Wednesday, 17 August 2011

08:37 – The results of the Merkel-Sarkozy summit are in, and they’re exactly what I predicted. Nothing whatsoever. Merkel and Sarkozy issued a statement expressing their joint determination to do whatever it takes to defend the Euro, as long as it doesn’t involve them spending any money. No Eurobonds, no expansion of the pathetically small bailout fund, nothing. Business as usual, in other words.

Oh, come to think of it, they did propose that all 17 Eurozone nations be required to amend their constitutions to include a balanced budget amendment and cede their national sovereignty to Germany, which would in turn agree to make the trains run on time. And, in a sop to hard-pressed European banks, all of which are bankrupt by any normal definition of that word, they also proposed a Tobin tax on financial transactions, which would merely drive economic activity out of the Eurozone. Fortunately, actually implementing anything they proposed will take years, by which time the Euro will be only a distant memory. In effect, Angie and Nick sat around discussing which hors d’oeuvres to serve at their next dinner party while their house burned down around them.


I spend some time yesterday looking into prepared slides to include in the kit for the biology book. There are two alternative, neither of them good. First, I can buy prepared slides sourced from China or India. Some of these are actually quite good, and they can be priced at only a couple bucks each on average. The problem is figuring out exactly what they are. I can’t buy slides from the companies in China and India that actually make the slides. I have to buy from US distributors, who have no clue what the slides actually are. If I’m lucky, they’ll specify the genus and species of the specimen or the type of section. If I’m very lucky, they’ll specify the genus and species of the specimen and the type of section. If I’m extremely lucky, they’ll specify both of those and the type of staining.

And it’s nearly impossible to ensure that a sample slide I look at will be representative of the actual slide when I order it in bulk. For example, yesterday I asked a distributor rep if I ordered a slide set from them if it would have the exact same slides that I could order from them individually in bulk. She said yes, but then added, “But sometimes they’re dyed different colors.” Arrrghhh.

The alternative would be to order slides from the one US company that still produces them. Those slides are absolutely gorgeous. I’ve seen examples. And, rather than the two or three word description common with Chinese and Indian prepared slides, their descriptions often run a paragraph, giving details about the exact species, histology and sectioning method used, and staining protocol. The problem is, those slides sell for $6 or $7 to $25 each. A set of 25 slides could easily run $250 or $300. That’s far, far outside the budget of most home schoolers, who see apparently similar sets advertised for $50 or $60.

Unless I can find a reliable source of inexpensive prepared slides, I suspect that what I’m going to end up doing is ordering inexpensive prepared slides in bulk and then checking each individual slide before adding it to a set. For example, if I’m putting together 100 sets of 25 slides, one of which is Amoeba proteus, I’ll order 100 Amoeba proteus slides and run each of them through my microscope to verify that it’s usable. I can probably verify 100 slides per hour, which means that 100 sets of 25 slides will require 25 hours of my time just to verify the slides.

Actually, it may not be that bad. I used the A. proteus example because I once saw a Chinese prepared slide that was allegedly A. proteus but had no amoeba under the coverslip. For most specimens, that won’t be a problem. I can simply view one slide and if it’s acceptable the others will also be acceptable. But for “feature” slides, such as a slide showing specifically a particular stage of meiosis, I’d need to check each slide.