Week of 30 August 2010
Update: Sunday, 5 September 2010 10:36 -0400
I have a lot on the schedule this week, including incorporating The
Home Scientist LLC, applying for tax-exempt and other ID numbers, and
placing some initial orders with wholesalers for lab equipment. We had
our friend Pat Rowe over for pizza Friday evening, and one of the
suggestions she made was that we make Barbara 51% owner of the
corporate stock. That way, if we ever want to apply for an SBA loan
we'll be able to do so as a woman/minority-owned business.
I'm building a prototype kit now. It's an iterative process. Write up
and do a lab session, add any necessary additional components to the
kit, write up another lab session, discover that I could make one item
do double duty in this and an earlier lab session, remove item that is
now not needed for earlier lab session and rewrite that lab session.
Rinse and repeat. The ideal is to make each item useful for many lab
sessions, to minimize the total number of items needed and thereby the
reduce the cost to kit buyers. I'm sure I won't make that goal. There
will be quite a few items that are used in only one lab. Still, where
making one item serve for two or more labs is practical without harming
the usefulness of the lab, I'll do that.
Once I've completely
prototyped the kit and checked and re-checked it, I'll make up the
first batch of two or three dozen kits and start selling them. The one
aspect that I'll have to learn from experience is how seasonal kit
sales will be. I suspect there'll be a huge bump just before the start
of the autumn semester and a smaller bump before the start of the
winter/spring semester, with only a trickle of sales the rest of the
year. Obviously, I want to minimize working capital requirements, which
means I'll probably do some sort of pre-order arrangement for those
peak times. Which also means that wholesale vendor lead times could
kill me, so I'll need to develop a second, third, and
fourth source for each kit component.
- Someone asked for my take on the recent
court ruling forbidding NIH from funding further stem cell research.
summarizes things pretty well. Stem cell reasearch holds massive
promise, not just to treat currently untreatable conditions, but to
provide actual cures. Turn our scientists loose, and it's likely that
we'll see some incredible breakthroughs in medicine. Not immediately,
but sooner than anyone might reasonably expect. Eventually, stem cell
research may well lead to things that are currently in the realm of
science fiction, such as growing replacement organs. But none of this
will happen if research funding is cut off, as it is now.
take is that the judge had no real alternative to ruling as he did. The
law is wrong, terribly wrong, but the judge was obligated to rule
according to the law. Congress needs to repeal this utterly stupid,
irrational, destructive law, which is supported almost exclusively by
fundamentalist religious nutters who believe excess embryos from
fertility clinics are actually human babies. These people have the
right to hold whatever irrational beliefs they choose, but they don't
have the right to enforce their irrationality on the rest of us.
Wednesday, 1 September 2010
- We've watched the first three seasons of Everwood,
and series 4 isn't out on DVD yet. As I mentioned, the writing is
merely very good rather than excellent. The plots are frequently
contrived, and many of the characterizations are unrealistic, to say
the least. As I've said to Barbara, no teenage boy in the history of
the entire planet has even come close to the characterizations of the
teenage boys on this program. They're idealized versions of what
teenage girls wish teenage boys were. In reality, a teenage boy has all
the sensitivity of a panzer division, and is equally single-minded in
pursuing his goal.
Interestingly, this is the first series I
ever remember enjoying while utterly despising the lead character.
Every time Dr. Andrew Brown appears in a scene, I want to punch his
face. His character is a superb neurosurgeon, but a poor excuse for a
human being. Fortunately, the series is chock-full of adorable girls
and women, which makes it watchable for me. It's a shame the series was
canceled through incompetence at the time WB merged with UPN. According
canceled in favor of a new show, Runaway, which Dawn Ostroff then
canceled after only three episodes had been shown, and for a new season
of 7th Heaven, which had just had its series finale. Ostroff ignored
the fact that the one-time spike to seven million viewers for the
series finale of 7th Heaven had been because it was the final episode,
and thus passed on Everwood with its average of four million viewers
(which would have put it in the top 5 CW ratings for the following
In fact, incompetence seems to be the rule with network programmers. Just look at what they've done to Joss Whedon's shows. Firefly,
as just one example, should have run for years. Instead, Fox ran just
11 episodes of the 14 that were made, and they ran them out of order at
that. Many of the great, long-running series of the past would never
get off the ground today. The concept of allowing a program to find its
audience seems to have disappeared.
Cancel bad shows after a
short run, sure. If the critics pan it, it's probably best killed off,
and quickly, even if the initial ratings are reasonably good. Those
ratings will plummet once people realize how bad the program is. Or
maybe they won't, nowadays. There's a lot of complete and utter trash
that's high in the ratings.
But if the critics love a program
and that program hasn't yet found an audience, give it a chance. Run it
for at least a full season of 22 to 26 episodes, if not for two or
three seasons. None of this 13-episode order crap. Commit to it. Don't
move it around the schedule constantly or stick it in a death slot.
Good programming deserves a real chance to succeed. Of course, the
network dweebs are too busy looking at short-term financials to realize
they're discarding a goose that may turn out to lay golden eggs. Thirty
years ago, even twenty, at least some network programmers understood
And, please, release each season on DVD before the next season begins airing.
Thursday, 2 September 2010
I'm so busy that I'm hard pressed to come up with much to write about
here. I'm not paying much attention to the news, nor to other web
sites, even the ones I usually visit regularly. All day long, I write
or work in the lab. In the evenings, we read or watch videos. That
doesn't leave me with much to write about.
As it turns out, I'm
not filing paperwork to incorporate this week. A couple of weeks ago,
North Carolina approved a new form of LLC called an L3C.
To my layman's eye, this looks to be a better match for what I want to
do than a standard LLC would be, but before I file paperwork to
incorporate as an L3C I want to talk to someone who knows more about it
than I do.
A couple of times over the last few years I've thought about buying a
Roku box for Netflix streaming. I never did it, because I'd look at our
Netflix queue and see that almost none of the things we watch were
available for streaming. The other day, I was looking at our queue and
noticed that maybe a third of the titles were available for streaming.
So I thought again about ordering a Roku box. So I started reading
reviews and articles about Roku and doing other research.
the things I learned is that Roku was founded by the same guy who
founded Replay TV, an early competitor of TiVo, and that he named the
company Roku because it was the sixth company he'd founded and Roku was
Japanese for six. I just started to laugh.
You know how people
make fun of the Japanese for having trouble with L's and R's? Well,
back about 35 years ago I knew a Japanese girl. Well, a girl of
Japanese ancestry. She was born in this country, and I suspect her
parents and grandparents were as well. At any rate, in addition to
speaking unaccented American English, she spoke fluent Japanese, and
she taught me some useful phrases. One of the first things she taught
me was to count to ten in Japanese. What she taught me, spelled
phonetically, was: ee'-chee, nee, sawn, she, go, loe'-ku, see'-chee,
hotch'-ee, koo, joo. So now you know. "Roku" is actually pronounced
Saturday, 4 September 2010
We're taking it easy over the holiday weekend. Barbara's Trooper is
having some work done on it, including replacing the timing belt, water
pump, and power steering hose. Incredibly, just that hose costs $197. I
told Barbara the next vehicle we buy will be a Model T. She objected to
having to turn a crank to start it, so I told her maybe we'd go for a
Model A with an electric starter. Alternatively, we know a guy with a
fully restored 1951 Packard who's willing to trade it for Malcolm.
spent an hour or so on the phone Friday with the USPS, talking about
hazardous materials shipping. I'd called their general 800 number, and
they referred me to a local number. Coincidentally, their expert on
hazardous materials shipping, Beth Carty, works out of the Greensboro,
NC center. The rules for shipping small quantities of hazardous
materials are incredibly complicated, with different rules for
individual chemicals, concentrations, weights or volumes, supplemental
packaging, and so on. I have to get it all correct, because the last
thing in the world I want is the postal inspectors coming after me.
the conversation, Beth mentioned that they'd need an MSDS (Material
Safety Data Sheet) for each hazardous material I planned to include in
the kits. I'd intended to produce an MSDS for each chemical, but not
until later. Now I have to get that done sooner so that I can get
formal approval for the kits. The problem is, I'm not entirely sure
which chemicals I'll be including in the kits, and I won't be until I
finish writing up and running the lab sessions. So, in addition to
doing MSDSs for the 15 or 20 chemicals I'm pretty sure I'll be using,
I'll also do MSDSs for a dozen or more I'm not sure about. Oh, well.
all MSDSs, mine will ridiculously alarmist. For example, I'll probably
include 30 mL of 1 molar acetic acid, which is technically a hazardous
material. It's considered a corrosive. Remember that the next time you
have oil and vinegar dressing on your salad, because that vinegar is
actually about 0.8 molar acetic acid. I'll also be including some
granular silicon dioxide, another hazardous material for which the MSDS
is pretty horrifying. If silicon dioxide comes into contact with your
skin, for example, you're supposed to flush it with water for several
minutes. Silicon dioxide may be toxic to the lungs and upper
respiratory tract, and repeated or prolonged exposure may produce
target organs damage. Silicon dioxide is ordinary sand. I'm also
including a 30 mL bottle of distilled water, another hazardous material
with a pretty horrifying MSDS. Ironically, if you allow distilled water
to contact your skin, you're supposed to flush it for several minutes
with, wait for it, water. I am not making this up.
Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention. During our conversation, Beth mentioned
that an on-line retailer had contacted her to make sure that the Thames & Kosmos C3000 chemistry kit
could be mailed. As it turned out, it can't, because it includes zinc
powder and sulfur powder, both of which are prohibited, with no waivers
for ORM-D or small quantity exemptions. Those kits are simply not legal
to ship by USPS. Since UPS and FedEx hazardous materials shipping rules
are also based on DOT requirements and are very similar to USPS
rules, it's very likely that all of those on-line resellers who ship
the C3000 by whatever means are breaking the law.
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