Wednesday, 26 December 2012

By on December 26th, 2012 in personal, science

07:28 – Thanks to Lynn McGuire for the link to the following image.

As usual, xkcd gets the science right. The purple stain in the first panel is Hucker’s crystal violet, the primary stain used in Gram staining, and all of the presents are stained purple. The pink stain in the second panel is safranin O, used as the Gram counterstain. All of the presents have had the purple stain washed away, and are pink, indicating that these are Gram Negative presents.

09:20 – It appears that we won’t get much in the way of severe weather. As of yesterday morning, the forecasters were calling for heavy thunderstorms and possible tornadoes around here today, but now they’ve downgraded that to heavy rain and stiff winds. It’s about 39F and raining now, with wind gusts to around 25 MPH, but it seems likely that’s the worst we’ll get.

31 Comments and discussion on "Wednesday, 26 December 2012"

  1. Miles_Teg says:

    Just as it’s a mistake to allow a woman to have the remote control, it’s a mistake to let her have access to the Christmas tree unsupervised.

  2. Dave B. says:

    Just as it’s a mistake to allow a woman to have the remote control, it’s a mistake to let her have access to the Christmas tree unsupervised.

    No, it’s a mistake to allow her to have access to the credit card to buy presents to put under the tree.

  3. OFD says:

    The weather liars tell us we can expect snow to start tonight and continue on into Friday, leaving us with a grand total, supposedly, of over a foot. But living by the inland sea up here we could get nothing or we could get buried. We shall find out.


    “Totals will even top a foot across the interior Northeast.
    Cities in line to receive at least or more than a foot of snow include Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, Burlington and Caribou.
    The same can be said for the neighboring Canadian cities of Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City.
    While great news for children and those wishing their communities to turn into a winter wonderland around Christmas, the snowstorm is sure to create a nightmare for travelers.”

    I’ll believe it when I have to shovel it.

  4. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Yeah, I remember when I went to grad school at RIT. When I arrived, it was a beautiful day, and I noticed these street signs all over campus. They were on long poles, about 10 feet higher than normal signs. They said “Snow Emergency Route” in big letters. In smaller letters it told people that if they parked there they might return to find their cars plowed away. They weren’t kidding, either. While I was there, I saw some serious snow drifts.

    Fortunately, we never had to go outside. The whole campus was connected by tunnels, most of which were covered with graffiti, some of it really excellent. They had bars, nightclubs, convenience stores, and so on down in the tunnels. I’m pretty sure there was even a post office.

  5. OFD says:

    Montreal, just 60 miles to our north, has a similar, much more complex underground situation:,_Montreal

    Here in Retroville we don’t wuss out on winter; we get out there naked and shovel snow and chop at ice and with our typical rural Vermont accents talk like we have a mouthful of marbles.

  6. Ray Thompson says:

    In smaller letters it told people that if they parked there they might return to find their cars plowed away.

    My older brother worked for the California State Highway Department in the mountains in the Wrightwood area. They got much snow in the winter and had snow routes clearly marked. Parked cars were towed if they could be towed. For those cars that were buried by the snow the plow just pushed them over the side of the road. My brother has personally done so to half a dozen cars.

    And on a lighter note I just installed an SSD in my main system. Of course the cloning software would not work to clone the drive. This required a complete reinstall of the OS and all the software. Damn activation of some software required a phone call.

    I can understand the need to prevent piracy. But how about just forgetting about activation for any activations that are 6 months old or older. If a piece of software is only activated once every six months I highly doubt that piracty is an issue. It would certainly make complete system rebuilds much easier. Systems do get rebuilt and upgraded.

  7. Roy Harvey says:

    My first thought was to wonder whether it was one of our host’s kits.

    No, it’s a mistake to allow her to have access to the credit card to buy presents to put under the tree.
    Since it was a present to her, it seems more reasonable to assume that someone else (such as the one at the computer) bought it.

    The official xkcd discussion thread on this one has a message pointing out a missing step.

  8. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    There are actually a couple missing steps. Here’s how it’s really done.

    1. Hucker’s crystal violet staining
    2. Gram’s iodine (mordant)
    3. Decolorizing (typically ethanol rinse, although you can use acetone or a mixture)
    4. Safranin O staining

  9. SteveF says:


    Just goes to show how context matters: I was familiar with this word in terms of biting wit but had to look it up in terms of chemistry or color.

  10. OFD says:

    Synonyms: acerb, acerbic, acid, acidic, acidulous, acrid, barbed, biting, caustic, corrosive, cutting, sarcastic, pungent, sardonic, satiric (or satirical), scalding, scathing, sharp, smart-aleck, smart-alecky, smart-mouthed, snarky, tart

    Like iodine itself. Yet another word from Old French/Latin, that OFD struggled with back in publik skool many moons ago. I wonder, though, how recent “snarky” is. Say, kids; let’s find out:

    Origin of SNARKY

    dialect snark to annoy, perhaps alteration of nark to irritate
    First Known Use: 1906

    Today’s Fun With Words show has been hosted by OFD, a failed loser English major who now babysits machines for a large conglomerate.

  11. Marcelo Agosti says:

    – Off-topic on dated issues:
    OFD said: “Merry Christmas to the one or two fellow Christians on this board (are there any other Roman Catholics???)… ”

    Count me in. So now instead of 1 or 2 it is perhaps 2 or 3. We are still in the minority and treated accordingly here since there does not seem to be much political correctness exercised by the people submitting comments. Thank God for that. :-). Well perhaps thank Rob as well.

    Full disclosure: Done all the certifications except marriage since I stopped in my 20s given that the Church in Argentina mostly turned to the far left and sermons went from teachings to socialist/marxist indoctrination. I really, really do not subscribe to that.

    -Dated greetings:
    I hope you all had a very merry Christmas day and for Miles a great Boxing Day.

  12. OFD says:

    The Church in this country also turned to the left; at least the hierarchy of bishops and other clergy who rose to prominence from the Glorious Sixties. There are still a bunch of them left, and you can tell by the dumbed-down liturgy, the translations of the Bible and Missal, and the execrable “sacred” music, also usually a relic of the Wonderful Sixties, Seventies, Eighties and Nineties (rarely any music from before 1965). Also the heavy emphasis on “social justice” to the exclusion of actual scripture and the teaching missions.

    That is all changing nowadays, though, so there is hope. We have young seminarians coming up who dig the Latin liturgy, the genuine teachings of Holy Mother Church, and the glorious music from past centuries and mainly from England, Germany, France and Italy.

    And now back to our regularly scheduled program of atheism, scientism, and the worship of border collies and Sandra Bullock, to the music of Abba and Barry Manilow.

  13. SteveF says:

    I never really got into Sandra Bollocks. She always struck me as a trannie.

  14. Chuck W says:

    OFD says:

    I wonder, though, how recent “snarky” is. Say, kids; let’s find out:

    Origin of SNARKY

    dialect snark to annoy, perhaps alteration of nark to irritate
    First Known Use: 1906

    I’ll bet “smurfy” is more recent than that.

  15. OFD says:

    hmmmm…once again a link I had to post here made that and the post disappear. From the Urban Dictionary, with one or two bad words. “Smurfy”, if you google it, will show up there as undoubtedly more recent.

    I’m with SteveF on the Sandra B. as not my cup of tea; maybe not trannie but too boyish and thin. I like ’em substantial.

  16. Chuck W says:

    I don’t like anorexic, but do prefer tall, thin, with TT’s and good squeezing ability with the arms and legs. I always thought Sandra to be too big-boned, but her taste in men leaves me out.

  17. Chuck W says:

    We got the predicted blizzard alright—from about 07:00 to 15:00 we got about 7 inches, which would not have stopped anything in Minneapolis. Schools are already closed, but all the Simon malls in Central Indiana closed today (Simon headquarters are in Indy), as did government offices everywhere. Northern part of the state got nothing. My daughter had to drive from near Louisville to Chicago. She went up through Illinois, but said it was scary until she got about halfway up the state, when all signs of snow disappeared. Lots of cars stranded off the road. She would not have made it going through Indiana. She missed work on the evening shift today and they dock her for that, as there was no snow in Chicago.

    Tiny County Commissioners banned travel in the county about 10:00am. It is really not that bad, but I guess everybody wants a day off. I was alternating doing weather reports for the radio project until it was clear that it was all over at 3:00pm. Should be hitting OFDland about now. Hopefully, it has petered out between here and there. Nobody needs this much snow.

  18. Chuck W says:

    It is kind of mind-blowing how much I have been doing on this computer. Never would have thought it would have been possible even 10 years ago. I am listening to one audio stream, while monitoring another silently for interrupts or drops; recording and editing audio and sending it out; previewing some video for later editing; communicating with my kids and other family via IM with Pidgin; getting email updates from UPS telling me they quit delivering in this snow today, so I still don’t have my replacement Amex card (which was not delivered on Xmas day, BTW—that would have solved today’s problem); converting a lot of previously ripped and recorded WAV files to MP3; remote desktopping into another computer to solve a problem; doing online banking; and looking at pictures taken by the family of kids opening Xmas presents. A lot of that stuff occurred simultaneously.

    And there are people who tell me a computer is a sink-hole for productive time. How can one even BE productive by avoiding a computer these days? It’s not like watching TV or playing video games—which ARE wastes of productive time.

  19. Chuck W says:

    The radio is suddenly flooded with “Enjoy King” electronic cigarette commercials. It uses nicotine. How is that not subject to the ban on cigarette advertising instituted for all broadcast media back in the ’70’s?

  20. ech says:

    How is that not subject to the ban on cigarette advertising instituted for all broadcast media back in the ’70′s?

    As I understand it, since it’s not burning tobacco, it’s not covered.

  21. Lynn McGuire says:

    It is my understanding that confession is good for the soul. I must confess that I broke the tenth commandment yesterday. A friend was showing my brothers and I his gun collection. In his 60 inch wide by 24 inch deep gun safe weighing 1300 lbs (I do not want!).

    I spotted a wide rifle barrel poking up out of 30 or so rifles. It had a tubular magazine below it. I grabbed it and found a 1990 Browning .44 magnum lever action rifle. The lever action was exquisite and extremely smooth. The blueing was deep and monotone. It was made in Japan. I wanted it.

  22. SteveF says:

    Don’t sweat it, Lynn. The US Federal Government, the source of all goodness as well as all moral authority, breaks the 10th Amendment daily. Along with the rest of the first ten, along with the 27th and a selection of the others.

  23. OFD says:

    The Fed Leviathan not only shatters the Ten Commandments by the second; it also breaks its own laws, regulations, ordinances, rules, etc. but forces the rest of us to abide by them or suffer penalties.

    That .44 Mag lever would be nice to have, but I’d still prefer the Rock River Arms Delta Carbine.

  24. Dave B. says:

    And there are people who tell me a computer is a sink-hole for productive time. How can one even BE productive by avoiding a computer these days?

    Chuck, I agree, it is now all but impossible to be productive without a computer. However, a computer can also be a time sink because you can use it to play video games or watch TV. I believe Jerry Pournelle has a room in his house that he refers to as the Monk’s Cell where he has a computer and little else. The computer has had the software he needs to write on it and nothing else.

  25. Miles_Teg says:

    I wouldn’t have my current job without computers, but they are a huge time sink. Ten years ago I was getting by on 3-4 hours sleep per night due to playing games online. Now that City of Heroes/Villains is no longer with us I am getting mucho more sleep, which I really need at my age. (World of Warcraft just isn’t as good, IMHO – hitting the Exit button is REALLY easy.)

  26. Miles_Teg says:

    Damn it Dave, you’re almost making me wish I’d been born a Yank. You and Lynn have posted some links to some pretty neat looking guns, the sort of stuff I’d expect to see James Bond carrying. But the price! Isn’t $1200-1500 kinda high for a souped up AK-47?

  27. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Yeah, it is. I’d be surprised if a *real* AK-47 cost more than $100 to produce.

    Prices are high for several reasons, notably liability insurance costs for manufacturers and the fact that we don’t have a free market in guns. If guns were freely available without restrictions, you’d see prices plummet overnight. As it is, restricted availability means we have to pay much closer to retail than we would otherwise.

  28. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Actually, I should have said “AKM”. Production of the original AK-47 stopped when I was in kindergarten. The last I checked, the AKM was still in production.

    I’ve shot both. The AK-47 was a real POS. It was completely unmanageable full auto because the inept designer put the top of the butt stock below the line of the barrel. That means as soon as you start shooting the barrel climbs uncontrollably. With the AKM and other competent designs that put the top of the butt stock in line with the barrel, there’s much less tendency for the muzzle to climb because the recoil pushes more or less straight back into your shoulder.

  29. OFD says:

    Even most of the AK knock-offs are POS, including ones made here in Vermont. That price is fairly reasonable, considering the factors Bob mentions. One can go much higher, of course, but I am saving for the Delta and will add a couple of mods as finances allow. Nothing major.

  30. SteveF says:

    At this point, I’m not much interested in fancy or beautiful-looking firearms. I’m more interested in designs that a reasonably handy man with a modest investment in machine tools could put together easily, rapidly, and cheaply. I’m coming at this mainly from the direction of resisting Leviathan, both in terms of bypassing the unConstitutional firearms restrictions and in terms of insurgency.

    Of course, there’s a big jump from a .22 zip gun to a .308 accurate enough for taking down a deer without a scope. Not that zip guns are a trivial challenge. I’m trying to figure out a 100% reliable single-shot, reasonably accurate at farther than arm’s length and not dangerous to the user, made from pocket litter: a drinking straw, duct tape, a paper clip, a rubber band, and so on. Each aspect of that goal isn’t too bad, but all four together is a challenge.

  31. OFD says:

    I’m not into fancy or beautiful, either, and didn’t mean to leave that impression; simple mods on rifles and shotguns is all I’m after, mainly to improve ease of use, accuracy, handling, etc.

    And resisting Leviathan is beginning to take up more of my time as each day goes by lately. It is increasingly doubtful that I will expire from natural causes, including medical ones.

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