Week of 27 October 2008
Update: Sunday, 2 November 2008 09:37 -0500
One more week until this election crap is over. Even without the news
reports, I'd know that North Carolina is supposedly in play this year.
I've been getting as many as 10 spam phone calls a day from political
candidates, sometimes multiple calls in one day for the same candidate.
The calls for Obama and McCain seem about equally divided.
was an interesting editorial in the paper this morning. It referred to
independents as "socially liberal, fiscally conservative, and strong on
defense." I told Barbara that's not a description of an independent;
it's a description of a libertarian.
I worked on the homechemlab.com subscriber supplement over the weekend.
I finished the December issue and most of the January issue, so I have
a bit of breathing space. This week, it's back to work on the forensics
book. I should finish the lab chapter on blood detection this week and
get a good start on the next lab chapter. I have only two or three lab
chapters remaining after that, so the end is in sight.
Thanks to everyone who identified Barbara's rodent as the common yard rat, rattus yardus, commonly known as the chipmunk. It appears to be a close relative of the fuzzy-tailed tree rat, rattus treeus, commonly known as the squirrel.
I thought the political calls had already hit rock-bottom, but I was
wrong. I just got a recorded call from Andy Griffith. I didn't listen
long enough to find out, but I'm sure it was on behalf of Obama. Who's
next? Dopey, or whatever the kid's name was?
I read an article in the newspaper this morning that says that
BB&T, a local bank that is healthy, wants its share of the bailout
money, about $3.1 billion. As Barbara said, no surprise there. Anyone
who can is going to line up at the trough. We have banks, investment
houses, airlines, and now auto companies all clamoring for their share.
Not to mention wooden arrow companies and a host of other small
businesses. So I've decided to ask for my share. I won't be greedy. I'm
going to apply for a $100 million grant. It's the patriotic thing to do.
was talking to Kim yesterday, when she mentioned that some of the kids
at school had called Jasmine the "black Sarah Palin". I told Kim that
Jas should be pleased, because Sarah Palin is both intellectually
honest and a very attractive woman. Kim said that Jas had indeed taken
it as a compliment.
Here's Jas, age 14, from some months
ago. And she's blossoming as Barbara and I watch, transitioning
from a girl to a young woman.
all fairness, after the nice things I've said about Sarah Palin, I
should probably also point out that there are many important things I
very much dislike about her. I'd planned to write a short essay about
that, but Christopher Hitchens beat me to with his essay, Sarah Palin's War on Science.
Sarah Palin is uneducated, ignorant, irrational, anti-science, and
a fundamentalist Christian, all of which I despise. It's an indication
of just how bad things have become that I'd still choose her first
among the four candidates on the major-party tickets. Why? Because she
is at least honest about her beliefs. One can have no doubt about where
Sarah Palin stands. And she has shown no inclination to force her
personal beliefs on others. Far from it. As governor, she has
repeatedly opposed government actions that are in accord with her own
beliefs. The woman has more respect for the Constitution than any other
major-party politician I know of. In that respect, she is by far
the closest of the candidates to being libertarian.
- Here's a news flash. Obama concedes the election to McCain. FTA:
can't win this election unless every Obama supporter gets out and votes
on November 4th. To do that, we need a massive team of volunteers
helping us. Can you take next Tuesday off from work, join the final
push, and make sure that everyone who supports Barack turns out to
So, dissect that statement logically. If
Obama admits that he "can't win this election unless every Obama
supporter gets out and votes on November 4th", the election is already
lost. To point out the obvious, many Obama supporters are not
registered to vote, and many of those who are registered have already
cast their ballots in early voting. They won't be permitted to vote
again on November 4th. Or perhaps Obama is encouraging them to vote
twice. (Obama is, after all, a Chicago machine politician, and even
dead people vote in Chicago.) And, as we all know, many Obama
supporters who are registered to vote won't bother to vote at all.
Since "every" Obama supporter is required to win the election, Obama
has obviously thrown in the towel.
is always harder than it should be. I'm working on the chapter on
detecting blood right now, and I'd planned to use the
tetramethylbenzidine (TMB) test. It used to be that you could walk into
any drugstore and buy either Hematest tablets or Hemastix test strips,
which are packaged versions of the TMB test. I just called Walgreens
and was surprised to learn that they carry neither of those products.
Nor does CVS, Rite-Aid, or any of the other nearby pharmacies I called.
finally called Andrews Pharmacy, which is on the other side of town,
but is a compounding pharmacy. I figured if anyone had it, they would.
They didn't, and the pharmacist told me why. A few years ago, the
manufacturer boosted prices outrageously. The retail price of a bottle
of 100 Hematest tablets went from something like $10 to $80, and no one
would buy them at that price.
The best price I can find
on-line for Hematest tablets is $65/100. I found Hemastix test strips
at $25/50. I'll probably recommend Hematest tablets for the lab
session, because only a quarter tablet is needed for each test. I'll
arrange for Elemental Scientific to package them in small quantities
for my readers. But for actually doing the labs here, I'll probably use
Hemastix test strips because $25 is better than $65, and I'd end up
with about 98 leftover Hematest tablets for which I'd have no use. Of
course, I'll probably end up with 40 leftover Hemastix test strips, but
I'd rather have $20 worth of leftover test strips than $63 worth of
Wednesday, 29 October 2008
I got email yesterday afternoon from Beth Halford of the American
Chemical Society, who's writing an article about home chemistry for Chemical & Engineering News.
She wanted an image of me working in my home lab. I didn't have one, of
course, because I'm always the one shooting the images in my lab. So
when Barbara arrived home, I greeted her wearing my lab coat, gloves,
and goggles, and holding one of her digital SLRs. Barbara shot several
images of me doing a titration. Here's the low-res version of the one I
sent to Beth.
Before she started shooting images, Barbara pointed out that my hair
wasn't combed. It almost never is, and I saw no reason to change that
just because she was shooting images. Anyway, that's apparently pretty
common among scientists. When we were watching Evolution
recently, Barbara commented that several of the scientists they
interviewed had uncombed hair. "He doesn't comb his hair, either. What
is it about you guys?" I can't speak for them, but I tend to play with
my hair when I'm thinking, so it's usually a mess.
Thursday, 30 October 2008
Barbara had outpatient knee surgery yesterday. Everything went well,
but she'll be at home recovering for the next several days.
had to give Duncan his pills this morning, which involves prying open
his jaws and shoving the pills in. Duncan doesn't like to take pills.
He tolerates Barbara giving them to him, but just barely. Me, no way.
Think of the steely-eyed glare of a cape buffalo combined with the jaws
of a piranha. I could just hear him thinking, "Go ahead, make my day."
I was lucky to end up with the regulation number of fingers left after
I finally forced all of the pills down his throat.
Last night we
re-watched a couple of old PBS Sherlock Holmes episodes, ones that
starred Jeremy Brett. Among them was the Blue Carbuncle, in which
Holmes deduced the characteristics of a man by examining his hat.
Holmes deduced that the man was an intellectual based on the large size
of his hat. Barbara commented that I must be an intellectual, too,
because my hat size is ridiculously large. I wear an XXXXXXXL or
XXXXXXXXL hat. I am not making this up.
There was a real stunner in the morning paper. The Winston-Salem Journal,
which is consistently extremely liberal editorially, endorsed McCain
for president. I was flabbergasted. I couldn't have been more surprised
if the Obama campaign had endorsed McCain.
Sometimes I wonder why Barbara and I pay our bills. The front page of
the morning paper has an article about a new proposal to bail out
people who've run up large balances on their credit cards. They're not
talking about extending the payment period or reducing interest rates,
understand. They're talking about forgiving up to 40% of the balance
due. In other words, they're going to allow these people to keep the
stuff they purchased and have the rest of us pay for up to 40% of it.
And they're sending exactly the wrong message, because the larger the
debt, the larger the percentage of that debt they propose to write off.
all of the news reports about this credit mess, I've heard nothing
about the growing resentment among those of us who live within our
means and pay our bills every month. Why should we be
subsidizing irresponsible people who bought things they couldn't
afford? Some debt will have to be written off, no doubt. But before
that happens, I want to see those irresponsible borrowers suffer. I
want to see them living in cardboard hovels, wearing rags, and
shivering over the coming winter. As things are now, we're rewarding
those who acted irresponsibly, and that has to stop.
should be examined individually. People who've gotten in over their
heads because of a job loss or medical expenses are one thing. Most of
us would deal gently with them. But those people are a relatively small
percentage of the problem borrowers. Most people who are in debt over
their heads got there because they were greedy. They bought houses they
couldn't afford and then borrowed more against their supposed equity to
pay for their unsustainable lifestyles. They ran up their credit card
balances to buy large-screen TVs and similar crap that they couldn't
afford. They borrowed to put BMWs in their garages and they borrowed to
take expensive vacations abroad.
I want to see those people
suffer, along with the banks and other credit institutions who were
foolish enough to lend money to them. But most of all, I'd like to see
the government suffer. Every legislator who supported Fannie and
Freddie and CRA should be shivering in a cardboard hovel as well. Of
course, that's not going to happen. But wouldn't it be nice?
Any school or other non-profit agency that uses Microsoft software should read this article
and think about it, long and hard. Discounted Microsoft licenses are a
lot like that first free hit that dope dealers offer. Once you're
hooked, the price goes up.
I drove over to Walgreen's yesterday to pick up a prescription for
Barbara. While I was there, I stopped by the photo counter to see if
they had any 35mm film cans for me. Alas, they'd had a bunch but thrown
them out just a few days ago. They did give me the half dozen they had,
and promised to save them for me.
Since I passed CVS Pharmacy on
the way home, I stopped by there to see if they had any. The lady at
the counter said they didn't save them, and seemed curious about why
I'd want them. When I explained that I was making up science kits for
neighborhood kids and that film cans made excellent containers for
those kits, she immediately became enthusiastic. She wrote up a label
with my name and number on it and stuck it on a plastic bag that she
went back and taped to the counter in the photo area. She said she'd
specifically mentioned they were for science kits for kids because that
way all the staff would make sure to save them for me. It was nice to
run into someone who was enthusiastic about kids learning science.
Barbara is recovering well. Thanks to everyone who's sent email to ask about her progress.
I just made an abortive attempt to vote. I had to stand in line about
45 minutes just to get to the door of the early-voting place. When I
finally got inside, I could see that they had a line snaking around,
about three or four times the length of the line I'd already made it
through. I would have had to wait another two hours or more before
I could vote, so I just bagged it and came home. Not only did I not
feel like standing in line that long, but I didn't want to leave
Barbara by herself for that long.
I guess I'll just go to the
regular polling place on election day. By then, I expect almost
everyone will already have voted. Actually, I have a hard enough time
convincing myself to vote under normal conditions, let alone when I'll
have to stand in line and wait to vote. I don't believe we should have
any government, so voting for representatives is a cruel joke for me.
particular, it's a cruel joke because I despise literally everyone on
the ballot who has any chance of being elected. The fact that McCain is
just slightly less bad than Obama or that Dole is just slightly less
bad than Hagen isn't much reason to vote for the less bad choice. As
Lysander Spooner commented back in the mid-19th century, “A man is no
less a slave because he is allowed to choose a new master once in a
term of years.” We're ruled by criminals and thugs now, and we'll be
ruled by criminals and thugs after the election, no matter what the
Tom Jefferson thought we needed to have a revolution
every twenty years. We're now more than 200 years overdue. I think it
may be time.
Saturday, 1 November
- Barbara is pretty much recovered from knee surgery, other than a bit of stiffness. She's ready to go back to work tomorrow.
strange. A few nights ago, we were walking the dogs and saw our
next-door neighbor kneeling at the end of his driveway. There was a
pickup truck parked there and another guy kneeling with him. I walked
over to find out what was going on. His water meter had sprung a leak.
The guy in the pickup truck was from the city emergency services
department. They'd pulled the cover and were bailing out the hole to
get to the water meter.
Yesterday, our water meter started
leaking. Jim noticed the water in the gutter and thought his was
leaking again, but tracked it back to our meter. We pulled the lid and
bailed out the hole and found that we indeed had a severe leak. Barbara
went inside and called the city emergency number, and they promised to
get someone out to fix it that afternoon.
I'd been working on an outline/TOC for what I hope will be our next book, Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments.
About 3:00, I decided to walk down to talk to Jasmine about her honors
biology class, intending to spend a few minutes there. As it turned
out, Jas and I sat on the floor and talked until 5:30, mostly just the
two of us with Kim looking in and joining the conversation occasionally.
I left, Kim walked me to the door and asked me to visit and talk to Jas
at length more often. I usually talk with Jas only briefly, because
she's far too polite to cut our conversations short. She'd sit and talk
with me as long as I wanted, but I always assume that a 15-year-old
girl must have higher priorities than talking to me.
has mentioned more than once that she thinks Jas likes to talk to me
because I'm an older guy, and Kim has said the same. When we're walking
the dogs and run into Jas, Barbara chats with Jas briefly and then
leaves the two of us alone to talk. Kim was widowed when Jas was a
baby, so Jas never knew her dad. I often think how proud of her he'd
be. If I had a daughter, I'd want her to be just like Jas.
as far as honors biology, Jas isn't having any problems, nor is she
with honors geometry. I'm a bit concerned because Jas has had only one
short lab session in biology this year, and she says that the
facilities are limited, with multiple students having to share one
microscope and so on. I told Jas again that she's welcome to use my lab
any time she wants to. She's already working independently within the
class structure in biology and geometry, so I hope she'll take me up on
the offer. I was surprised when Jas told me that she'd already done
several dissections in a science class in middle school, but it sounds
as though lab time will be very limited in this honors biology course.
the one class that seems to be giving Jas problems is honors Civics,
which from her description seems to be mostly about memorizing names
and dates. Although Jas wasn't critical of her teachers, it sounds to
me as though they're at best competent rather than inspiring. Jas also
seems to be unimpressed by her honors History class, wondering why all
this stuff that happened so long ago is relevant to her. I quoted
Santayana to her, of course, but the next time Jas and I sit down to
talk I'm going to try to explain to her why history is so much more
than just memorizing a list of names and dates.
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 by Robert