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Week of 12 November 2007

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Monday, 12 November 2007
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09:01 - We had dinner with Mary and Paul last night at the Mexican place. I surprised everyone by having a beer, my first of 2007.

We talked a lot about the home chem lab book, of course. Paul made one comment that I'm still thinking about. As an organic chemistry professor, he sees lots of chemistry majors who've passed the AP Chemistry exam. Paul thinks it's generally a bad idea for them to skip the intro chemistry courses, because he thinks few high-school AP Chemistry programs really provide the equivalent of those first-year college courses.

Paul thinks, and he makes a convincing argument, that AP credit should be given only for non-major courses. So, for example, a chemistry major could take the AP History exam to test out of taking an intro history course, and a history major could take the AP Chemistry exam to test out of taking an intro chemistry course, but not vice versa.

Not that he's against chemistry majors taking AP Chemistry in high school. He thinks they should take AP Chemistry as preparation and then take the college intro chemistry courses. As he said, worst case, they get an easy A and are off to a strong start in their major subject.

Over the weekend I finished the second drafts of chapters 13 (Chemical Equilibrium & Le Chatelier's Principle) and 14 (Gas Chemistry). I didn't get much work done on the TOC/outline for the physics book, which I'll work more on this morning.

I forgot to mention that a couple of weeks ago the fan failed in one of my Antec Veris MX-1 external hard drive enclosures. I'd gone somewhere and, as usual, had unplugged the external drive enclosure and taken it with me. When I returned, I reconnected the power and USB cables and fired up the drive. There was a loud buzzing noise, which I first feared was the drive itself failing. Fortunately, I soon isolated the noise to a failing bearing in the fan that cools the unit.

I started using that unit in mid-June, so it's been running 24/7 for nearly five months, other than when I power it down and toss it in my purse to take along with me. It's seen some fairly hard use, so I can't really condemn the product based on this one failure. I have other Antec external enclosures that are doing fine with similar use, so only time will tell.

I was going to replace the fan, but I didn't have one that would fit. I decided just to run the unit with the cover off, which as it turns out is actually better for me. The bare chassis sits on top of my main desktop system, with the drive in place but not secured. When I leave the house now, instead of carrying the relatively bulky external enclosure, I just slide the drive out, put it in one of those bulletproof plastic covers that Seagate ships its drives in, and carry the bare drive along with me. When I return, I just slide the drive back into place, turn on the switch, and I'm up and running again.


Tuesday, 13 November 2007
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08:41 - I blasted through the Preface and chapters 1, 2, and 3 yesterday, incorporating comments from my editor and tech reviewers. Then I got to chapter 4, which is the chapter about chemicals. That one will take a while, because I have to go through each lab session to total up which chemicals are needed and in what quantity. From that information, I'll build a table with recommended chemicals and quantities. I then have to incorporate additional information about each chemical, including the standard R-phrases (risk) and S-phrases (safety measures). In some cases, where a chemical is unique to one lab session, I'm dropping that chemical and rewriting the lab session to use another chemical that is already on the list. In a lot of cases, I have to write a note specific to that chemical, and for each chemical I have to locate and list good sources. This one table is going to be a lot of work, but it needs to be done.


Wednesday, 14 November 2007
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09:57 - I spent all day yesterday working on the chemicals chapter, but I'm still not happy with it. It needs some cuts, which I'll make this morning. I decided to eliminate the sources and notes columns from the table of chemicals. Instead, I'll post that information on the web site, so that I can update it as sources change.

Barbara visited the doctor yesterday for a follow-up on her knee problem. It doesn't sound promising. She may have to have surgery. The doctor wanted to do an MRI, but Barbara's insurance requires that be pre-approved, so she'll have to go back again before she knows for sure. We're keeping our fingers crossed.

We've finished watching season three of Veronica Mars. It was good, certainly, but I didn't think it was as good as the first two seasons. It seems that the network demanded some heavy-handed changes to make the series more marketable if it went into syndication. The first two seasons had interlaced story arcs that covered several to many episodes. Story arcs are apparently a no-no for syndication, because the network wants the episodes to be usable out-of-order. Season three made the episodes much more standalone, although a couple of arcs remained.

From what Paul said at dinner Sunday, season three is the make-or-break season. If a series is renewed for season four, it will almost certainly be renewed for season five as well, because it takes five seasons to produce enough episodes to syndicate. Once a series makes it into its fourth season, the fifth is almost a gimme. But Veronica Mars didn't make it to season four. Oh, well.

On to the new episodes of Midsomer Murders, which we're just now starting to receive. I do wish that the US networks would learn something from the British networks. Many British series, including Midsomer Murders, are produced sporadically. They may do four episodes one year, eight the next, four the year after, then eight again. Basically, they produce episodes when they're ready to do them rather than having to produce 22 episodes per year whether or not they have good scripts. US networks could learn a lesson there.


Thursday, 15 November 2007
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08:30 - I finished the chemicals chapter yesterday and posted it for my editors and reviewers. Today, I'll incorporate comments I've received on the laboratory practices chapter, and then get some work done on the outline for the home physics lab book.

Although the month is only half over, I'm taking several days off next week for Thanksgiving, so in effect I'm in the last week of the month. I want to have the complete second draft of the book done by month end, which will mean pushing hard the rest of this week and the last few days of the month.


Friday, 16 November 2007
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08:15 - I'm still doing rewrite and incorporating comments from my editors. I'm going to get as much done as I can today and over the weekend and then put things on hold until after the holiday. I do need to spend a day or two working on an outline/TOC for the home physics lab book, which I think I'll do Monday or Tuesday. As of Wednesday, I'm going on break through the following Monday, and I don't plan to do any work at all. I've been going at it seven days a week since Labor Day, and I need some down time.


Saturday, 17 November 2007
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08:47 - I've completed the second drafts of the Preface and chapters 1 through 8. For the next three or four days, I'm going to crank out second drafts on the remaining chapters, 9 through 22. I hope to get all of them complete by Monday or Tuesday so that I can take a long break over the holiday. When I return, I'll start doing lab setups and shooting images. When I finish doing that, the book will be complete except for any final comments my editors make. I hope to get all of those incorporated in early December and get the book off to production. After that, I'll start work on the home physics lab book.


Sunday, 18 November 2007
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09:20 - I made it through four chapters yesterday, incorporating comments from Mary and Paul and doing some minor rewrites. That takes me from the Preface through chapter 14, inclusive, with chapters 15 through 22 remaining. I'll try to make it through four more chapters today and four more Monday, which takes me through the end. After that, all that needs to be done is shooting images for all of the lab chapters and incorporating comments from Tom. At that point, we'll be ready to roll.


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