Wednesday, 20 February 2013

08:28 – The website problems should be fixed. Dreamhost tech support checked the problem. It turned out that the Apache server that serves this site had been hanging.

I’m currently reading an excellent mystery that was written by one of my correspondents from Kelowna, BC. No, not Bill Grigg, although I suspect he could write a pretty good mystery novel if he set his mind to it. The one I’m reading is Speaking From Among the Bones, the latest Alan Bradley Flavia De Luce mystery. The series is set in England in 1950. Flavia is an 11-year-old girl who’s fascinated with chemistry–particularly poisons and explosives–and has access to a full chemistry lab tucked away in a disused part of their home. Barbara saw the first book at the library soon after it was published and grabbed it for me. She read it, too, and we both loved it. After I finished it, I emailed Alan to tell him that the book really resonated with me, because what Flavia was doing in her lab at age 11 in 1950 in England was pretty much exactly what I’d been doing in my lab at age 11 in 1964 in western Pennsylvania. The only real difference was that I didn’t keep coming across dead bodies.

UPS showed up yesterday with a delivery from one of our wholesalers. It was 250 test tube racks, and when they’d told me they were backordered I told them to go ahead and toss in something that wasn’t on my original order, a pack of 500 polypropylene radioimmunoassay vials with caps. My contact there had emailed me to say that they’d changed vendors for that item and that the item number had changed, as had the price. The surprise was that the price had fallen, to about 60% of what I’d expected to pay. When the shipment arrived, I found out why. Sure enough, there was a box of 500 vials, but no caps. I visited the manufacturer’s web site and found out why. The caps ship as a separate item, which my vendor hadn’t realized. I was afraid the caps would be backordered to India, which would mean a two or three month wait, but it turned out my vendor actually did have the caps in stock. They just hadn’t realized they needed to ship them as two separate boxes, so they’re shipping me a box of caps today. And, no surprise, the combined price of the new product, vials and caps, is about the same as the old one.

I plan to use these vials for packaging some items in the science kits that we’re currently packaging in coin envelopes. The vials will be faster to fill than the envelopes, and provide an air-tight seal. And, purchased in bulk, an RIA vial and cap doesn’t cost all that much more than a coin envelope


14:43 – I never expect to hear politicians say anything sensible, and that goes double for morons like Joe Biden. I have to admit, however, that Biden has actually offered some good advice about guns for self-defense. He recommends a shotgun. In fact, he’s made sure his wife has a double-barreled shotgun and shells for it, just in case the bad guys somehow get past her SS detail. To be specific, for people who aren’t experienced shooters, my recommendation is a double-barreled short shotgun with external hammers, usually called a lupara or coach gun, stored with both barrels loaded with #4 buckshot. With the hammers down, the gun is completely safe to handle, and can be stored for literally decades and still fire every time. Getting it ready to roll requires merely cocking the hammers. Meanwhile, it just sits there, inert. In Sicily, the traditional resting place was on two hooks immediately above the doorway. I like the manual external hammer shotguns for inexperienced people because I’ve seen too many inexperienced shooters, including some cops, short-stroke a pump, leaving them thinking a round is chambered when it’s not. That could prove embarrassing.