Friday, 28 December 2012

08:36 – I finally ordered a bottle-top dispenser yesterday from one of my wholesalers. Also called auto-burettes, these are basically pumps that sit on top of reservoir bottles and deliver an accurate volume of liquid with each stroke of the pump.

I thought about ordering one some time ago, but decided not to. They cost about $200 each, but the real reason I hesitated was that we were filling only 30 bottles at a time. Having to stop every 30 bottles to tear down and clean out the dispenser before refilling it with the next chemical just wasn’t worth the hassle. Filling 60, 90, or more bottles at a time probably makes the setup/cleanup time worthwhile.

The model I ordered can be set to deliver 2.5 mL to 30 mL per stroke, in 0.5 mL increments. It’s accurate to ±0.5%. The working surfaces are Teflon-coated, and it handles a wide range of viscosities accurately. It’s designed for production use all day long every day, so it should be durable. We’ll see how it works out.


09:53 – Barbara announced this morning that she wanted a new ceiling fan in the den. I thought we’d installed the one that’s in there now, but she tells me it was there when we bought the house back in 1987. In the past, I might have thought about driving out to Home Depot to see what they had available, but this time the thought never crossed my mind. I looked up ceiling fans on Amazon and ordered one. Total time, five minutes, if that.

Amazon is rapidly becoming what Sears Roebuck was a hundred years ago: the first choice of retailer for a large percentage of the public. I wonder how long it’ll be until they have a real competitor. Sears blew it, as did all of the other big box brick-and-mortar retailers. Sears still has a chance, but I don’t think they’ll take it. To do so, they’d have to recognize that on-line can’t coexist with brick-and-mortar. It has to be one or the other. Sears would have to close down its physical stores and shift entirely to the web. They’d have to expand their product lines hugely to match or beat Amazon. And they’d have to bring up their own equivalent of AWS. On the plus side, they already have a distribution network and warehouse infrastructure at least as good as Amazon’s. But I doubt that anyone at Sears will admit that after more than 100 years their brick-and-mortar retailing operation is as dead as every other B&M retailing operation, and act accordingly.


12:17 – I just finished running 2,200+ labels, which is 60 sets of chemistry kit bottle labels. That’s 1,440 15 mL bottles, 660 30 mL bottles, and 180 30 mL widemouth bottles. Once Barbara gets all those bottles labeled, we’ll run a batch of 60 biology kit labels and then 60 forensic kit labels, and then another 60 chemistry kit labels. Given the number and mix of kits we sold in 2012, I want to start the busy season in July with 300 to 400 kits worth of chemical bottles ready to roll, so we’ll be doing lots of labels and bottles between now and July.

14 thoughts on “Friday, 28 December 2012”

  1. Re: Amazon
    Yep. This is the way to go. I did all my Christmas shopping with Amazon and all the stuff arrived when they said it would. Two-day no-cost shipping with Amazon Prime. Worth every penny, I say. And now I’m printing the labels to return one of the items, also at no cost. I’m luvin’ it.

  2. I actually misstated the history. Sears didn’t open its first B&M store until 1925, after being an internet-only retailer for more than 30 years.

  3. I’m pretty sure there’s an RFC for paper catalogs. I know there’s one for carrier pigeons.

  4. I also see the internet blowing away all the B&M retail stuff, etc., etc., but I also can’t help but continually wonder how great it’s all gonna be if the juice goes out for long periods of time or permanently. Guys here assure me that we’ll always have it in this country but I am not so positive that will be the case. I can see the State deciding to ration it, according to whatever criteria they choose to devise; I can also see how badly our infrastructure has been deteriorating over the years. And there is the possibility of some terrorist somewhere who realizes how wide open and easy it would be to mess us up badly.

    I am very, very wary of putting all our eggs into that one basket (public electric power systems running on fossil fuel and owned by whomever, along with the distribution systems). But guys keep telling me everything’s gonna be just fine and dandy.

  5. I guess I have more faith than you do in the folks who actually know how to do something. There are still millions of us around. When things break, we fix them. We can’t help ourselves.

    I also have faith in the resiliency of the free market. Yes, it’s getting stepped on big time, but it’s impossible to hold it down without constant active intervention. The free market is, after all, just a term for people acting in their own self interest.

  6. There was only one Sears store in the Houston area until 1975 or so. I can remember going to it in 1969 to get new jeans. It was a 35 mile trip on a two lane rutted road.

  7. True, that; I have less faith in people, period. There may be millions of Mr. Fixits out there who love to fix stuff after it’s broke, but they will have other concerns by that time, survival and personal security being near the top of the list.

    I wish I was as optimistic as you but half a century of observing human nature up close and personal and seeing also how thin the civilizational veneer is, give me major pause. But I hope I’m all wet and you’re right as rain, of course.

  8. I hope so too. As I’ve said, I expect us as a country to get a lot poorer, but I don’t expect things to get nearly as bad as you apparently do. Yes, civilization is and always has been a very thin veneer, but we are a cooperative species.

    I’m reminded of that every time there’s a severe storm. The government might be nowhere in sight but ordinary people are pitching in to get done what needs to be done. Chainsaws are going all over the place, and guys are up on roofs spreading tarps. The women organize the food, and it often turns into a block party.

    We are a cooperative species, and we respond cooperatively to threats/problems. Even smart animals realize that. No doubt at some point bears and wolves thought we people were easy, tasty prey. Then they realized that individually we may be pretty helpless, with our pathetic little fangs and claws, but we run in big protective packs.

  9. Yes, I saw the storm footage of volunteers helping out, etc., as is usually true for other such natural disasters. I wonder how sweet everyone will be, though, if the store shelves are empty and the power is out and we have informers and spies running around dime-ing us out. I guess we shall see, although I dearly hope it doesn’t get that bad here.

    “… we run in big protective packs.”

    That, and being able to manufacture and implement tools and weapons and have a language to communicate plans, plots and intentions. Except it won’t be wolves and bears we gotta deal with anymore.

  10. I agree with Bob. The biggest threat IMO, is that the government turns really evil, and is itself an instigator of infrastructure chaos. Other than running out of money to maintain roads in navigable condition—which is already happening around my part of the world—I do not see much chance of a random decline. And if the government truly ran out of money, then things would be rebuilt on local levels, with local control and local funds, which is as it should be in the first place.

  11. I don’t have any particular trouble imagining this government turning evil on us and deliberately creating apocalyptic conditions in order to maintain their rule. Whether they would be successful in this for the long term is doubtful, however; once they can’t pay their robocops and mercenaries, GAME OVER!!!

  12. Historically, that’s why unpopular rulers used mercenaries or at least troops from remote areas to control civilian populations. The simple truth is that soldiers will not reliably fire on people that are like them. Even elite units can be pushed only so far before they start shooting their officers instead of the civilians.

  13. ” Even elite units can be pushed only so far before they start shooting their officers instead of the civilians.”

    Indeed. I had the enlightening experience long ago and fah away of stopping two mil-spec colleagues from fragging our lieutenant, who’d wanted them to ‘take a little jog up that hill and report back to me.’ The hill in question was well-known to be infested with professional Communist types and booby-traps and mines. All that was needed was for a Phantom to cruise by and light it up, which we could call in. But the jeep looey wasn’t listening too well. Anyway, he never knew how close he came to being waxed by two inner-city African-American dudes wearing the same uniform.

    Spec ops units like the Green Berets we knew locally did not even distinguish between ranks; they were all professional psychos and killers, whether wearing NCO stripes or captain’s bars. Ditto the jarhead LRRPs, stone psycho bastards. By comparison your humble USAF correspondent was the very model of probity and rectitude.

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