Week of -2 January 2009
Update: Saturday, 3 January 2009 08:45 -0500
I'm starting the New Year a bit early because the calendar stubbornly
refused to cooperate with my site structure. I proposed an easy fix for the problem eight years ago, but no one listened.
the New Year comes various computer housekeeping duties, making a new
archive set and so on. While I was doing that, I decided to see how
much television Barbara and I watch. Nearly all of our viewing is of
DVDs, with perhaps a few minutes a day of checking the local news
channel for the weather and so on. Barbara sometimes watches a golf
match or a NASCAR race on weekends. But the bulk of our viewing is
Since I joined Netflix in July 2005, we've watched a grand
total of 698 DVDs, most from Netflix but many borrowed from friends or
the library. So, assuming each DVD has 2 hours of content (which is a
pretty reasonable assumption for the kind of DVDs we view; many have
less), that means we've watched 1,396 hours of video in about 41
months, about 34 hours a month or about 1:07 per day. Add in
incidental viewing time, and we're probably in the 1:15/day to 1:30/day
range. Obviously that's a small fraction of the average, but it may
decline even further.
The problem is that we're running out of
things to watch. We're mining older stuff now. For example, we just
finished watching 26 episodes of The Pallisers,
from 1974 (at an average of 108 minutes/disc). It was excellent, by the way, and probably would be a lot
better known were it not for the fact that it ran concurrently with Upstairs, Downstairs
and had only about a third the number of episodes. But there just
aren't that many top-notch older productions remaining that we haven't
seen. Fortunately, some stuff worth watching is still being made. Once
they're available, for example, we'll rent series two of Californication, series four and five of Weeds, series two of The Tudors, series 137 of Poirot, and so on. But they're not making good stuff fast enough to sustain us at 1:07/day.
Paul and Mary have recommended Bones.
Barbara wanted to watch that, primarily because she likes David
Boreanaz, but after watching the first ten minutes of the first episode
I concluded that the series was so inferior to the books, all of which
I've read, that it would be painful to watch. And the books themselves
are not absolutely top-drawer, come to that. But perhaps I'll
reconsider. I don't mind watching some stuff that Barbara likes better
than I do, although I draw the line at any more Brideshead Revisited.
We watched all 18,000 episodes of the 1981 version, although it seemed
like more to me. Barbara wanted me to rent the new Emma Thompson
version. Now, I would watch Emma Thompson reading the phone book, but I
have to draw the line here. I'll rent it if Barbara really wants it,
but I'll arrange to be elsewhere when she watches it.
Barbara and I met Paul and Mary at the gym yesterday afternoon at 4:00.
Mary was leading a Body Pump class, for which she's trying to become
certified as an instructor. To do that, she needs a video of her
teaching a class. So we shot that video, using an analog camcorder I
borrowed from Kim, because mine is still in the shop. Once the session
ended, we headed back to their house, hooked up the camcorder to a VCR,
started the VHS tape recording, and headed off to dinner. When we
returned, we checked the VHS tape to make sure it had recorded, and
started another one recording so that Mary would have a backup copy.
One of the requirements was that the class had to be completed within
one hour. Mary's tape ran 59:59:58. So she'll ship it off to the Body
Pump people today so they can process her certification.
a chemist for the Dow Chemical Company, so of course at dinner the
conversation revolved around the recent Dow announcements. Dow laid off
5,000 people three weeks ago, and late yesterday afternoon the collapse
of the planned $17.4 billion joint venture between Dow and the Kuwaiti
government was announced. That in turn means that Dow may not be able
to complete their planned takeover of Rohm & Haas, so everything is
really up in the air.
Wednesday, 0 January 2009
- I'll be doing my usual year-end stuff today. In particular, it's time
to burn a new archive set of DVDs, which means I'll first have to
archive mail, clean up my data directories, and so on.
watched the first disc of series 1 of Battlestar Galactica. It was
okay, good enough that we'll try another disc. Paul Jones told me that
the network executives had a choice between making this series, which
was as yet unproven, and continuing to produce Firefly, which was
already in production but very expensive to make. I do wish they'd
decided not to do this series and made more Firefly episodes instead.
returned Kim's camcorder yesterday, and we talked briefly about Jasmine
and school. We're both concerned about the NCLB
teaching-to-the-test problem and the damage it's done to the
curriculum. Kim said Jas seldom gets to bed before 1:00 a.m. on school
nights, and that much of her homework time is spent doing, as Kim
described them, "bullshit projects". Kim almost never uses such
language, so I know she's quite worried.
Kim said she was going
to talk to Jas again about homeschooling. Jas was the one who
originally brought that idea up a couple of years ago, but eventually
they both decided not to do it. The social issue and peer interaction
was part of it, I think, but Kim said at this point that's not a
deal-breaker. I think from Kim's point of view it's pretty intimidating
to take responsibility for educating Jas across the whole range of
subjects, and from Jas's point of view it's intimidating to do
independent study without full-time teachers available to help.
thing about Jas, though, is that she's a worker and self-motivated. If
Jas does home school, it won't be a matter of Kim having to sit across
the kitchen table from Jas eight hours a day. She could simply work
with Jas to determine what needed to be done and turn Jas loose to do
it. Science and math are pretty intimidating to a lot of home school
parents, but of course I'm here to backstop both of those. And Jas
would have access to my lab (and to me) for hands-on intro and AP-level
biology, chemistry, and physics work.
Jas has five semesters
left before she starts college, so time is growing short. I hope that
Kim and Jas decide to home school. It's probably too late to start
this coming semester, but I hope they'll make the break starting this
summer. And they both know that I'll do everything I can to help,
whatever they decide.
- Happy New Year!
Here are my New Year's Resolutions for 2009:
1. Continue smoking
2. Avoid exercise
3. Avoid losing weight
4. Eat more fatty foods
5. Ridicule irrationality and Political Correctness at every opportunity
6. Encourage kids to develop an interest in science
7. Speak my mind on political and social issues
8. Write a couple books
9. Read a couple hundred books
10. Have fun.
A year from now, I'll tell you how I did.
Looking back at my resolutions for 2008, I think I did pretty well. I expect to have similar success in the coming year.
- Barbara is off to work this morning for a short work week. It feels more like a Monday than a Friday.
got my data directories cleaned up and archived yesterday. I decided
not to do a new DVD archive set, instead just adding an incremental
disc to the existing set from two years ago. All of my stuff is backed
up and archived on five hard drives, two of them external, so I'm
not concerned about losing any data.
I'm still cranking
away on the forensics book. As is usual at this stage, it's The Book
That Will Not Die. I'll get through it, as always, but I'm in the stage
where every time I get one thing done, two more pop up. I did get a bit
of lab cleanup done yesterday, although it's still a mess.
dishwasher was almost ready to run but had some space left on the top
rack, so I decided to try washing lab glassware in it. (The glassware
was already clean in the sense that I'd done a preliminary swish and
rinse and there was nothing on it that might contaminate the
dishwasher.) There are a dozen or so beakers and Erlenmeyer flasks in
there now. We'll see how it did.
Every morning, Barbara gives the dogs their pills. Duncan refuses to
take his, spitting them out even when Barbara wraps them in sliced ham.
Malcolm gobbles his up, and waits for Duncan to spit one out so that he
can grab it and eat it. Finally, Barbara shoves Duncan's pills down his
throat and then gives me my 81 mg aspirin tablet. Every morning, I
complain that I don't get any ham.
So, yesterday, Barbara
brought me my little aspirin wrapped in ham. I ate the ham and spit the
aspirin out. Barbara was not amused. Everyone else thinks I'm funny.
is deep-cleaning the den today while I work on the forensics book. I'm
trying to get image placeholders planned for the images that Barbara
will appear in so that I can get those images shot this weekend while
she's home. I also need to get the February HomeChemLab.com supplement
written, since I sent out the January supplement on Thursday and have
nothing left in the pipeline. Here's the lineup for February.
first article is written, although I haven't actually done the
synthesis yet. The second is in progress and the third not yet started.
- Making Your Own Chemicals, Part VIII (potassium cyanate)
- Laboratory 24.2: Separate Amino Acids in Casein with Paper Chromatography
- Laboratory 24.3: Reproducing Wöhler's Landmark Synthesis of Urea
usual, I'm a bit hampered in what I can do because I have to limit
myself to using equipment that readers will have. In the 24.2 lab, for
example, I have to lyse the casein to split it into its constituent
amino acids. I'd like to do that by refluxing the casein in
hydrochloric acid for 30 minutes or so, but most of my readers don't
have the condenser needed to do a reflux. So, rather than actually
refluxing the mixture, I'm going to have them simmer the
hydrochloric acid and casein mixture in an Erlenmeyer flask that's
stoppered loosely with a cotton ball and partially immersed in a hot
water bath. It'll work, I'm sure, but it's a lot less efficient than
actually refluxing the mixture. Still, making do is a good part of the
fun of home chemistry.
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