Home > Daynotes Home > Week of 15 June 2009

Photograph of Robert Bruce Thompson
Daynotes Journal

Week of 15 June 2009


Latest Update: Friday, 19 June 2009 08:34 -0500

Paying for this Place
Visit Barbara's Journal Page

Monday, 15 June 2009
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

10:35 - I've been very busy for the last couple of months. As a result posts here have been somewhat sporadic and often short. A lot of people have emailed me to ask what's going on, and I figured it was about time to explain.

Since April, I've been working on building out the Maker Shed science section. Right now, it's mainly kits, and most of those are for kids. We're about to begin ramping things up, with the goal of eventually making the Maker Shed science section a one-stop source for DIY science enthusiasts, home school science, and so on. We'll grow from the current couple of dozen SKUs to scores of SKUs to hundreds of SKUs to (eventually) probably a couple of thousand SKUs. We'll carry a lot of kits--not just toys, but kits for serious science--as well as a slew of individual items--chemicals, glassware, microscopes, etc. etc. All of those products will be tied to freely-available online content, written by me, and eventually perhaps by other writers. We'll also be doing lots of related videos.

So, I have been and will continue to be extremely busy. I'm writing bid specs on a bunch of individual items and kits, reorganizing the web site and shopping cart stuff, writing the associated documentation, writing, doing, and shooting videos, and so on. You'll start to see some changes on the MAKE blog and in Maker Shed before long.


[top]

Tuesday, 16 June 2009
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

17:30 - Yesterday, I sent a request for bid on 150+ chemicals, indicators, and microscope staining solution out to bidders. Today, I've about gone cross-eyed from studying wholesale catalogs, price lists, and spec sheets all day long, in the course of starting to put together a massive spreadsheet with items, quantities, and prices on a bunch of glassware, plastic ware, lab hardware, and so on.

One of things I was concerned about is order quantities for initial stocking up of the Maker Shed science room. I can make some educated guesses, of course, but we'll have no real idea which items are popular and which will just sit in inventory for weeks or months until we actually start to sell the stuff. So, on the one hand, I don't want to order a bunch of stuff that won't sell quickly, but, on the other hand, I want to have more than a one-day supply in stock to start with. There's also the issue of quantity price breaks.

Fortunately, the wholesalers generally make it pretty easy to strike a happy medium. For example, they may offer a decent price on a carton of 24 Erlenmeyer flasks. They may offer the same flask in a case of 192, and eventually we may order in that kind of volume. But the price per flask in a case of 192 is generally only a few cents less than the price per flask in a carton of 24, so there's no major downside to ordering just one or two cartons of 24 rather than a case quantity.

One thing that's been impressed upon me is the stark difference in cost/pricing of US-made versus Chinese-made items. For example, a pound of US-made rubber stoppers may have a retail price of $45, while a pound of nearly identical Chinese-made rubber stoppers may have a retail price of $15. The quality of the US-made stoppers may be marginally better, but not enough better to justify paying three times as much.

The same is true of glassware, where name-brand (Pyrex, Kimax) US-made stuff may cost two or three times as much as Chinese- or Indian-made Bomex or Borosil brands. And those off-shore brands are often associated with well-known US brand names. For example, the Indian Borosil glass is made in a factory that was designed, built, and operated in association with Dow-Corning (Pyrex). The same is true of Bomex, which is associated with Kimble Glass (Kimax).

I confess that if I were going to use glassware under strenuous conditions (dry distillations, operating under pressure or vacuum, etc.), I'd feel more secure with the name-brand US stuff. (Of course, under those conditions I'd use a blast shield no matter what.) But for routine use, the off-shore brands are perfectly usable and a lot cheaper. So that's what I've been concentrating on.


[top]

Wednesday, 17 June 2009
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

00:00 -



[top]

Thursday, 18 June 2009
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

08:37 - I saw a strange headline in the paper this morning. Apparently, the FDA is investigating complaints that the homeopathic cold "remedy" Zicam has caused at least 130 people to lose their sense of smell. My first thought was that this was bogus. Homeopathic "remedies" are extremely dilute solutions of various drugs. And when I say "extremely dilute", I mean so dilute that in many cases the probability is less than 0.5 that even one molecule of the drug in question will be present in the dose. (Homeopaths believe, with no scientific evidence, that these extreme dilutions somehow modify the properties of the water itself.) So, if there's no scientific basis for believing that these homeopathic solutions could possibly have any beneficial effect, the converse is also true. At such high dilutions, they couldn't be any more damaging than pure water.

As it turns out, however, those extreme dilutions apply only to the so-called active ingredients. These homeopathic remedies may also include much higher concentrations of other compounds. In the case of Zicam, it apparently is 2% with regard to zinc gluconate. I don't know anything about the toxicity (or lack thereof) of zinc gluconate, but it's certainly not outside the realm of possibility that spraying a 2% solution of some compound up your nose could damage your sense of smell.

The FDA is charged with making sure that ethical and OTC drugs are safe and effective. But apparently there's a gigantic loophole for drugs sold as "homeopathic", which are not subject to FDA jurisdiction. It's bad enough that homeopathic drug companies can sell what amounts to pure water at high prices and claim health benefits for it without having any scientific evidence to verify those claims. It's much worse that they can sell potentially dangerous treatments to unsuspecting consumers without any FDA oversight.

I actually have a nasal sprayer of a homeopathic "drug" around here somewhere. IIRC, it's supposedly for treating allergies. Barbara bought it for me at Walgreens or CVS, not realizing what it was. When I looked at the label, it took me a moment to realize that what she'd bought was essentially a bottle of pure water. I was angered at being defrauded, but I'd already opened the package, so instead of returning it to the drugstore I just tossed it in my desk drawer.

At least this Zicam problem may have a beneficial effect, if it encourages Congress to make homeopathic drugs subject to FDA jurisdiction. This is a $200 million/year industry that shouldn't exist. Perhaps Congress and the FDA can put these people out of business.


[top]

Friday, 19 June 2009
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

08:34 - Moron alert. When someone posts a review of one of our books on the O'Reilly web site, it automatically generates an email to me to inform me that a new review has been posted. I got this this morning:

Subject: I WOULD LIKE A REFUND!!!!!!!!PLEASE!!!!!!!!
Author: peno

Full text:
I DID'NT LIKE THIS BOOK AT ALL.... I BOUGHT THIS BOOK AT BARNES AND NOBLE BOOKSTORE AND THOUGHT THE INFORMATION LISTED WOULD WALK ME THROUGH OR AT LEAST SHOW ME IN STEPS HOW TO REPAIR AND UPGRADE MY PC. THIS BOOK JUST GIVES YOU NAMES OF GOOD PRODUCTS/MANUFACTURES AND WHEN YOU SHOULD DO WHAT. BUT YOU NEVER TELL "HOW" TO DO SOMETHING!! I AM A DIS SATISFIED CUSTOMER AND WOULD LOVE A REFUND.  DON'T BE MAD JUST ACKNOWLEDGE AND SATISFY A WASN'T FOR ME CUSTOMER.  I SHOULD COME ABOARD THE WRITING TEAM. AT LEAST ON THE HANDS ON AND HOW TO FORMULAS...LOL!

23

I haven't looked at the book recently, but I'm pretty sure we covered the stuff he claims we failed to cover. And, if he bought the book at B&N, why wouldn't he take it back there for a refund? As to his request to become a co-author, I don't think his writing is quite up to O'Reilly standards.


[top]

Saturday, 20 June 2009
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

00:00 -



[top]

Sunday, 21 June 2009
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

00:00 -



[top]

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All Rights Reserved.