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Week of 1 September 2008


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Monday, 1 September 2008
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09:48 - Paul and Mary picked us up yesterday afternoon for a trip to Edward McKay, a local used bookstore. We spent an hour or so loading up on used books and then had dinner at a Mexican restaurant. We've all been very busy lately, so it was nice to relax for a couple of hours.

I just sent the September HomeChemLab.com subscriber supplement to the HomeChemLab.com subscriber list. That's the last supplement I had completed, so I plan to spend quite a bit of time this month writing the articles and lab sessions for the October, November, and December issues. Page count is always at a premium, particularly in a 4-color book like Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments, and we ran considerably over the page budget for that book as it was.

There were quite a few lab sessions I would have included if I'd had the time and page count, so the subscriber newsletter gives me the opportunity to do those. Many of the supplemental lab sessions fit within the existing chapter line-up (such as 17.3: Photochemistry of Iron Salts and 20.5: Determine Water Hardness by Complexometric Titration), but I'm also including labs on topics that don't really fit into existing chapters, such as coordination chemistry and organic chemistry.

Originally, I'd planned to do a monthly supplement indefinitely, but I think I may do only one year's worth. That's enough to cover all of the labs I'd have included if the page count budget for the book had been unlimited.


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Tuesday, 2 September 2008
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08:22 - Barbara and I spent some time yesterday looking at kitchen stuff. We're going to replace the counters, cooktop and hood, sink and fittings, and the dishwasher. I'll get all that stuff on order today.

And I'm working on a lab session on determining water hardness by complexometric titration.


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Wednesday, 3 September 2008
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09:00 - I spent about three hours yesterday getting all the kitchen stuff on order except the faucet and sink fittings, which Barbara needs to choose. I also finished up the lab session on complexometric titration, which is pretty cool. Today, I'm working on a lab session that introduces readers to coordination chemistry.


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Thursday, 4 September 2008
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08:35 - Barbara and I were out walking the dogs about 9:00 Tuesday night. We were standing there talking to Kim when we heard a loud screeching of tires and a thunderous impact. A minute or two later, the sirens started. As it turns out, the wreck occurred about a mile from us, on Old Yadkinville Road at the entrance to Forsyth Memorial Cemetery. A carload of kids, most of them teenagers, ran off the road and collided with the concrete wall of the cemetery.

Four of the six young people were killed. Sergio Marroquin Santiago, 17, his brother, Noe Marroquin Santiago, 15, and Rey David Martinez, 24, died at the scene. Manuel Ivan Andres Jr., 18, died at the hospital. Ricardo Salgado, 18, is reportedly in critical condition, but is expected to survive. The driver, Geraldo Garcia Cruz, 18, fled and was later found in a home near the wreck site. He is reportedly in critical condition, and has been charged with four counts of felony death by motor vehicle, one count of felony hit and run, and one count of driving without a license. The police have said that alcohol and excessive speed were involved, and additional charges are pending. The mother of the Santiago brothers is soliciting community donations toward returning the bodies of her sons to Mexico for burial.

As Barbara commented this morning, this was a tragedy, but it could have been much worse. The accident occurred on a heavily-traveled road in a residential area. When the driver lost control, that car might instead have collided head-on with another vehicle or with one of the homes that line the other side of the road.



I'm still working on supplemental lab sessions for the HomeChemLab.com subscriber newsletter. Yesterday, I finished the lab session on coordination chemistry, which completed the October newsletter, and got started on the November newsletter. I finished the first section, on synthesizing ammonium metavanadate.

I need some ammonium metavanadate for a project I'm doing, and the least expensive source I could find was Fisher Scientific, which offered a 100 g bottle for $77. With hazardous shipping charges, the total would have been well over $100. I can buy four ounces of vanadium pentoxide from a pottery supply vendor for about $5. With that and a couple bucks worth of common chemicals, I can synthesize about 100 g of ammonium metavanadate for a total cost under $10. And it's about as pure as the stuff that I'd get from Fisher.

I did a similar synthesis in the October issue for barium compounds, which are quite expensive when purchased from a lab supplies vendor. I started with barium carbonate, which pottery supply vendors sell for a couple bucks a pound. From that, using only inexpensive, readily-available chemicals, I synthesized barium chloride, barium nitrate, and barium hydroxide, all in at least the equivalent of lab-grade purity, and at a total cost of only $4 or $5 per pound.

The availability and cost of chemicals is a major issue for many home scientists, so I plan to continue this series with articles on synthesizing salts of cobalt, nickel, and so on.


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Friday, 5 September 2008
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08:13 - I watched Sarah Palin's acceptance speech on Youtube yesterday, and my first reaction was that the Obama campaign is in serious trouble. Or perhaps I should say more trouble than they were already in.

Sarah Palin is bright, likable, well-spoken, and aggressive. I liked her comment about the difference between a soccer mom and a pit bull. Lipstick. Something tells me she's a pit bull. And the fact that Palin is an attractive woman shouldn't be underestimated. Men, of course, will fall all over themselves to help attractive women, presumably including voting for them. Many women across the demographic spectrum are also likely to favor Palin.

Of course, Palin isn't just a pretty face. Her rock-solid honesty and integrity shown through in the speech, as did her humor and determination. This woman is a natural leader. There's no bullshit about her. You may not agree with her--I don't, on several important issues--but you have no doubt that she says what she means and means what she says. How refreshing in a politician. Almost unique, other than Ron Paul and other libertarians.

And, of course, Palin is the nearest thing to a libertarian who has any realistic hope of winning a national election in the foreseeable future. I can see McCain winning in 2008, and Palin in 2012 and 2016. The nation could do a lot worse. And this could be the beginning of a coalition of libertarians and Goldwater Republicans taking back control of the Republican Party.

I've never watched a presidential debate, let alone a vice-presidential debate. But I may tune in on the vice-presidential debate this time. It'll be fun to watch Palin making mincemeat of the sock-puppet Biden. She'll mop the floor with him.

I expect continuing vicious attacks on Palin and her family from the Democrats. The Obama campaign has maybe two or three weeks to neutralize Palin, after which it will be too late. I don't think they can do it. And if they don't do it, she's going to do more damage to their campaign than any other competing vice presidential candidate in living memory has been able to do. 



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Saturday, 6 September 2008
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Sunday, 7 September 2008
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