Sunday, 27 July 2014

14:20 - Barbara and I did a Costco run this morning, mainly to return the dehumidifier and pick up a few items we needed. I’m now pretty comfortable with our emergency food inventory levels, but I take every chance to add a bit more. Today I added 24 cans of Bush’s baked beans, a dozen cans of corn, eight cans of peas, and six bottles of spaghetti sauce. When we got home, I ordered another dehumidifier (different brand) from the Costco web site.

Posted in personal | 9 Comments

Saturday, 26 July 2014

08:03 - We have ten kits to ship today, which is the first time in a couple of months that we’ve shipped double figures in one day. Kit sales are still running well behind last July’s numbers, but at least we’re now within striking distance of matching last July. With five days left in the month and the start of the autumn semester fast approaching, it might well happen. Our all-time record so far is shipping 34 kits in one day. I’m sure we’ll eventually beat that. Eventually, I’d like to see that become a routine day.

Posted in science kits | 28 Comments

Friday, 25 July 2014

09:35 - Our order from All American Clothing arrived the other day: one pair of jeans and a pocket t-shirt for me and two casual shirts for Barbara. I haven’t tried on the jeans, but I’m wearing the t-shirt now. They didn’t have tall sizes with pocket, so I ordered a regular XL. It’s a bit shorter than I prefer but it’s nicely made with good material. And, despite being made in the US, at $11 it’s cheaper than the equivalent foreign-made shirts from Lands’ End or Bean.

Barbara tried on the two shirts and said they were much too small. I suspect they’re actually the nominal size, but few companies nowadays size clothing honestly, particularly women’s clothing. I remember when this started, 25 or 30 years ago. What had always been a women’s size 10, for example, suddenly became a size 8. This size deflation has continued over the years, to the point where I’d guess what is properly a women’s size 10 is now called a size 6, if not a 4.

Apparently this size deflation has started to happen in men’s clothing as well. After I mentioned ordering jeans from All American Clothing, someone commented that he’d continue ordering $15 jeans from Costco. Until then, I hadn’t realized that Costco even sold jeans. So I visited the Costco site and looked at their Kirkland jeans. Several reviewers commented that they ran huge. One measured the waist of a nominal 32″ pair and found it was actually 35″. The pair I ordered from AAC has a 38″ waist, which I suspect will be an honest 38″. (My chest is 48″, and the nominal XL 46″ to 48″ t-shirt I’m wearing fits comfortably but without much extra chest room.) I guess that means if I order a pair of Kirkland jeans they’d better be in a 36″ waist, if not 34″.

Posted in personal | 16 Comments

Thursday, 24 July 2014

09:27 - This is the time of year when we start getting bulk orders for individual chemicals. I’m processing one at the moment for 100 bottles of 0.1% bromothymol blue. A more typical order of this sort might be for 30 bottles each of six or eight different chemicals, whatever particular teachers need for doing labs for their classes.

Posted in science kits | 14 Comments

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

09:33 - The new walk is finished, and Barbara is delighted with it. It looked like it would rain all yesterday afternoon and evening, but all we got was a couple of minutes of very light sprinkle several hours after they poured the walk, enough to dampen the street slightly but not to wet things under the trees.

With the two conflicting court decisions yesterday, it looks like ObamaCare is headed back to SCOTUS. Given that SCOTUS has ruled several times recently against Obama’s attempts to legislate, things look pretty dim for ObamaCare subsidies in the 36 states that don’t operate their own health care exchanges. I saw a moronic AP article in the paper this morning that said health care premiums on the federal exchange would increase by 76%. What they really meant to say–at least if they understood basic arithmetic–is that premiums on the federal exchange will more than quadruple. The average policy holder on the federal exchange is paying 24% of the cost of the policy out-of-pocket, with the subsidy paying the remaining 76%. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. SCOTUS has no sympathy for Obama’s attempts to usurp the right of Congress to legislate. There’s no chance that Obama can push his changes through Congress right now, and things will only get harder for him after the elections. I think Obama’s best option at this point would be to assassinate the four or five more conservative justices and appoint progressives in their places.

Posted in news, personal | 58 Comments

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

10:08 - The crew just finished pouring and leveling the concrete walk. We may get some rain today, but it looks like it’ll hold off long enough not to damage the new concrete. If necessary, they’ll cover it with plastic sheeting before they leave. They said they avoid doing that whenever possible because it can cause the surface to dry unevenly, affecting the color/texture in patches.

I’m building chemistry kits today, and getting started on another batch of biology kits.

Posted in personal, science kits | 61 Comments

Monday, 21 July 2014

07:54 - We had a crew out Friday to rip out the sidewalk from the street to our house. They’re supposed to pour concrete today, but they may not be able to. It looks like rain.

Barbara and I binge-watched all ten episodes of Hell on Wheels series three over the weekend. I thought it was a lot better than series two. I particularly liked one of the new characters, an atheist lesbian newspaper reporter. The actress who portrays her, Jennifer Ferrin, is a hometown girl. Well, she was actually born in Lawrenceville, Georgia, but she graduated from North Carolina School of the Arts, so I count her as a hometown girl.

Kit sales are very slow. 2014Q1 revenues were about 175% of 2013Q1 and 2014Q2 about 145% of 2013Q2. As of today, our MTD revenues just matched those for July 2011. If this pace holds up for the last ten days of this month, we’ll do only half the revenue for July 2014 that we did last July. Oh, well. Things are always up and down, and we could easily end up getting a bulk order or two that take us well above last July’s numbers.

10:33 - I think I forgot to mention that while our walk was being ripped out Friday I noticed an AT&T survey crew checking phone poles. I walked out to talk to them to verify what I suspected, which turns out to be true. They’re surveying for installing fiber-to-the-home, which means that before long we’ll have gigabit broadband available. If gigabit isn’t outrageously priced, we’ll sign up for it, but I suspect we’ll end up with something closer to 50 or 100 megabit. Still, that’ll be a nice improvement on the 15 megabit we currently get from TWC, particularly if the AT&T service is symmetrical or at least something close. Currently, we get nominally 15 megabit down, but only 1 megabit up.

Posted in personal, science kits | 28 Comments

Sunday, 20 July 2014

09:51 - Every Saturday I do the laundry, and every time I’m annoyed as I read the labels on our clothing. Not the vendors’ names. They’re mostly L. L. Bean, Lands’ End, Carhartt, Hanes, Champion, and so on, what used to be good brands. No, it’s the countries of origin that annoy me.

When Barbara and I married in 1983, nearly all our clothing and bedding was made in the US. There were a few items from Canada or England, with an occasional item from Denmark, Sweden, Australia, or some other first-world country. Now, other than a few old pieces of clothing, nearly all of it is from third-world countries. Yesterday, I noticed labels from Mexico, Honduras, Malaysia, Peru, China, India, Turkey, and Jordan. My Hanes underpants were made in Vietnam! Not all that long ago, those underpants would have been made in a plant in Winston-Salem.

Sourcing this stuff from third-world countries is bad enough. The textile industry used to employ tens of thousands of workers in North Carolina, almost none of whom still have jobs in textiles. Same goes for the furniture industry, which has also nearly been wiped out by so-called free trade. But the other bad thing is that product quality is a pale shadow of what it once was. Materials are thinner, stitching is shoddy, and quality control is next to non-existent. I have a new package of Hanes underpants. Twenty years ago, these wouldn’t have been good enough to qualify as factory seconds to be sold in the outlet store. Now, they’re considered firsts.

Just out of curiosity, I visited the LL Bean website and searched for items made in the US. There were only a handful on offer, mostly small accessories. The thousands of other SKUs they carry are all imported. Not a single one of LL Bean’s jeans is made in the US. So I checked the Lands’ End website. Again, the overwhelming majority of their stuff is imported. Lands’ End does at least carry a few lines of jeans that are US made. Their imported jeans sell for around $50, with the US-made ones around $75. Apparently, US-made carries a 50% premium, at least at Lands’ End.

So I visited the All American Clothing website, and found that they sell their US-made jeans for about the same price that Lands’ End and LL Bean sell their imported stuff. I know where my next pair of jeans is coming from.

Posted in personal | 48 Comments

Saturday, 19 July 2014

08:55 - Colin let us sleep in this morning. When we woke up, Barbara asked me what time it was. “Eight o’clock,” I told her.

My mind can be a very strange place to live. For some reason, a fully fleshed-out scenario flashed through my mind, a meeting where a bunch of marketing droids were sitting around discussing what to name their coffee.

MD1: “How about Eight O’Clock?”
MD2: “Nah, that’s too late. Most people have their first cup by 7:00.”
MD3: “I always have mine around 6:45.”
MD2: “That’s way too long a name. We need something shorter.”
MD4: “I usually don’t have mine until I get to work at 10:00.”
MD5: “How about Early Morning Blend?”
MD4: “I think Dunhill trademarked that for tobacco.”
MD6: “I usually have tea in the morning.”
MD1/2/3/4/5: “We don’t sell tea, you moron.”

Posted in personal | 24 Comments

Friday, 18 July 2014

08:08 - Barbara is leaving work at 2:00 this afternoon to head for the golf course. It’s been a very long time since she played golf. I was surprised she decided to play a round instead of spending a couple hours on the driving range first, but she wants to actually play. When she was in high school and college, Barbara was a scratch golfer and actually thought about turning pro, so I’m sure she’ll be unhappy with whatever she shoots today. Kind of like I’d be unhappy with the results if I picked up a tennis racket and headed for the courts after not playing for almost 40 years.

I’m seeing calls for Obama to Do Something about the airliner shoot-down in the Ukraine. Do what, precisely? It seems to me that the US government needs to adopt a new motto: “Don’t Just Do Something. Stand There.” The default position of the US government on world events needs to be: “This is not our problem.”

People slaughtering each other in Africa, Asia, or the Middle East? This is not our problem. Russia invading Ukraine? This is not our problem. North Korea threatening South Korea? This is not our problem. Tsunamis in East Asia? This is not our problem. Almost none of what happens on the world stage is our problem, and US taxpayers shouldn’t be expected to pay to fix any of it. And US troops certainly shouldn’t be deployed outside the US to deal with issues that are not our problem.

Posted in Barbara, news | 29 Comments