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Week of 2 May 2011


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Monday, 2 May 2011
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08:57 - AFT. After spending nearly 10 years, thousands of American lives, and untold billions of dollars, our forces have finally tracked down and killed the son of a bitch who was responsible for 9/11. I understand he was buried at sea. I just hope he wasn't dead yet when they buried him, and that they took the time to fill the burial bag with pig shit. I also hope they kept the head and will return it to the US and put it on a pike in front of the 9/11 memorial. USA.



I've been making up the last of the solutions for the microchemistry kits, and my organization (or lack thereof) came back to bite me. I'd ordered most of the chemicals from two or three standard sources, but I ended up ordering bromothymol blue from one of the wholesalers I buy labware from. The price was lower there--less than $10 for 5 grams of reagent-grade bromothymol blue sodium salt, versus almost twice that from my other suppliers--so I just added a bottle to one of my labware orders. When the order arrived, I put that bottle aside, putting it somewhere I'd remember it. What I didn't do was put it with the other chemicals.

So, yesterday I was getting ready to make up a couple liters of 0.1% bromothymol blue. You guessed it. I remembered that I'd put that bottle somewhere I couldn't forget it. The problem was, I forgot just where it was that I was supposed to remember, so I ended up spending half an hour looking for it.

Colin is now trustworthy enough that I can leave him upstairs in the puppy-safe areas while I work in the lab for short periods, so I'll get those final four or five solutions made up and packaged today and tomorrow. Fortunately, when Colin has accidents, he now tends to have them in the hall bathroom, which has a ceramic tile floor, so cleanup is fast and easy.

Colin is now officially a bed dog. The last several nights, he's slept up on the bed with us. He usually sleeps through the night, and when he does need to go out he whines to let us know. We're getting him well socialized. He's already met most of the neighborhood children, from toddlers to teenagers, as well as many of the neighborhood dogs. He's experienced bicycles and skateboards and motorcycles and many other things that we want him to get used to. The only thing he's afraid of so far is the baby gates we use to block access to parts of the house that aren't puppy-safe. Those, he's terrified of, after a couple have fallen with a loud clatter, one of them actually on top of him. He won't get near a baby gate, which is a Good Thing.

He spends most of the day asleep in my office at the foot of my chair, interspersed with periods of frantic activity. I suspect those sleep periods are actually growing periods, and the activity periods are when he exercises that new growth. His legs are getting longer, as is his body. He's going to be big for a Border Collie. Probably not as big as Duncan, who was a giant among Border Collies, but well above average.

We'll probably start free-feeding him soon. At the vet a week ago Friday, he weighed 16 pounds. We're feeding him Science Diet puppy food, which recommends three cups a day for a 20 pound puppy. We divide that into one cup at 0700, another around 1300, and a third around 1900. Until recently, he'd usually leave a bit of food in his bowl, but now he's usually eating all of what we give him. I suspect he's over 20 pounds now, although we don't own a scale, so we're going to start giving him a heaping cup at each feeding. The next weight in the Science Diet instructions is 40 pounds, which is supposed to get five cups a day.



13:11 - Here's a horrifying tale. Dear Rapist...

I don't doubt a word this woman says. Her rapist has admitted to what he did, apparently believing that that makes everything all right. I know, from personal experience, that this sort of thing happened when I was in college in the early 70's, and I don't doubt that it occurred in 1984 and indeed continues to occur today.

I don't remember many of the details of my own experience, except that I was a freshman when it happened in 1971. The fraternities were holding pledge parties, and I went to many of them. At one, I don't remember which, someone announced that there was a girl upstairs "pulling a train". I confess that I didn't understand what he meant. When I asked the guy next to me, he said, "That means anybody can fuck her." I was horrified.

I went upstairs and found two or three guys waiting in line at one of the bedroom doors, which was standing open, laughing and drinking beer. Another guy had just finished raping this girl, who was semi-conscious and unable to resist. I don't think we had date-rape drugs back then, or at least I'd never heard of them. She was probably a 17-year-old freshman who'd drunk too much beer, which has much the same effect.

I pushed the guys in line out of the way, none too gently. None of them argued. I guess they sensed that fucking with me at that point would be a very bad idea. Maybe they thought she was my girlfriend. I got the girl dressed as best I could and half-walked/half-carried her, covered in vomit, back to her dorm. Her roommate was there and helped me get her undressed and into the shower. At the time, I didn't stop to think that that was destroying evidence. The girl was by that time nearly hysteric and begging us to help her get cleaned up and not to tell her parents.

So I left it at that, to my eternal shame, simply turning her over to her roommate. What I should have done was called the police and reported a gang rape and then gone back and beat the living shit out of her rapists. I don't remember which fraternity it was, although that was the last fraternity party I attended and I never did join a fraternity. I don't think I ever knew her name, and I don't remember what she looked like, other than that she had long blonde hair. If somehow she reads this, I hope she'll forgive me for not doing what I should have done.

I know that many women of my acquaintance think that I'm annoyingly overprotective. If so, that's one of the reasons why I am the way I am. Most men are decent, but there are many who are not. Too many men look upon women as prey. And, although this happened 40 years ago and that girl is now, like me, 57 years old, I think about Jasmine, who's 17 years old and will be leaving for college in the autumn.


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Tuesday, 3 May 2011
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08:17 - Colin continues to alternate between halo mode and pitchfork mode. Yesterday he slept most of the day, but spent most of the evening being demonic. Still, as puppies go, I'll give him an A. Maybe an A-.

One of the kit solutions I still haven't made up is starch indicator, which is used to test for the presence of iodine. I realized yesterday that, although I had the soluble starch itself, I still hadn't received the thymol I needed as a preservative. (The "h" is silent, as in parsley, sage, rosemary, and thymol.) I could autoclave the tubes after I made them up, but as soon as a kit user opened the tube it would inevitably be contaminated by a starch-loving mold, which would then grow over weeks and months until the contents were useless.

I briefly considered substituting salt as a preservative, making up the starch solution in a saturated solution of sodium chloride rather than water. Nothing grows in a saturated salt solution. But I really didn't want the indicator to be in a concentrated solution of chloride ions, so I emailed the vendor to ask when the backorder would ship. Half an hour later, UPS showed up with the thymol.



15:14 - Okay, granted, John Dvorak's prognostications are pretty much a joke, and have been for at least 20 years. When I need some comic relief, I go read what he has to say. But this time he's outdone himself.  Dvorak actually claims that ebooks will make print publishing more profitable. In reality, of course, the asteroid has already struck and the traditional publishing dinosaurs are about to become extinct. Dvorak's predictions are often ridiculous, but this one takes the cake.


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Wednesday, 4 May 2011
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12:23 - I just finished writing an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for each of the 40+ chemicals that will be included in the chemistry kits. What a waste of time. No one will ever read them, and if they do they'll find the information is so overly cautious that it makes everything sound equally dangerous. I mean, I actually have an MSDS for vegetable oil and another for a 200 ppm salicylate solution. (Think one aspirin tablet in a 2 liter soda bottle.)

I really miss the days when warnings actually meant something. If it were up to me, I'd use warnings like, "Drinking this stuff will make you really sick" or "This stuff will blind you in 10 seconds flat" or "This stuff will eat holes in everything, including you". One of my early chemistry teachers used just such warnings, on an escalating scale. For stuff that was only moderately hazardous, he just assumed we'd use standard precautions in handling it. For nasty stuff, he'd warn us, "Be careful with this stuff", "Be really careful with this stuff", or even "Be really, REALLY careful with this stuff". That gave us some idea of the actual hazard involved. He used that last warning for stuff like concentrated nitric acid. Of course, these were the days when our high school chem lab stock shelves held stuff like pound bottles of potassium cyanide, which anyone was free to use after checking the real hazards. And we not only never lost anyone, I don't remember any accidents more several than minor cuts and burns.


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Thursday, 5 May 2011
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10:26 - I see that two of the five candidates in the Republican debate are strongly libertarian-leaning. More than leaning, actually. Both are pretty pure libertarians. The only real difference is that Ron Paul is personally anti-abortion, while Gary Johnson is strongly pro-choice. On that basis, I'd prefer Johnson, but either of them would be worlds better than the others who are running.

I'm hoping that the Republican Party wakes up and realizes that it doesn't need to cater to the Religious Right. I mean, who else can the Religious Right vote for? Democrats? Both libertarian-leaning Republicans offer the best of both worlds: small-government fiscal conservatism and personal freedom. Which is exactly what we need a large dose of right now.



12:02 - A link on Jerry Coyne's blog reminded me of singer-songwriter Lauro Nyro, someone I hadn't thought about for years. I listened to her when I was in college. She never became a huge name, and was better known from covers by less talented musicians. Here are two of her works, both written and performed before she turned 18 (these tracks were re-released in 1973, but recorded in 1965 or thereabouts). Wedding Bell Blues, popularized by The Fifth Dimension, and And When I Die, popularized by Blood, Sweat, and Tears.

She died young, age 49, of cancer. What a pity.


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Friday, 6 May 2011
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00:00 - Busy buying a new vehicle.



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Saturday, 7 May 2011
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08:31 - Barbara took the day off work yesterday so that we could go look at SUVs to replace her Trooper. We debated whether to buy new or used, and finally decided to look for a recent model crossover SUV with low mileage (kilometerage). Our credit union runs a used-car buying service, so we went down and visited their lot and walked up and down the rows of SUVs. She ended up picking out a 2011 Chevrolet HHR with about 18,000 miles (29,000 kilometers) on it, and driving it home yesterday afternoon. We ended up trading in my white Trooper rather than her blue one, which we'll keep for occasional use as a utility vehicle or in bad weather.

And I see that a leopard in a Kansas zoo learned a lesson that many wild predators already know. People, particularly children, may look helpless and tasty, but it's a mistake to try to eat one. All of its friends show up and beat the crap out of you. That leopard learned its lesson Friday when it snatched a 7-year-old child. Bystanders rushed in and beat the crap out of the leopard. The child will recover. No word on the condition of the leopard.



11:17 - As long as we keep producing kids like this, there's hope.





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Sunday, 8 May 2011
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10:45 - Colin is now fast, which means we don't dare let him get away from us outside. He's so fast that when he brings me a ball to throw down the hall, he's waiting at the end of the hall literally before I can throw the ball. I'd forgotten just how all-consuming a puppy is. All-consuming in terms of not just time and attention, but of anything gnawable or eatable. His favorite snack right now appears to be clumps of dirt from the yard. This, too, shall pass. Outside, we hope.

We're well into series two of Numb3rs, and the plots seem to be increasingly far-fetched. I'm not enough of a mathematician to follow everything going on, but most of what I can follow seems at least reasonable, if often a bit of stretch, particularly when they get away from pure mathematics and into the sciences. Still, it's good to see a popular television series in which mathematicians and scientists are the protagonists. And Colin is watching TV now. He seems particularly interested in the formulae.


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