Week of 17 August 2009
Update: Saturday, 22 August 2009 11:33 -0400
One week until the Make: Science Room launch. I'll be spending this
week shooting and editing videos, proof-reading articles, and
configuring half a dozen new kits and writing descriptions for them.
is doing much better. Yesterday afternoon, it finally hit me that he
probably had another urinary tract infection, probably a reinfection
rather than a relapse of the earlier infection. So I started him on 250
mg of amoxicillin BID, the same antibiotic I used last time, figuring
that if that didn't knock down the infection within 24 hours I'd switch
him over to a cephalexin or some other antibiotic, pending culturing
his urine to determine antibiotic sensitivity.
Within a few
hours, he had perked up substantially and peed in a stream rather than
leaking drops for the first time in a week. I could kick myself for not
thinking earlier about him having another UTI. This morning, he's
pretty much back to his old self. Barbara was shocked when he got up
from his bed and tottered down the hall to go out this morning. That's
the first time in a week that I haven't had to carry him outside.
think he's getting these UTIs by contact, because he's not very mobile
and it's difficult to keep his crotch area clean. Barbara uses baby
wipes, but Duncan won't let me do even that. He thrashes when I try to
use a baby wipe on him, so I told Barbara that from now on when I go
out to bring him in I'm going to push him over on his side and pour the
remaining contents of his water bowl over his crotch area. That's not
perfect, certainly, but it may at least help keep him a little cleaner
and avoid diaper rash. He really doesn't like it when I do that, but
he'll get used to it.
Duncan seems to be doing better, so we're very relieved. The
amoxicillin knocked down the presumed UTI. He's peeing normally again,
and seems to have a lot more energy.
I finished spec'ing out and
writing item descriptions for five new science kits yesterday: the
Microscope Starter Kit (MICKA), the Microscope Basic Staining Kit
(MICKB), and the Microscope Advanced Staining Kit (MICKC), the
Laboratory Hardware Kit (LABK1), and the Laboratory Volumetric
Glassware Kit (LABK2). With the existing Basic Laboratory Equipment Kit
(LABK0), Lead Testing Kit (CHEKA), and Forensic Fingerprinting Kit
(FORKD), that gives us a reasonable assortment of kits for the Make:
Science Room launch next Monday. This week, I'm going to try to get a
couple of more kits spec'd out, a basic chemicals kit and
a supplementary chemicals kit. That and shoot/edit some videos.
Oh, yeah. Here's something I thought about while I was working on the
Forensic Biology chapter of the forensics book. DNA evidence, until now
considered the gold standard in forensics, can no longer be
trusted. DNA evidence can now be fabricated.
What's worse, it can be fabricated without access to actual original
DNA, using simply a DNA profile. What's even worse is that fabricating
DNA evidence is within the abilities of even a bright high school
The good news, without getting into details that would
be of use only to the bad guys, is that there are techniques to detect
such fabrications. In essence, the fabricated DNA will match on only
one level, but not on others. Unfortunately, establishing that an
apparent match is an actual match will increase the cost and complexity
of forensic DNA analysis. In effect, the current methods of DNA
analysis become only presumptive tests, which must be followed by more
in-depth analysis to confirm any presumptive matches.
I sometimes send email to which I don't expect a reply. For example,
when I emailed Bush to say, "You moron, you're attacking the wrong
country." I didn't expect to hear back from him. But today I was
surprised. It started when I read this ad,
placed by Bill Donohoe of the lunatic fringe Catholic League, and
demanding that Penn & Teller's Bullshit! series be canceled. The ad
gave the name and email address of Matthew Blank, the CEO and Chairman
of Showtime, so I sent him the following:
From: Robert Bruce Thompson
Sent: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 2:36 PM
To: Matthew Blank
Subject: Penn & Teller on the Catholic church
ignore the ravings of the Catholic League and that nutter Bill Donohoe,
and keep Penn & Teller just as it is. In fact, give them a raise.
ongoing debunking of superstition and irrationality is not only an
invaluable service to humanity but is great television.
Robert Bruce Thompson
my surprise when I got a personal reply 12 minutes later. I figured the
guy would be flooded with email and have no time to respond. Even if
the reply was actually from a PA rather than Mr. Blank himself, it
establishes that my email was at least read, and that's all that really
Wednesday, 19 August 2009
- Yesterday, the random shuffle brought up the Rolling Stones' cover of Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone. The metadata told me that track was from the 1995 album Twisted.
I found myself wondering which album that track first appeared on, so I
looked at the Rolling Stones discography on Wikipedia. Twisted
was the only album that listed that track. That seemed strange. I could
have sworn that I remember hearing the Stones doing that track in the
1970's, if not the 1960's. When Barbara got home, I played the first
minute or so of the track, and then asked her when she'd first heard
the Stones doing that track. She also thought it had been in the 60's,
but perhaps the 70's.
I didn't spend a lot of time searching, but I didn't turn up any Stones cover of Like a Rolling Stone
before twisted. So, I'm wondering if Barbara and I are both
misrembering, or if that track was indeed on an earlier album or
perhaps a single. Or I may have heard it live, but at this point the
60's are a blur to me.
have some minor writing and editing to finish up today, and then it's
heads-down video shooting and editing from now through next week.
I'm still cranking away on scripting/shooting/editing videos, which is
more time-consuming than I'd like. When I mentioned how slowly things
were going during a conference call the other day with the Maker Shed
staff, one of the guys who does a lot of videos said, "Welcome to
my world." He said he'd set out to do a ten-minute video, and after 20
hours of work he'd finally have what he wanted. I'm beating that
ratio by a bit, but then his videos are a lot better than mine will be.
I relocated my video stage from the kitchen table to a table in the
downstairs finished area. It wasn't fair to Barbara to keep using the
kitchen table, especially since I'll be shoot videos indefinitely. In
the process, I made a couple changes to the physical setup to make
things easier for me. I'm learning a lot of little tricks that help
speed things along, and I'm trying different ways of doing things to
see how they work out. Eventually, my goal is to get the whole process
almost automated. Ideally, I'd like to be able to shoot and edit a
ten-minute video in no more than a couple of hours. That's really an
optimistic goal, but I think it's doable.
We've decided to delay the Make: Science Room launch again. Originally,
we planned to launch on 17 August, knowing that that was very
aggressive. Last week, we rescheduled to 24 August, and yesterday we
decided we'd better hold off a bit longer. But the good news is that,
with few exceptions, the lab equipment SKUs are either in stock or on
the way, and the chemical SKUs finally started to ship to us this week.
currently have nearly 10,000 bottles of chemicals on order, covering
about 170 SKUs, not to mention tens of thousands of lab equipment
items--everything from $0.40 test tubes to $200
hotplate/stirrers--covering about another 170 SKUs. It's not just
a matter of wanting to start with everything in stock just so that we
can say it's in stock. We have quite a few bundles/kits that
incorporate many of those individual SKUs. For example, we have a
microscope starter kit that includes glycerol for temporary mounts and
Permount for permanent mounts. If either of those are not in stock, we
can't build the microscope starter kits.
We had a conference call yesterday that ran over two hours, mostly
talking about holiday plans for Maker Shed. Retail buyers always go
slightly insane trying to guess what items to buy for holiday sales,
and how many of each. They know that if they buy 1,000 units, they
may sell only 100 units and end up with 900 left over, or they
may get 10,000 orders and leave money on the table because they
can't restock quickly enough to deliver those orders before Christmas.
For the Science Room, it's even worse, because we have zero history to
guide us. Accordingly, I'm going to be very conservative in my buying
recommendations. The last thing I want to end up with on 26
December is a five-year supply of leftover widgets.
warning. If you see something you want in the Science Room Christmas
promotional flyers or ads, order it immediately if you want to make
sure we don't run out of stock before you get yours.
finished shooting the lead-testing video yesterday, and got started on
shooting the first of six videos on forensic fingerprinting. I also got
the start/finish breakpoints determined for the lead-testing footage.
That's very time-consuming, because I have to watch the raw video in
real time, not just once, but over and over. Here's an example of the
breakpoint list for the middle portion of that video, not including the
standard leader and trailer and intro and concluding segments that I
Segment 01: Leader
Segment 02: Introduction
Segment 03: Mixing reagents : 00:43 to 01:50 (runtime 1:07)
Segment 04: Serial dilution : 03:40 to 05:17 (runtime 1:37)
Segment 05: Spot testing : 08:25 to 10:37 (runtime 2:12)
Segment 06: Paint test : 13:15 to 14:20 (runtime 1:05)
Segment 07: Confirmatory tests : 17:52 to 19:13 (runtime 1:21)
Segment 08: Conclusion
Segment 09: Trailer
already know I'm in trouble, because the whole video has to run 10:00
or less to meet Youtube requirements, and just those middle segments
total 7:22. I can probably get back 0:30 or so by editing the middle
segments more tightly, but I may end up either having to drop segment 3
entirely or reshoot segments 2 and 8 to cut them way down. And at this
point I don't yet have run times for the canned segments 1 and 9, so
I'm kind of working blind.
- The sheer genius of some of my readers never ceases to surprise me.
Over on the homesciencelab.com messageboard, user Salsbury asked:
kind of gizmo/device/method do people use to connect up a condenser
feed tube to a faucet? Is there a specific name or piece of equipment I
should be looking for?
To which user GoatRider responded:
use a submersible water fountain pump in the sink, fill the sink, and
reuse the water. I keep a thermometer in the sink to know when to
change it out.
I got my pump from the water garden section of Home Depot.
To which I responded:
is a fantastic idea. I was going to suggest an aspirator from a
plumbing supply store, which also gives you suction for vacuum
filtering, but your idea is better, particularly for the many people
whose lab benches aren't close to a source of running water. They could
simply use a 5-gallon pail from Lowes or Home Depot. And if you toss a
bunch of ice cubes into the sink or bucket, that gives you water
flowing through the condenser that's considerably colder than tap
water, and thereby minimizes gas escaping uncondensed.
So I went over to the Home Depot site, and found a one-gallon (3.79 L) per minute submersible pump
for $18. That flow rate is just about perfect for running cooling water
through a condenser without blowing the tubing off the nipples.
Furthermore, the 1 G/m rate is at a lift of 1 foot, and you can reduce
the flow rate if necessary simply by increasing the lift.
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