Wednesday, 10 August 2011

08:38 – As it turned out, all the discussion about security of digital camera images was moot. When Barbara got home yesterday, she told me that she’d removed our memory card from our DSLR and was using a memory card that belongs to her law firm.

The first 28 chemical blocks are complete, with the exception of 0.1 M IKI (iodine/potassium iodide) solution, which I’m in the process of making up. I actually have iodine and potassium iodide in inventory, so I could make up the solution directly from the two chemicals. But I’m preserving my stock of iodine crystals by working from purchased Lugol’s iodine, which is an aqueous solution of 2.2% iodine and 4% potassium iodide. To get a solution that’s 0.1 M with respect to both iodine and potassium iodide, I have to add a small amount of iodine to the Lugol’s solution and then dilute it. The problem is, it takes the iodine forever to go into solution. So I have a volumetric flask partially full of Lugol’s iodine solution to which I’ve added some iodine crystals. Every time I think about it, I give the flask a swirl. After several days, the iodine will eventually go into solution.

This is all because about three years ago the DEA reclassified iodine as a List I chemical, supposedly to combat illegal manufacture of methamphetamine. All they’ve really done is make things more difficult for people who need iodine for legal purposes. It used to be you could order iodine from any lab supplies vendor. For that matter, you could walk into the outfitter store at the mall and buy a bottle of iodine crystals. Now, anyone who wants to sell iodine has to jump through legal hoops to do so. There are all kinds of requirements, including keeping detailed paperwork on sales. And, if it turns out that the iodine you sell has been diverted to illegal use, you can be held responsible. Finally, the necessary license to sell iodine costs something like $2,500 per year, which means that most companies that used to sell iodine now find it uneconomic to do so.

The “trigger level” for iodine sales is now one bottle containing no more than one fluid ounce of a solution that contains no more than 2.2% iodine. If you go into Walgreens, you’ll find they still sell bottles of iodine solution of that size and concentration, which they can sell without restriction, as long as they sell only one per customer per transaction. But when I order one liter of 2.2% Lugol’s solution from one of my vendors, they have to record the transaction details and provide them to the federal government. In theory, the feds could show up at my door and ask me to provide details about the disposition of that liter of Lugol’s solution. In practice, that’s very unlikely to happen, but even so.


The Euro drama continues, with France increasingly under the gun. Right now, France is desperately worried that it will lose its AAA bond rating. As well it should. If US bonds are no longer rated AAA, no other major country’s bonds should be rated AAA. Rating the bonds of France, the UK, and Germany AAA while the US rating is lower is simply ridiculous. The US is much, much less likely to default on its bonds than any of those other countries, whose economies are in much worse shape than ours. The markets themselves have shown how ridiculous S&P’s rating reduction for US debt is. Since S&P reduced the US bond rating, risk-averse investors have greatly increased their purchases of–you guessed it–US bonds. Yields on US bonds have continued to fall, indicating that the markets think US debt is the safest there is. The demand for dollars is so high that US banks literally don’t want any more dollars from foreigners, because the banks have to pay to insure those deposits. Large US banks have started charging foreigners who want to make deposits. That’s right. Negative interest.