Tuesday, 10 July 2012

08:10 – I see that the mayor of Scranton, Pennsylvania has cut the pay of all city employees, including himself, to minimum wage. Predictably, the howls of outrage, particularly from the public employee unions, are loud and continuous.

A basic principle of economics is that if qualified people are lining up to apply for jobs with you, you’re paying too much. And there’s no doubt that many of the government jobs in Scranton are overpaid, as are most jobs with most government organizations. I shudder to think, for example, what Winston-Salem pays garbage collectors, a job that’s minimum wage by definition. These people aren’t even required to be able to read.

A minimum-wage job pays roughly $15,000 per year. It seems to me that government at all levels should have three tiers. At least 50% of government employees–garbage collectors, clerks, and so on–should be making minimum wage to 2X minimum wage, with the average for those 50% no higher than 1.5X minimum wage. The second tier, 45% of government employees, should be in the 2X to 3X minimum wage–call it $30,000 to $45,000 per year, with the average for that group no higher than 2.5X minimum wage. That group includes police, firefighters, teachers, and so on, along with most federal employees. The final 5% should be at 3X to 4X minimum wage–$45,000 to $60,000 per year, with the average for that group no higher than 3.5X minimum wage. That group includes management.

11:35 – If you’ve ever wondered what I went through shooting videos for my TheHomeScientist channel on YouTube, here’s a true-to-life example. It’s the uncut version of what was to become a 21 second promo for Heartland. Graham Wardle (Ty) and Amber Marshall (Amy) star in the promo. Amber is a consummate pro. Graham is kind of like me, except he doesn’t make (quite) as many mistakes or need (quite) as many reshoots.

12:58 – Speaking of shooting videos for my YouTube channel, it’s about time I started doing some new ones. I posted the most recent one two years ago next month, and between writing books, starting the business, and doing kits, I just haven’t had time to shoot and edit any new ones. Amazingly, I still have something like 8,000 or 9,000 subscribers.

My current camcorder is an SD unit that records to mini-DV tapes. There was some discussion in the comments recently about an HD Canon model that records to flash memory and has an audio input. I suppose I should order one of those. There seems little point to recording SD video when a decent HD camera for my purposes sells for $300.

I suppose I should start my first new video by shouting “Stop! Don’t pay the ransom! I’ve escaped!” Or something like that. I’ve been MIA for two years now, and some of my subscribers are likely to be surprised at my return. I suppose I’ll just tell them what I’ve been doing all that time, as well as announcing the biology book and the forensics book, along with their kits. Then I have some good ideas for follow-up videos about some really neat stuff. Some of it’s trivial, but obscure. For example, a lot of home scientists occasionally need some 30% hydrogen peroxide. You can order it from a lab supplies vendor, but it’s fairly expensive and in anything but the smallest amounts requires paying a hazardous shipping surcharge. But there’s a trivially easy method that requires no special equipment to concentrate drugstore 3% hydrogen peroxide to 30% or higher. I think I paid something like $1.59 for a quart (almost a liter) of 3% hydrogen peroxide at Costco. That’ll yield about 100 mL of 30% peroxide.

Sometimes the USPS rates make no sense whatsoever. We normally ship kits in a USPS Priority Mail Regional Rate Box B. I just processed an order for two chemistry kits from a woman in California, which is Zone 8. Those two boxes would have cost $15.46 each to ship in the RR Box B, but substituting a Priority Mail Large Flat Rate box cuts the cost to $14.65 each. The FR box is larger than the RR box and its weight limit is 70 pounds, versus 20 pounds for the RR box. So why is the FR box $0.81 cheaper to ship to Zone 8? I just slide each pre-packed RR box into a FR box and thereby saved myself $1.62.