Saturday, 10 November 2012

08:41 – Barbara’s dad was released from the hospital late yesterday afternoon. He’s at home and seems to be doing fine. And he’s using his new walker.

As usual for a Saturday, I’m doing laundry. Barbara is getting ready to head outside and do some yard work. This afternoon, we’ll work on kit stuff. The seasonal slow-down in kit sales makes it tempting to ease off a bit, but with Christmas and the start of the winter semester just around the corner kit sales are likely to pick up again late this month and into December so we need to build some inventory.

We also need to make time for a Costco run in the next couple or three weeks. We don’t actually need that much for current consumption, but I want to stock up on food. With food prices increasing every month, it just makes sense to buy now instead of waiting for prices to increase.

11:47 – This is interesting. Netflix has started throttling me again. That hasn’t happened for several years. All of that time, a disc I returned one day would be received by Netflix the following day (other than Sundays) and they’d send my next disc that same day. Since we changed to the one-disc-at-a-time plan, we’ve reliably gotten two discs a week, every week. A disc arrives on Monday, we send it back Tuesday, Netflix logs it as received and sends out the new disc Wednesday, we receive the disc Thursday, send it back Friday, Netflix receives it Saturday and ships us a new disc, which arrives Monday. Lather, rinse, and repeat. But for the last two discs, Netflix has delayed acknowledging receipt for an extra day, turning the normal three-day cycle into a four-day cycle. I wonder what’s going on.

Friday, 9 November 2012

09:46 – Barbara’s dad is supposed to be released from the hospital this afternoon. He’s adamant that he won’t use a walker, despite the fact that everyone from his wife and daughters to the doctors, nurses, and physical therapists are telling him that he needs to. I told Barbara the solution is simple: just put the walker beside him and take away his cane. She says this latest fall really scared him, but apparently not enough. I’m afraid the next fall might kill him. And if he continues to use that cane, there will be another fall, probably sooner rather than later.

My search to find a way to prevent iodine solutions from outgassing continues. The problem is that iodine vapor really, REALLY wants to be free. The bottles aren’t leaking, but they are allowing tiny amounts of iodine vapor to escape. I’ve tried different bottles and caps. I’ve tried various types of tape, including stretched vinyl electrical tape and even Teflon tape. I’ve tried several different types of LocTite. Most of them kind of work, most of the time. But if we make up 30 or 60 bottles of iodine solution and stick them in a ziplock bag, at least one of them is almost certain to allow some iodine vapor to escape, which stains all of the labels dark brown. It’s only a cosmetic problem, but I’d like to solve it.

So I ordered a pint (473 mL) of Elmer’s original rubber cement, which is essentially pure latex rubber dissolved in n-heptane. Yesterday, I filled a 30 mL bottle with the IKI solution, brushed the bottle threads with a cotton swap dipped in the rubber cement, and screwed on the cap. So far, it appears to be working, at least for that bottle. I guess I’ll make up 30 or 60 bottles of the IKI solution with the rubber cement seal and see what happens. The bottle is LDPE and the cap is HDPE with a PP liner, none of which are severely affected by short-term exposure to n-heptane. But I do want to make sure that the solvent doesn’t weld the cap to the bottle. I should probably have gotten Obama to do this for me. Bastard.

11:31 – Nothing is ever easy. Barbara gives Colin a heartworm preventative called Interceptor. Heartworm is a horrible disease, and Colin gets a pill every month, 12 months a year. She gave him the last pill on the first of this month and asked me to order more. The problem is, Novartis has had some severe problems at the factory, starting last January, and Interceptor is no longer available and may not be available for several months.

There are alternatives, of course, but none of them are good. Except for one thing, the best alternative would be HeartGard Plus, which costs around $72 for a 12-month supply. That one thing is a showstopper, though. The active ingredient in HeartGard is ivermectin, which can kill some Border Collies as well as some other herding breeds. The problem is a mutation in the MDR1 gene. We don’t know if Colin has that mutation and, if so, whether it’s heterozygous or homozygous.

The other alternatives are much more expensive, twice to three times as much as the HeartGard. But that’s the least of the problem. The real issue is that their active ingredients are also avermectin-class drugs, albeit not ivermectin. And the multidrug sensitivity caused by the MDR1 mutation includes all of the avermectins. Fortunately, there’s a genetic test available from Washington State University. I just requested the test kit. All we have to do is get scrapings of Colin’s squamous epithelial cheek cells, send them back to WSU, and pay them $70. They’ll tell us if Colin has the MDR1 mutation and, if so, whether it’s heterozygous or homozygous.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

07:52 – It wasn’t as minor as we’d hoped. Barbara’s dad had a bad fall yesterday afternoon about 1400. No one notified Barbara for almost an hour. She and her mom and sister spent the next eight hours or so at the emergency room, before they finally admitted her dad at least for overnight. Barbara finally got home at midnight. Her dad is okay for now. They ruled out a stroke or TIA. At this point, they think a cardiac arrhythmia caused her dad to lose consciousness momentarily and fall. The hospital was actually ready to release her dad last night, but Barbara told them she wasn’t comfortable taking him home in his current state. He was still having trouble breathing and showing signs of CHF. So they’re keeping an eye on him for a while until they’re sure it’s safe for him to go home.

10:38 – I no longer have a cell phone. When I called Barbara on her cell phone yesterday, I thought I’d better check the balance on her Boost Mobile prepaid cell phone. So I went over to the Boost Mobile web site and logged in. Sure enough, she was down to something like $8. Then I noticed something strange on her account page. The call I’d just made to her had been charged at $0.75. That was really strange, considering that Boost Mobile bills in one-minute increments and Barbara has a flat $0.10/minute rate. So how could a call cost $0.75? As it turns out, it was a three-minute call, but Boost Mobile increased their prices as of yesterday from $0.10/minute to $0.25/minute. Geez.

So I decided just to give Barbara my PlatinumTel prepaid phone, which costs only $0.05/minute and just order another one for myself. The trouble was, they had only four phone models on offer, and none of them were clamshells. I carry a cell phone in my pants pocket, which means I really need a clamshell model. Oh, well. I’ll just wait until they have more models in stock. For now, I’ll do without.

As it turns out, BoostMobile is “encouraging” people with iDEN phones to buy new phones. BM still has something like a million iDEN users, and Sprint is in the process of shutting down their iDEN network. Apparently, they’ve already shut down thousands of iDEN towers nationwide (which explains why Barbara has had problems with spotty service availability for the last few months) and they plan to shut down the network completely as of next June. It was time for Barbara to get a different phone anyway. She wanted a clamshell model too, so I just gave her mine. So today she’s giving her new cell phone number to her sister and parents, who were the only ones who had the old one. Once she does that and clears any current voicemail, she’ll just shut down her old phone and let it die when the time expires.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

07:23 – The big news story is that Britney Spears apparently has leprosy. In other news, it looks like we’re in for four more years of complete gridlock, which is a good thing, considering the alternative.

09:34 – Hmmm. Barbara’s only comment this morning on the election results was that she wants to move to Canada.

09:59 – We’re down to just one biology kit in stock, so I’ll build another 15 today. That’s verbal shorthand, of course. I won’t actually be building those kits myself. Obama will be building them for me. Bastard.

16:04 – Barbara called from work a little while ago to say that her dad had fallen and she was on her way to meet them at the emergency room. She thinks he’ll be okay, but falls are dangerous at any age, let alone 90. I’ve said this to Barbara before, and I hate to annoy her by repeating myself, but her dad really, really needs to be using a full walker instead of just a cane. He’s no longer strong enough or fast enough to catch himself with just a cane. I’m sure he’ll resist using a walker, but I don’t see any alternative.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

07:26 – The 1972 presidential election was the first one for which I was eligible to vote. I voted for Nixon that time, and I’ve voted in every presidential election since then. Today, for the first time in 40 years, I’m not going to bother to vote. Neither is Barbara.

It doesn’t matter to us if Obama wins or Romney wins. Whichever wins, he won’t be our president.

Monday, 5 November 2012

09:43 – CNN and the other left-leaning news sources seem to agree that the race is now a dead heat, which tells me that Obama must be lagging badly. On Wednesday, I’ll check the election results with the same enthusiasm I have for checking the results of the Super Bowl or World Series. Which is to say none.

I’m still working on building more of the current kits, but most of my time recently has been devoted to designing and prototyping a couple of new kits and writing the manuals for them. One of those is the LK01 Life Science kit, which we intend to make available in early 2013. The contents of that kit are semi-finalized. There may be minor adds or deletes as I write and do the lab sessions, but no major changes. One change I made from the biology kits is going from a sleeve of 10 sterile plastic Petri dishes in the Biology kit to a pair of glass Petri dishes in the Life Science kit. Two glass Petri dishes actually cost more than a sleeve of 10 plastic ones, but they also occupy a lot less cubic. I’m striving to make the Life Science kit fit the smaller Regional Rate Box A rather than the Regional Rate Box B we use for the Biology kit. The difference in shipping cost is significant, maybe $4 on average, as is the amount of space needed to store finished-goods inventory. So I just ordered a case of the glass Petri dishes. They require extra care in packing, but we can deal with that.

I also ordered some chemicals, both for the new kits and for the current ones. For the first time, I ordered some liquids in 2.5 L bottles rather than 500 mL or 1 L bottles. The cost is much lower in 2.5 L bottles. For example, I ordered one 2.5 L bottle of reagent-grade 28% ammonia for about $22 plus shipping. That amount in smaller bottles would have cost about twice that. In the past, I’ve avoided ordering the larger bottles simply to conserve storage space, but the lower unit costs of the larger bottles are becoming compelling.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

08:28 – I’m still debating with myself whether to bother to vote Tuesday. If I do, it would be either to cast a meaningless vote for Johnson, whom I’d actually like to see elected, or an ultimately equally meaningless vote for Romney, whom I detest only slightly less than I detest Obama. When you consider that I have very little confidence that the votes will be counted honestly, that makes my vote meaningless squared.

“A man is no less a slave because he is allowed to choose a new master once in a term of years.” –Lysander Spooner

10:35 – Barbara just told me that she’s not going to bother to vote this year. She said last time she voted that that was the final time she’d vote, and she’s not changed her mind. So I’m going to join her in not voting. As OFD has said, I’m afraid that the time is fast approaching when bullets will replace ballots. Fortunately, I come down solidly on the better-armed side.

10:37 – It occurs to me that we need a yard sign: None of the Above.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

09:39 – I was able to talk Barbara into taking it easy this weekend. Right now, while I do laundry, she’s down cleaning out the basement. Then she’ll clean the upstairs, blow leaves, and then head out to plow and plant the back 40. Then, after lunch, we’ll work on kit stuff.

We’ve started getting a few political calls again, two or three a day, all from the Republicans. I got an automated poll call the other day. I agreed to take it, just for fun. The first question was about my age. I pressed one for 18 or under. Then it asked if I had already voted. I pressed one for yes. Then it asked if I’d voted for Obama, Romney, or another candidate. I pressed one for Obama. I do so enjoy doing my bit to screw up polls.

11:32 – Ben Franklin is probably spinning in his grave. Barbara reminds me that the time changes again at 0200 tomorrow. It really pisses me off. Eight months ago, the government “borrowed” an hour from me. Of course, “borrowing” at gunpoint is usually called armed robbery. Now, months later, they’re finally going to repay it, with with zero interest. That’s right, they stole 3600 seconds from me, and early tomorrow morning they’re going to give back only 3,600 seconds. Bastards. I hope they all die slowly and in agony.

Friday, 2 November 2012

09:37 – We watched the final episode of Gossip Girl series five on Netflix streaming and then started Sons of Anarchy series four. Switching from a poorly-written series to a series with first-rate writing was striking. I’d also forgotten how much I like Maggie Siff.

I’m going to try to convince Barbara to take some down time this weekend. Her recent trip to the beach was obviously no vacation at all, and for the last several weeks when she’s not at work she’s been spending a lot of her free time getting her parents’ house ready to go on the market. She needs a break.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

07:54 – We have only one episode left to watch in series five of Gossip Girl. Series six, the final season, is running now, and it has only 10 episodes. It’s a real shame to see what this series has become. In series one and two, the writing was excellent and the characters nuanced. Beginning with series three, the writing started to go downhill fast. Series four was bad, but series five is terrible. Ham-handed writing, embarrassingly bad dialog, plots that make no sense at all, and the characters have become cartoonish. It’s a waste of a good cast, particularly Leighton Meester and Ed Westwick, who’ve shown themselves to be the finest actors in the cast. If it were just me, I’d have given up a couple episodes into series three, but Barbara likes to see things through to the end. She’s loyal to series she once liked. I’m not. I’d much rather watch reruns of an excellent series than new episodes of a bad one.

I’m still working on the new batches of biology and chemistry kits, as well as writing the manual for our next kit.

16:01 – There’s nothing like a natural disaster to remind us that a large percentage of Americans are apparently morons. I was just reading an article about items in short supply in the affected areas. People paying $5 each for D cells or waiting in mile-long lines to buy gasoline. I can just imagine the thoughts that must go through whatever these people use to substitute for brains: “Duh. The storm has passed, duh. The area is devastated, duh. I guess I better go out and buy some food and water and flashlights and batteries and gasoline, now that they’re no longer available. Duh.”

I mean, how much foresight does it take to realize, particularly when a massive storm has been forecast several days ahead of its expected arrival, to make sure you have sufficient supplies to weather that storm? How much foresight is needed to realize that the power may fail, or that it might be a good idea to fill your car’s fuel tank? I used to think that these people couldn’t possibly be as stupid as they seemed to be. Then I realized, Occam’s Razor. Yeah, they really are that stupid. And, come Tuesday, they’ll not merely be permitted to vote. They’ll be encouraged to vote. And people wonder why things are such a mess. Geez.