Tuesday, 12 March 2013

08:59 – We started watching The Grand last night on Netflix streaming. It’s set in an English hotel, with the first episode opening on New Year’s Eve 1919. The cast is good, as are the writing and production values. It’s reminiscent of Upstairs, Downstairs. The one thing I found jarring was that more than once they had characters laughing and joking about WWI. In 1919, that wasn’t a subject for levity. Britain had just lost literally most of a generation of its young men, and nearly every family had lost a young man killed, blinded, or crippled in the war. If not more than one. The scale of the slaughter was almost inconceivable to us today. On the worst day of the Battle of the Somme, for example, there were more men killed than the US lost during the entire Viet Nam war. And that battle went on for months, with more than a million total casualties. No joking matter.

I got email Sunday from a homeschool mom who really wanted to do a forensic science lab course, but her budget wouldn’t stretch to $247 for our FK01 forensic kit. She asked if there was any way we could break up the FK01 kit into smaller, less expensive kits. Hers was by no means the first similar email I’d gotten, and I was already thinking about doing exactly what she wanted. I decided to break up the FK01 kit into three kits:

The FK01A Core Forensic Science Kit sells for $165, and includes the specialized equipment, chemicals, and specimens needed to do the 25 lab sessions in the first six groups in the book. The other two kits require the FK01A kit if the user doesn’t already have the equipment and chemicals on hand. The FK01B Forensic Science Kit Supplement 1 sells for $51, and includes the specialized chemicals and specimens needed to do the 7 lab sessions in the Forensic Drug Testing and Forensic Toxicology groups in the book. The FK01C Forensic Science Kit Supplement 2 sells for $79, and includes the specialized chemicals and specimens needed to do the 7 lab sessions in the Gunshot and Explosive Residues Analysis, Detecting Altered and Forged Documents, and Forensic Biology groups in the book.


10:52 – Barbara called earlier to say they’d had an offer on their parents’ house. Their agent suggested they counter-offer, but Barbara thought the amount he suggested was a bit high, in particular because the latest real estate valuation reduced the tax value of the house by 20%. I suggested that they split the difference on their counter-offer between the listing price and the price offered. On the one hand, they don’t want to leave too much money on the table. On the other, they don’t want the potential buyer to walk away and end up having the house sitting on the market. On the gripping hand, homes are starting to sell a lot faster than they had been.

Last week, I ordered 360 glass Petri dishes, all my vendor had in stock. UPS delivered them about 6:00 last night. As usual with UPS, the boxes were a bit banged up, so I was a bit concerned. I’d ordered 100 of the same Petri dishes earlier, which Barbara packed last weekend into groups of three, padded with bubble-wrap. Of those 100, there were two cracked. A 2% breakage rate is no big deal. Almost any glassware order has some breakage.

The problem is, it’s not convenient for us to discover the actual amount of breakage because that involves unpacking every box and examining each Petri dish. The boxes are small cubes, each with four stacks of five Petri dishes, and having to repack undamaged dishes would be time-consuming and inconvenient. So I called Katie, who’s our rep with that vendor, and explained the problem. Ordinarily, vendors expect buyers to report damage or shortage quickly, usually within one to three days of receipt, but that obviously wasn’t going to work. Katie understood our problem and said just to keep a running total of breakage when we pack up the dishes for kits. She’ll issue a credit to apply towards the next order.

I also suggested to Katie that they contact the manufacturer about improving their packing. It’s a long boat trip from China, and the only protection they use within the boxes of 20 is a sheet of tissue paper between the halves of a plate pair and another sheet between plate pairs. That’s no real protection against breakage, and I suggested to Katie that they get the manufacturer to start using thin sheets of bubble wrap between halves and between pairs. If that means the boxes have to be a little larger and the cost of the plates a little higher, fine. Better that than having to deal with breakage.