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Week of 2 June 2008


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Monday, 2 June 2008
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09:42 - I had to renew my driver's license this morning. I turn 55 years old on Friday (although I prefer to think of it as 0x37), and North Carolina driver's licenses are renewable every five years on birthdays with years ending in 0 or 5. At least I won't have to do this again for five years, when I'll be turning 0x3C.

For some reason, although DMV makes appointments, hardly anyone bothers to take advantage of that. I did, as I've done every time my license came due for renewal. I arrived a couple minutes before my 0830 appointment time, walked up to the desk, and told them who I was. They gave me a little slip of paper numbered C601 and told me to have a seat. There was a big red LED display at the front of the waiting area that said they were currently serving A147 at station 1 and so on for the other two stations. I waited literally less than a minute in an area with at least a couple of dozen other people holding little number slips. As a station finished up, they put C601 next to it on the display and called my name on the PA system. I was in and out in less than ten minutes with my new license.

Two changes this time: on my last license, my hair color was listed as red and there were no restrictions. On the new one, my hair color is listed as gray and it says I have to wear corrective lenses. Oh, well. I've worn glasses to drive for 10 years or more, so nothing really changed.



Barbara should be home sometime this afternoon. The dogs and I are both looking forward to it. As usual, the dogs have behaved badly the whole time Barbara has been gone.

Malcolm frequently assaults Duncan at the best of times, but he's been doing it much more often while she's been gone. Duncan's back end is very weak anyway, so having Malcolm charge into him and knock him over after he's just struggled to his feet is very frustrating. Understandably, Duncan sometimes takes exception to being attacked, and then we have a snarly fangy confrontation that Duncan is destined to lose. I have to wade in shouting at them and separate them like a couple of toddlers.

And Duncan has reached the stage that all of our old Border Collies reach, when he's decided that we're trying to poison him when we give him pills. For a long time, rolling the pills up in lunch meat worked, but he's gotten wise to that. He eats the lunchmeat and spits out the pills. We've tried everything, and he simply refuses to take pills.

Sometimes Barbara has to pry open his mouth and stuff the pills down his throat. Barbara can get away with that, because the dogs consider her to be the pack leader. I won't attempt to stuff pills down his throat, because Duncan doesn't like me much at the best of times. If I tried to stuff pills down his throat, he'd bite me.

Barbara got some pill pockets from the pet supply place. They're soft dog treats with a little pocket to put pills into. Those work pretty well for Barbara, but Duncan gave me a hard time about taking pills even with the pill pockets. In fact, at one point he even refused to take a dog treat from me. One way or another, I managed to get him to take all his morning and evening pills, but it was a struggle.

At one point, I decided to try assembling my own pill pockets. Duncan loves Alpo Snaps, which are little square, flat dog treats. So I used peanut butter to glue a pill to the top of the snap. I offered it to him, and he grudgingly accepted it and then immediately spit it out. I offered it to him again, he took it, and spit it out. After two or three more iterations, I yelled at him to eat the treat. He took it, crunched away at it, and swallowed. And then spit out the pill.

I'm really looking forward to Barbara getting home.


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Tuesday, 3 June 2008
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08:20 - Barbara is back. The dogs are happy. I'm happy. She had a good time at the beach and was able to relax, which is a good thing. She just left for work, and I'm sure she'll be covered up, but the good thing is that this will be a four-day week for her.

We went over to our neighbor's house yesterday afternoon to deliver Shane's birthday presents, the Smithsonian Megascience Kit and (at Mimi's request) a copy of the home chemistry book. It felt strange handing a copy of that book to a boy who just turned five years old, but he's a very bright kid, and it won't be too many years until he's actually ready for it.

I've changed hats and am back to working on the forensics book, which I've missed working on. I hope to get another chapter knocked out this week, but that'll depend on how things go in the lab.


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Wednesday, 4 June 2008
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09:52 - I rejoined Netflix on 11 May, and the Netflix throttle-weasels have started already. I should be getting three discs today. Instead, I'm getting only two, with the third one shipping today.

If they ship that one to arrive tomorrow, I'll let this first minor throttling pass, as I always do, and return both of today's discs in one envelope. If they ship the disc today to arrive Friday or later, I'll return both of today's discs in separate envelopes. That always seems to work. I'm convinced that they keep track of people who return two discs in one envelope to save them return postage.

Although that doesn't sound like much, it adds up. Over the course of a month, they probably break even on me if I return two discs in one envelope as often as possible. If I return all of them in separate envelopes, they lose money on me. People like me are Netflix's worst nightmare, but if they're going to promote their service as "unlimited" there's not much they can say when people take them at their word.



Just as I got back into the forensics book, my editor told me he thinks I should do an article for MAKE Magazine that ties to the chemistry book. So I'm working on that today.



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Thursday, 5 June 2008
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08:50 - It seems the Democratic Party is suicidal. They quickly narrowed down the list of potential candidates to Clinton--the most hated woman in America and one for whom a majority of US voters would never vote under any circumstances--and Barack Hussein Obama, who is even less electable. Fortunately for the Democrats, they have a third candidate who is electable and will almost certainly be elected, John McCain.

And now it appears that Clinton will suspend her campaign, leaving the nomination to Barack Hussein Obama. This despite the fact that Clinton has won a majority of the popular vote during the primaries, and has slaughtered Obama in the Electoral College. And it's worse still when you look state-by-state at the results. Clinton has won states like California that the Democrats might actually carry in the general election. The bulk of Obama's Electoral votes during the primaries have come from states that he has zero chance of carrying in the general election.

So, it looks like it'll be Barack Hussein Obama versus John McCain in the general election. Barring a major screw-up by McCain, I expect a landslide reminiscent of 1972. Literally the majority of registered Democrats will probably either vote for McCain or, at best, stay home.

And there's an easy way for McCain to ensure a landslide victory. Considering that Barack Hussein Obama is on the extreme left and that both McCain and Clinton are mid- to far-left, all that McCain has to do is invite Clinton to be his Vice Presidential candidate. A McCain/Clinton ticket gets essentially all the votes, from the far right (who else can they vote for, Obama?) to the mid/far left.

Of course, if McCain chooses Clinton as his running mate, he'll need to watch his back, literally. She'd have McCain assassinated in a second, if she thought she could get away with that shortcut to becoming President. If I were McCain, I wouldn't accept any food or drink from Clinton.

As for me, I'll be damned if I'll vote for any of these slime. I'll vote for Ron Paul, even if I have to write his name on the ballot.



13:40 - My apologies to Senator McCain. Ron Morse and I spoke a little while ago about the PC hardware book, and Ron pointed out that Senator McCain is anything but an empty suit. Anyone who did what McCain did--refusing to be released from a North Vietnamese prison camp until everyone who had been there longer had first been freed--has my respect and admiration for his personal qualities. My contempt is directed at Clinton and Obama, who are both intellectually and morally dishonest, not at Mr. McCain.

I disagree strongly with Mr. McCain's politics, but I have only respect for him as a person. Mr. McCain is honest, and his integrity is beyond question. For that reason alone, given only the choice between him and either Clinton or Obama, anyone who would vote other than for McCain is nuts. I have no argument with anyone who votes for McCain. I will still vote for Ron Paul, however. I agree substantially with his politics, and Dr. Paul is also honest and of unquestionable integrity.


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Friday, 6 June 2008
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09:05 - Happy Birthday to Me. Today I turn 55 decimal or, as I prefer to think of it, 0x37. Or, as Elaine Boosler would put it, twenty-thirty-five.

O'Reilly has been promoting the Home Chemistry book, and their efforts are developing some buzz. For example, earlier this week Greg Laden posted a good review of the book on Scienceblogs.com, and just this morning John Baichtal posted another good review on GeekDad. I hope the book's momentum continues. By all early indications it seems to be sustaining that momentum.

The Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments is the second in the O'Reilly/MAKE DIY Science Illustrated Guide series, following our Illustrated Guide to Astronomical Wonders, which was published last autumn. The third and fourth books in the series will be the Illustrated Guide to Home Forensics Investigations, which Barbara and I are co-authoring, and the Illustrated Guide to Home Physics Experiments by Tom Sgouros, who was the editor of the Home Chemistry book.

As Brian Jepson, my primary editor, pointed out, it's important to get this series filled out, because the books are mutually supporting. We want enthusiasts and hobbyists to be able to pick and choose among a wide variety of top-notch DIY Science titles, and we want home schoolers (and public schoolers whose schools don't provide hands-on lab work) to have available a complete range of hands-on science lab books that covers their entire curricula.

When I finish the forensics book, the next books I want to do are hands-on lab titles for biology and earth science, although if the chemistry book does as well as it appears it may do O'Reilly/MAKE may want me to do a follow-on advanced chemistry title. Eventually, I also want to do an introductory science title aimed at early middle-schoolers, those in 6th or 7th grade.

All of this is very challenging, because when I write a book my goal is not merely to write the best book I can write, but to write the best book available on the topic. That's not easy.



13:43 - MAKE just posted a video of me at Maker Faire. In the video, I'm demonstrating how to get around the DEA restrictions on iodine. I'm embarrassed to see that I wasn't wearing goggles while I did the demonstration. In my defense, I was running on very little sleep. Also, you may notice that my voice sounds very scratchy. That's because just a few minutes before Kip shot this video, I'd been doing demonstrations for a larger group, during one of which I managed to gas myself with chlorine. While Kip was shooting this video, I was constantly attempting not to cough.


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Saturday, 7 June 2008
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Sunday, 8 June 2008
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Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All Rights Reserved.