Wednesday, 23 January 2013

07:42 – I told Barbara last night that she shouldn’t worry about Colin and me at home. We can hold down the fort here if she wants to spend more time with her dad over the coming days, weeks, and possibly months. Today, she’s picking up her parents to drive them over to an audiologist appointment in High Point. They need to visit the audiologist regularly to get their hearing aids cleaned and checked. Her dad said he needed to keep this appointment. If Dutch is up to it, they may stop for dinner on the way home. If not, Barbara may have dinner with them at the retirement village. She’ll either bring me something for dinner or I’ll just make something for myself.

Work on science kits continues. Sales have slowed down a lot since the first half of this month, but we’re still doing well. So far this month, we’ve already sold more kits than we did in January, February, March, and April of 2012 combined. On that basis, I’m expecting things to really start getting busy starting in July. Between now and then, we’ll focus on getting chemical bottles ready, which is the real labor-intensive part. We can build kits pretty quickly on-the-fly if we don’t have to spend time labeling and filling bottles. With only a couple of exceptions, the chemicals we provide in the kits are stable indefinitely, which means we can make them up weeks to months ahead of time.


09:22 – Like “unionized”, “elegant” is a word that chemists use differently from most people. To a chemist, elegant means simple, with nothing wasted. I came across an excellent example of an elegant synthesis while reading Derek Lowe’s blog last week and checking one of the drugs he mentioned on Wikipedia. It’s metformin, a drug used to treat Type 2 diabetes.

“According to the procedure described in the 1975 Aron patent, and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Encyclopedia, equimolar amounts of dimethylamine and 2-cyanoguanidine are dissolved in toluene with cooling to make a concentrated solution, and an equimolar amount of hydrogen chloride is slowly added. The mixture begins to boil on its own, and after cooling, metformin hydrochloride precipitates with a 96% yield.”

Wow. That is truly elegant. Simple, and nothing wasted. A 96%(!) yield, and the stuff just falls out of solution. That’s a synthesis that will warm the cockles of the heart of any synthetic chemist, let alone the chemical engineer who’s responsible for upscaling a laboratory-level synthesis to an industrial-level synthesis.

39 thoughts on “Wednesday, 23 January 2013”

  1. Yeah, but the stuff tastes awful.

    I’m surprised that you taste product. I thought only chemists born before about 1920 did that.

  2. Speaking of syntheses, I’d love to have a copy of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Encyclopedia. I actually went over to Amazon to buy a copy. They sell it for $967.04, which isn’t bad for a 3,800 page book. I was just about to click on the Buy button when I noticed that this book is *not* eligible for free Super Saver shipping. Oh, well.

  3. I never had the opportunity to work with such elegance in chemistry. Although I graduated with a degree in Chem. Eng., I could not secure a position in that field.

  4. “… bring me something for dinner or I’ll just make something for myself.”

    What, a box of assorted doughnuts?

  5. I will see your Dr. Pepper and raise you Rolled Gold stick pretzels.

    If I do the Doritos I will have to dump eggs sunny-side up on them followed by cheese and a big splash of salsa. Now *that’s* a wakey-wakey deal right there!

  6. During my BS/MS in maths, elegance was as stated above. During my 20 in the Army, elegance was highly desired, but rarely achieved.

    Now to make your US day, I’m seeing headlines about Hillary and Biden making presidential runs in 2016. Swallow that bile!

    After the Repubs voted for the tax crap sandwich, I went to the Nevada state site and renounced my Republican Party affiliation. I just received my nonpartisan voter registration card. All my reps voted for the crap sandwich. I emailed them all to remove my from their roles as I would no longer donate to them.

  7. Hillary testifying: “I accept responsibility, BUT IT’S NOT MY FAULT” Then throws Rice under the bus. Very classy. Oh, wait, she’s a Clinton. My bad.

    It depends on the meaning of what is, is. 🙂

  8. During my own eight in mil-spec jobs, both AF and Army, I saw very few instances of elegance, an exception being a show of the USAF Thunderbirds. And certainly no elegance in my thankfully extremely limited experience of USA WACs.

    I expected the Heroine of Tripoli and Benghazi to make a run; Biden not so much; he has serious mental/physiological health issues, but of course that didn’t stop Saint JFK. Another rumor being bruited about in the viral side of the net is that O-Bummer won’t quit after his second term and will find a reason to go for three or more, like Pharaoh Roosevelt II. There is also some scuttlebutt that he may also go for an African-American VP. This is probably all bullshit, however; one thing we *can* count on is that the Stupid Half of the War/Money Party, i.e., Repubs, will put together another group of misfits, freaks, maniacs, screwballs, Richie Rich types, etc. to run against the Evil Half of the Party, and will once again lose miserably. The demographics will increasingly and hugely favor the Evil Half; the bread-and-circuses Mob writ large.

    The other half of the country that works and pays for the bread and circuses and the endless stupid foreign clusterfuck wars of the Empire will become increasingly resentful and angry, and if these bozos go ahead with their plans to disarm us, they are in for a very rude awakening.

    Fun times ahead.

    I bailed from the Repubs in 1998 and haven’t looked back; they’ve gotten worse each year since.

    And we have no outstanding leaders on the horizon that I know of.

  9. Another rumor being bruited about in the viral side of the net is that O-Bummer won’t quit after his second term and will find a reason to go for three or more, like Pharaoh Roosevelt II. There is also some scuttlebutt that he may also go for an African-American VP. This is probably all bullshit,

    He can’t run for reelection. Paranoid fantasy BS. He’s too concerned with his legacy to entertain such a notion.

    The only way that could happen is if he has the armed forces and the National Guard on his side. Won’t happen. If nothing else, the Guard in Texas would march on Washington and pick up the LA, MS, GA, SC, NC, and Virginia Guard and 100k+ unorganized militia along the way.

  10. I will see your Dr. Pepper and raise you Rolled Gold stick pretzels.

    I see your raise and raise you with a chocolate Moonpie, double decker.

  11. Schlock Mercenary is having a good run right now:
    http://www.schlockmercenary.com/2013-01-23
    “I chose the words “career” and “sociopath” very carefully. Shall I get you a dictionary?”

    If interested you might need to go back about 10 years or so of online comics to get a true understanding of the issues. Howard Taylor rules milsf comics!

  12. I want Hillary to switch parties and run against Michelle in 2016… 🙂

  13. “I’m surprised that you taste product. I thought only chemists born before about 1920 did that.”

    That’s why cooks are better than chemists: the stuff they make is edible.

  14. “I see your raise and raise you with a chocolate Moonpie, double decker.”

    And I see that raise and raise you again with a handful of garlic half sours and sugar-on-snow, if we had any snow…

    “I want Hillary to switch parties and run against Michelle in 2016…”

    The fugly Mooch won’t be running *for* anything; she’ll be running around the world giving expensive speeches with Barry and they’ll be raking it in, just like Larry Klinton and his lovely wife Bruno. Larry opined recently that Lady MacBeth of Little Rock, as mean and venal a bitch-on-wheels political hack as ever there was one, has plenty of time for two or three MORE husbands.

    And I know a tall guy down in Oz who is straining at the leash for such a golden opportunity.

  15. And I see that raise and raise you again with a handful of garlic half sours and sugar-on-snow, if we had any snow…

    You lose.

  16. “And I know a tall guy down in Oz who is straining at the leash for such a golden opportunity.”

    Nah, she’s too young for me, and I’d never marry a chick who’d been a Goldwater Girl. He was even crazier than you Dave.

  17. So I guess I’m a crazy loser.

    Oh well.

    Time to read myself to sleep with the current issue of Chronicles.

    My little internet temperature thingie here sez it is now minus ten degrees F. Let’s see what it is in eight hours; I will guess it drops another ten. Thankfully no wind tonight.

  18. CowboySlim says:

    I never had the opportunity to work with such elegance in chemistry. Although I graduated with a degree in Chem. Eng., I could not secure a position in that field.

    So then it was either rocket scientist or brain surgeon. How on Earth did you ever decide?

  19. Bob, returning to the subject of outsourcing some of your kit assembly:

    I think you and Barbara owe it to yourselves to do some continuity planning. You are approaching the stage where you will be dependent on the income from your kits. If something happens to either or both of you that makes you unable to create the materials for the kits, or to assemble the kits, then you’re likely to find yourselves in a bad situation rather than the good times you are working towards.

    To better ensure that your business could continue even if either of you is unable to do the work for a while, I think it would be worthwhile to sub-contract some of the work to more than one well-recommended Chem student. You could justify it on the basis of giving you both a little more leisure time, but the contingency and continuity aspects would be more important.

  20. Hillary running – yep, that’s been clear for a long time. The embassy attack put a brief crimp in the idea, but the public has a short memory. For the Democrats, having a woman for president is a logical followup to having a black for president. It’s all about appearances, not qualifications.

    OFD writes: “Repubs, will put together another group of misfits, freaks, maniacs, screwballs…”. Also yep, and if any candidates don’t fit that picture (like Cain), they will be eliminated early, even if the stupid-party has to do it themselves. Driven by the religious right. I know the scene all too well, as lots of my family is in that group.

    If the fiscal conservatives and/or libertarians ever want to have a chance, they need their own party with its own charismatic flag bearer. The Tea Party has been assimilated by the Reborglicans.

    On a very-much-related side note, the US has finalized the rules that it will unilaterally impose on foreign banks at the end of this year. This will require detailed financial reporting on all American customers who have any account with a value more than $50,000. It’s no longer the “rich” in the crosshairs, but now the entire productive middle class.

    The fact that such reporting violates the privacy laws where these customers live? Doesn’t matter. The fact that the US has no jurisdiction in foreign countries? Doesn’t matter. The fact that the penalties for non-compliance violate international law? Doesn’t matter – US law is more important! I fully expect the banks to simply refuse to do business with ordinary American customers – it simply won’t be worth the hassle. I will just barely make it out from under this albatross: I have the final appointment to hand in my passport in a couple of months.

  21. The can of worms is about to be fully opened. Women in combat positions.

    In principle, I have nothing against this. However, the practice to date has shown lots of problems. Women are not held to the same standards, and that is a recipe for disaster.

    Before this can possibly work, the military needs to address two problems: objective physical requirements for assignments, and pregnancy. The physical requirements must be enforced regardless of gender; if women soldiers can’t carry an 80lb pack on a 20 mile march (or whatever the requirement is), they shouldn’t be soldiers. But just as important: men don’t get pregnant while on deployment (or, conveniently, just before being deployed); neither should women. Unplanned pregnancy should result in an immediate discharge.

    Unless these problems are addressed, this is going to be an unholy mess. These problems will not be addressed.

  22. “I fully expect the banks to simply refuse to do business with ordinary American customers – it simply won’t be worth the hassle.”

    That may be the intent of the whole thing.

    “I will just barely make it out from under this albatross: I have the final appointment to hand in my passport in a couple of months.”

    Doesn’t matter. Once a Yank always a Yank. Your kids, grand kids, great grandkids, pets, mistresses, *everyone*… will be dragged into the net. There’s no escaping The Borg.

  23. Procrastinating further (I really do not look forward to grading that pile of exams), I just got a replacement credit card. This one comes with a letter explaining how I really, really want to register the card with their online security program. If I do this, then every time I make an online purchase, I get an additional popup window where I have to enter a password to approve the purchase.

    I already have this with another credit card, and it is a hassle. From a security point of view, it’s also pretty questionable, because there is no easy way to verify that the popup window actually comes from my bank.

    Noteworthy: every time I enter the password, I have to accept the T&C of the online security program. So, putting off that pile of exams just a little bit longer, I actually read the T&C for this new credit card. The important bits:

    – My responsibilities: If I use the program, I agree to choose my passwords and use them according to several specific and strict rules. As long as I don’t screw up, the usual coverage for fraudulent transactions will continue to apply.

    – My benefits: What do I gain by using the program? What additional service or guarantee does the bank provide? Nothing.

    I think I’ll pass…

  24. Once a Yank always a Yank. Your kids, grand kids, great grandkids, pets, mistresses, *everyone*… will be dragged into the net.

    Yeah, it’s pretty disappointing. I figure that our kids will also be forced to give up their US passports as soon as they have real jobs – I’ll have to look into the exact rules. Which is a shame – at least one of the kids would really enjoy spending a few years in the States. If he has to give up his passport, this won’t be possible.

    Just like Obamacare is driving employers to turn everyone part-time: why consider the possible side-effects of legislation? Who cares, as long as the lobbyists keep coughing up the dough?

    Gack, I must’ve gotten up on the wrong side of the bed, I’m not normally quite this cynical. I’ll shut up now…

  25. Brad, some words I live by: Cynicism is just another word for experience.

    Or another slant on the matter: You know the problem with the world? It keeps making cheap cynicism the most accurate predictor of events, that’s the problem.

  26. I think you and Barbara owe it to yourselves to do some continuity planning. You are approaching the stage where you will be dependent on the income from your kits. If something happens to either or both of you that makes you unable to create the materials for the kits, or to assemble the kits, then you’re likely to find yourselves in a bad situation rather than the good times you are working towards.

    I’ve talked to Barbara about something happening to me, and I don’t think she’d want to continue the business by herself. I think a lot of that is because she doesn’t think she *could* do it by herself, because she has no background in science. I’m doing what I can to address that, such as building a notebook full of wholesaler contact information, procedures manual, and so on. I’ve also spoken to Paul and Mary about helping Barbara transition to running the business if I get run over by a truck.

  27. I’ve also spoken to Paul and Mary about helping Barbara transition to running the business if I get run over by a truck.

    The only way that will happen to you is if the truck is driving through your house. I think you have a better chance of getting killed by the falling body of a dead reindeer that you just annihilated at Christmas.

  28. I think you and Barbara owe it to yourselves to do some continuity planning. You are approaching the stage where you will be dependent on the income from your kits. If something happens to either or both of you that makes you unable to create the materials for the kits, or to assemble the kits, then you’re likely to find yourselves in a bad situation rather than the good times you are working towards.

    If I may be so bold as to put in my two cents worth, I’d like to encourage you to have Jasmine help you to whatever extent she can with your business. As I recall, you think she could do science, but she has decided to major in business. Labeling bottles would be a small task, but it would be one small step of practical knowledge to complement all the academic business knowledge she is accumulating. Also, if she ever needs an example of a real world small business to serve as a topic for a paper or project, I’d encourage her to use your business as an example.

    She probably won’t take over the business when you decide to retire, but you never know. She just might learn more about business from observing yours than she will from any one college class. In any case, I am sure paying her $10 per hour to label bottles will provide her with more than just some spending money.

  29. She probably won’t take over the business when you decide to retire, but you never know. She just might learn more about business from observing yours than she will from any one college class. In any case, I am sure paying her $10 per hour to label bottles will provide her with more than just some spending money.

    I would really encourage this. You would get a double benefit out of it. She would get some real life work experience and you would get some help. The down side is that you would have a file forms with the IRS and your income taxing state. You might want to seek out an accountant who has the procedures in place to do this easily.

  30. Oh, I wouldn’t hire Jas. I’d subcontract work to her on a piecework basis. She’d work at her own home.

  31. Oh, I wouldn’t hire Jas. I’d subcontract work to her on a piecework basis. She’d work at her own home.

    Excellent! Spoken like a true paperwork avoider. The hoops that they make small business go through nowadays are just abysmal.

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