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Week of 5 January 2009


Latest Update: Saturday, 10 January 2009 08:35 -0500

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Monday, 5 January 2009
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08:25 - Barbara very seldom uses her cellphone, so it made sense to get her a prepaid cellular phone. She's had it for years. Every 90 days, she'd add $25 to her AT&T Go Phone account, which bought her 100 minutes or so of air time and rolled over any unused air time. At last count, she had something like $350 in unused air time that we just kept rolling over. Until last week, when we were supposed to refresh the account and forgot to do so. Oh, well. It wasn't like she could cash in the unused balance.

Rather than restart her existing account with $25 of air time, I asked her if she'd like to get a new phone and new service. Her current phone is something like 5 years old, so it made sense to do so. After looking at the various offerings, I settled on Boost Mobile, which is the Sprint/Nextel prepaid cellular. The basic deal is $20 plus tax and the usual rip-off "government fees" every 90 days for 200 minutes of air time, debited at $0.10/minute and billed in minute increments. Barbara probably averages 10 minutes of air time per month, so this should work well for her.

They had various phones available, but Barbara wanted the simplest model. She doesn't care about text messaging, Internet access, ring tones, or any of that other stuff, so we went with the basic $30 i425t phone




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Tuesday, 6 January 2009
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07:57 - Heads down work on the forensics book the rest of this week.

I just got an email from Mack Camera saying that my camcorder has been shipped back to me. Finally. We sent it off on 26 November.


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Wednesday, 7 January 2009
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07:57 - Still working heads-down on the forensics book. I should finish the rewrite today on chapters 12 (forensic toxicology) and 13 (gunshot, explosives, and metal residues). After that, I'll get started on chapters 14 (detecting forgeries and fakes) and 15 (forensic biology). Then I'll be shooting images, incorporating tech review comments, and so on, until it's ready to go to production.



15:11 - UPS showed up with my camcorder, back from repair, six weeks to the day that Brian and Barbara sent it off. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm sure it'll be fine. Canon replaced the main circuit board, and says they tested all functions. While the dogs were still grumbling about the recently-departed UPS truck, what should pull up out front but a FedEx truck with Barbara's new cell phone on it. I'm charging it up now.

I just exchanged email with my editor, who says he has lots of chapters from me, but not many of the images. So for the next few days, I'm going to be shooting images to send to him so that the production folks will have more to chew on.


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Thursday, 8 January 2009
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08:24 - Barbara's new cell phone is working, kind of. We still need to figure out all the bells and whistles. When I activated it last night, I asked the guy about turning off text messaging. He said the only option was to go into profiles and set "Receive from contacts only" to true. I did that, but now when I try to call Barbara's phone it goes straight to voicemail. Apparently, that option means not only that text messages are accepted only from the contacts list, but voice calls as well. I'll have to look into it. I really do hate technology.

Today I'm shooting images.



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Friday, 9 January 2009
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Saturday, 10 January 2009
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08:35 - Although I had the best of intentions, I never did get around to posting yesterday. Today, Barbara and I will be shooting lots of images for the forensics book.

Sometimes it takes a lot longer to shoot an image than I thought it would. For example, late yesterday afternoon I was going to shoot a couple of photomicrographs for chapter 14 (Detecting Forged Documents). One of the methods used to discriminate paper samples from each other is to stain them using special dyes and then observe the effect of those dyes on the different types of fibers in the paper samples. I wanted to use two stains, called Herzberg's stain and Jenk's stain.

I thought I had everything I needed to make up both stains, so I headed down to the lab to make a few mL of each. I found I was missing one of the required chemicals for each stain: I was fresh out of zinc chloride for the Herzberg's stain and I never have had any magnesium chloride, which is required for Jenk's stain. Zinc sulfate I have, and zinc nitrate. I think I even have some zinc acetate. But no zinc chloride. I have several pounds of magnesium sulfate (also called Epsom salts) and magnesium nitrate, but no magnesium chloride.

The zinc chloride is easy enough. I can just react some mossy zinc metal with hydrochloric acid to produce it. I'd do the same with magnesium, but I have only a small amount of magnesium metal. So it looks like I'll have to make up magnesium chloride from magnesium sulfate. That means dissolving the magnesium sulfate in water, precipitating magnesium carbonate by adding a solution of sodium carbonate, and then reacting the magnesium carbonate with hydrochloric acid, which yields pure magnesium chloride and carbon dioxide gas. I'll then dry the zinc chloride and magnesium chloride, and finally have what I need to make up both stains, which I need to have in order to take two images for the book. Geez.


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Sunday, 11 January 2009
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