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Week of 3 August 2009


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Monday, 3 August 2009
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08:25 - The Make: Science Room launch is now two weeks away, with lots of things still to be done. I finished migrating the chemistry articles to HTML yesterday. There are 60+ of them, which still need to be reformatted for the MAKE site. Fortunately, someone else is doing that for me. Today, I'm starting on the forensics articles, of which there are another 50 or so. I hope to get the initial translation to HTML done for those this week, although that's really pushing it. In addition to translating the articles, I need to extract the lists of required equipment and materials and get those specified for bids so that we'll have the necessary items available in Maker Shed. And I still need to script and shoot some videos. Not to mention editing them. I'm going to be covered up for the next two weeks, so there won't be a lot here.



11:50 - Apparently, not even fundamentalist Christians really believe the bible is literally true. Here's an Australian TV crew in Texas, calling their bluff. It's hilarious.





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Tuesday, 4 August 2009
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08:55 - I'm making good progress on the forensics lab sessions, but I'm not sure if we'll have them up for the Science Room launch. The problem isn't the lab sessions themselves. It's that some of them require special reagents and/or equipment that we haven't ordered for Maker Shed yet.

Some of them aren't a problem. For example, Marquis Reagent (a presumptive drug testing reagent) is simply a small amount of formaldehyde in concentrated sulfuric acid, both of which are already Science Room items. But many of the forensics special reagents require unusual chemicals that I'm not sure we'll ever stock. Instead, we'll stock the reagents themselves in pre-made form. Of course, that's not always an option, because some of the reagents must be made up fresh, so for those we'll have to stock the individual chemicals needed to make up the reagents. But before we can stock any of this stuff, I have to decide what we need to stock, write up directions for making the pre-made reagents, put everything out for bid, and so on. That means it'll be at least a couple of months before we'll be able to have some of this stuff in stock. And it also requires a lot of my time.

My to-do list is now regularly growing by two items for each item I mark complete.


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Wednesday, 5 August 2009
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08:42 - We finished watching series 2 of Californication last night. Barbara's verdict is that the series is excellent, "better than Weeds". Her opinion changed dramatically. When I talked her into watching the first series, she almost gave up on it literally about five minutes into the first episode, thinking it was about nothing but foul language and naked women. Fortunately, I convinced her to stay with it.

I've rated hundreds of discs and series on Netflix, and given very few of them five stars. Weeds got four stars from me, as did Poirot and many other series that are very highly regarded. I've awarded five stars to maybe half a dozen of the series we've watched, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and Veronica Mars. Californication is one of that select group.

As a writer, I appreciate tight writing, and writing doesn't get any tighter than that on Californication. The dialogue is done stunningly well. Anyone who's ever written dialog understands the usual conventions for dialog in a book or movie, and how dramatically written dialog differs from dialog in real life. In real life, people talk over each other, interrupt themselves, repeat themselves, trail off without completing what they were saying, hesitate, introduce multiple "ums" and so on.

It's obviously impossible to craft realistic dialog in that respect in a book, but it's nearly as difficult to do it for a movie. And yet, these writers manage to do that, and to carry if off believably, thanks in no small part to the actors' ability to deliver their lines convincingly in the midst of one or more other actors also delivering their lines convincingly. As a result, the viewer feels as though he's present in the middle of the scene rather than watching it on a screen.

On most TV series, if a couple has an argument, I think, "Oh, that couple is having an argument." On Californication, when a couple has an argument, I'm embarrassed for them, and wish I could be somewhere other than in the room with them.

The writers also do a superb job of presenting deeply flawed characters sympathetically. As Barbara said near the end of the final episode last night, "You know, these are all really good guys. They just can't keep their dicks in their pants." Any writer who can make Barbara feel sympathy and admiration for adulterers and philanderers has done his job, in spades.



14:26 - I've just been reading the blog of the evil SOB who shot up the LA Fitness Center in Pittsburgh yesterday. (The blog has now been taken down.) Here's the relevant paragraph from his last blog entry, made on 3 August:

Maybe soon, I will see God and Jesus. At least that is what I was told. Eternal life does NOT depend on works. If it did, we will all be in hell. Christ paid for EVERY sin, so how can I or you be judged BY GOD for a sin when the penalty was ALREADY paid. People judge but that does not matter. I was reading the Bible and The Integrity of God beginning yesterday, because soon I will see them.

One of the most frequent and most ridiculous claims made by fundamentalist Christians is that we atheists have no moral compass. That without god we're free to run riot--raping, pillaging, and murdering--because we have no morality to constrain us. That argument is ridiculous on its face. I know a lot of atheists, and in general they're a lot more likely to behave well than are fundie Christians. You won't find atheists burning witches, bombing clinics, chaining homosexuals to their car bumpers and dragging them to death, or shooting down doctors attending church just because they perform abortions.

But the problem goes much deeper, and it's perfectly illustrated by the final ravings of this murderous Christian nutter. Christians--the True Believers--are the ones who have no moral compass. They've punted that responsibility to their invisible man in the sky. This man had no moral constraints on his actions, because his god has already forgiven him for anything he might do, including murdering women. There is nothing more dangerous than a True Believer-- a man who's completely certain he's right. And, while his god may forgive him for slaughtering these innocent victims, I sure don't.


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Thursday, 6 August 2009
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Friday, 7 August 2009
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09:58 - Ten days until the launch of the Make: Science Room.

Barbara mentioned this morning that I'm always stressed out and crabby as deadlines approach, but this really isn't a deadline. It's a milestone, because it's just one step, albeit a significant one, in an ongoing process. Nothing really stops or changes on the 17th. On the 18th, I'll still be doing what I was doing on the 16th--working on articles, scripting and shooting videos, putting together worksheets for items we need to order, and so on.

I suppose at some point the Science Room will be "complete" in the sense that we'll have all of the sciences that we want to cover covered, all of the articles that we want to write written, all of the items that we want to stock stocked, and so on. But even then we won't be sitting back and resting on our laurels. We'll be exploring new ways to popularize hands-on science. That means there'll be new articles to write, new videos to shoot, and new items to stock, so it's really a never-ending process.

The launch is just a snapshot moment in that process, a point where we decide that we've done enough to throw things open to the public and see where things go from there. The team agreed unanimously that we didn't want to go off half-cocked. The last thing we want is to make a big to-do about the Science Room and have lots of people visit it once and think "Is that all there is?" So we wanted to make sure there was plenty of stuff there to hold people's interest. And there will be.

We should have about 100 substantive articles available at launch, most of them focusing on chemistry, forensics, and general lab procedures and how-to's. The Maker Shed should be ready to roll, with maybe 175 chemicals in inventory and a reasonably full line of laboratory equipment, from glassware and consumables to balances, microscopes, calorimeters, and other lab instruments. The only lack at this point is videos, and I intend to spend all of next week getting some initial videos shot and edited.

Obviously, I won't have time to post much here until after the 17th.


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Saturday, 8 August 2009
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Sunday, 9 August 2009
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