you breathe asbestos fibers or lead or mercury dust in the air all
day every day over a long period, it may indeed kill you. But the
asbestos in buildings isn't in the form of airborne fibers. It's locked
up in insulation and inside the walls. Lead drain pipes don't vaporize
spontaneously, and the amount of lead that leaches from them into
wastewater is trivial compared to background levels. The mercury
present in switches and thermostats isn't vaporizing, and the mercury
salts used as anti-fungals for shingles is tightly bound to the
Similarly, the chlorinated organics formerly used to protect homes
against termites were a Good Thing. Heptachlor and similar treatments
actually stop termites. They bind tightly to the soil, and remain
active for a very long time, often 50 or 100 years. But the
environmentalist whackos got them banned. The new treatments are
environmentally acceptable, but simply don't work very well. As the
termite control guy told me when he came out to re-treat our home some
years ago, "This new stuff doesn't actually kill termites. It just
hurts their feelings." It also costs a lot more. So, we've gone from
termite treatments that were safe, cheap, and lasted forever to ones
that are allegedly safer, expensive, and last only a few years. Some
progress, and all because of an irrational fear of "chemicals".
From: "Christensen, Chris (Aspen Research)"
To: "Robert Bruce Thompson"
Date: Yesterday 11:55:34
Re: PDF and GEORGE CARLIN'S NEW RULES FOR 2007
Robert: Debian uses gpdf, which
is the most minimalist pdf reader there is. Other distros use
xpdf, which has a few more features. Either one loads fast and
puts minimal strain on the system.
There is a review of sorts here: note that it dates from 2004.
Thanks. I'm trying kpdf, which seems to do most of what I need to do.
I cut the list of Carlin's rules because I suspect it's copyrighted,
but anyone who wants to see it can just search Google for the phrase "I
already know what the captain of the football team" and find a lot of
From: Ronald McCarty
To: Thompson Robert
Date: Yesterday 22:33:18
Re: Adobe Acrobat Reader
Your posting with Acrobat is right on with Adobe. The bloating and
inefficient characteristics creeping in their software the last
couple of years was sad to see. However, I think the company is
trying to turn itself around. I've been beta testing Light Room,
their new digital photography workflow program and it is excellent,
but very specific on the features it supports with a less is better
Assuming success, maybe Adobe can get back on track...
Perhaps so, but they have a long way to go to get Acrobat Reader back
to being a low-footprint reader. I also mistrust Adobe, as I do all
commercial software houses. I strongly prefer using open source
software. I'll never look at the source, but others will, and that
pretty much eliminates the possibility of nasties lurking.
From: Ron Morse
To: Robert Thompson
Date: Yesterday 12:50:42
Re: You'll like this:
I don't normally read POC Mag
anymore, but someone sent me a pointer to this. I think you'll like
John's descriptions of Mac users. For the record, when I use my
MacBook Pro it boots into Kubuntu....<g>.
I consider Dvorak a clueless troll, but he does get it right every once in a great while.
Running Linux on a MacBook Pro? I like that.
13:05 - I just got off the phone with Al at Elemental Scientific.
I'd called to ask when I might expect delivery of the order I placed
with them in mid-November. As it turns out, it's a two-man company,
with just Al and his dad Wade doing it all. They've been covered up in
orders, and had a lot of stuff back-ordered, but they're getting caught
I very much want to be able to recommend them as a source in the home
chem lab book, because they carry a very wide range of chemicals that
they sell in small quantities at very reasonable prices. With the
exception of some very expensive chemicals, which they sell in gram
quantities, most of their chemicals are in 1-, 4-, or 16-ounce
While I was on the phone with Al, I told him about the book project,
and asked if they'd be willing to create a couple of SKUs that would
allow people to order one item that included all of the "Basic"
chemicals and perhaps all of the "Intermediate" chemicals in
appropriate quantities. I also asked if they'd be willing in some cases
to package particular chemicals in less than their smallest standard
1-ounce sizes. In many cases, the 1-ounce size will be appropriate, but
in others readers will need only a gram or a few grams. Al said they'd
be happy to put together chemical "kits" based on my specifications, so
that's a big thing taken care of.
As I told Al, I'm in a chicken/egg situation right now. I'm ordering
chemicals that I think I'll need, but I won't have a final line-up or
quantities needed until I actually finish writing the book. Right now,
I have a master list of chemicals. As I do the experiments and write
them up, I'll check off each chemical as I use it and note the quantity
needed. When I'm finished, I'll have a list of just the chemicals
actually used and some idea of an appropriate quantity for each.
Elemental Scientific can then make up kits to those specifications and
keep them in inventory for fast shipping. That'll make life easier for
readers and for Elemental.
Saturday, 27 January
Barbara and I watched the second disc of season two of Veronica Mars
last night. We'll probably watch the third disc tonight. Only a few
more discs and we'll be caught up, at least until season three comes
out on DVD. And Paul tells me that season four, which was looking
unlikely, may in fact be produced. I hope so.
I got email yesterday from someone who was disappointed to read my
13:05 post yesterday. He was thinking about packaging up and
selling chemical kits to go with the book. That's probably not a bad
idea, although there would be lots of insurance, regulatory and
shipping hassles to deal with. But there will be a significant market
there. Let's say the book sells 15,000 copies the first year and then
7,500 copies per year on an ongoing basis. (I'm hoping for more, but
those numbers would make it a profitable book for us and
O'Reilly.) Some significant percentage of book buyers will actually end
up buying chemicals, and many of those would prefer to buy kits.
If we assume that one third of book buyers would buy a chemical kit,
that means 5,000 kits might sell the first year and 2,500 per year
thereafter. Assuming a net profit of $20 per kit, that wouldn't be a
bad income for a one-person operation, when you consider that there'd
also be other opportunities such as selling glassware kits,
intermediate and advanced chemical and glassware kits, etc.
On the other hand, I've already talked to Elemental Scientific
about putting together chemical kits, and I'm sure they'll also be
happy to put together glassware kits, equipment kits, and so on. And I
intend to make the same offer to Science Kit/Boreal Laboratories, Home Science Tools, and perhaps some other suppliers, so there would be competition.
And, of course, there's a chance that the book won't sell as well as we
anticipate, or that a smaller percentage of buyers will actually buy
chemical kits. Of course, there's also the chance that the book will
sell better than we anticipate. So I guess it's a crapshoot.
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 by Robert Bruce