Day: July 6, 2013

Saturday, 6 July 2013

10:43 – We’ve had rain or a high likelihood of rain nearly every day for more than a month. Our total for June was over 11 inches (28 cm), which is three times normal. Even on days that there’s no measurable rainfall, the dew has been so heavy that the grass often doesn’t dry out until afternoon. There was a slight sprinkle this morning, but the sun is out now, so Barbara is grabbing the opportunity to get some yard work done. I’m doing laundry and my other typical Saturday chores, as well as continuing work on internationalizing the biology and chemistry kits.

I’ve already made up most of the substitute chemicals. All that remain are the 9.99% acetic acid, the 9.99% ammonia, and the 0.99% hydrochloric acid. There’s no danger of confusing either of the two acids with the more concentrated versions used in the US kits. The 6M acetic acid in the US kits is more than three times as concentrated as the 10% version for the international kits. The 6 M acetic acid has fumes that’ll knock your socks off; the 10% acetic acid smells like strong vinegar. The fumes from the 6 M hydrochloric acid in the US kits really strong; the fumes from the 1% hydrochloric acid are almost unnoticeable. The ammonia solutions do present a risk of confusion, because the 10% ammonia for the international kits is only slightly less concentrated than the 6 M ammonia used in the US kits. It’s impossible to discriminate the two by appearance or odor; both are water clear and have strong fumes. So I’m going to add a tiny amount of blue dye to the 10% ammonia for the international kits, just enough to make the solution noticeably bluish. Or I may do it the other way. Yeah, actually that makes more sense. The higher concentration has something more than the lower.

Thanks to everyone who commented or sent me email about international shipping with DHL, FedEx, or UPS. I ruled out all of those long ago. If the postal service can’t get it somewhere, I just won’t sell kits there. A year or so ago, when we first started shipping kits to Canada, I checked into using DHL, FedEx, or UPS. I called the 800 numbers for each of them and asked what should have been a simple question: “I have a box with the following dimensions and mass that contains the following items. How much will you charge me to ship it to a specific Canadian address?” None of the three could give me a specific dollar amount. There were so many potential added fees, many of which were variable and applied only under certain circumstances, that I couldn’t get even a ballpark number for what it would cost me to ship. For example, one of them (UPS I think) charges according to the distance that the recipient is from the local UPS office. Beyond x miles, a surcharge applies; beyond 2x miles, a higher surcharge applies. Another surcharge applies to residential versus business addresses, and a redelivery charge applies if the driver isn’t able to deliver the package on the first attempt. There were something like (and I am not making this up) 80 different types of surcharges. The customer service rep actually had the nerve to suggest that I open an account with them. She said that my account would be billed for the nominal charge until the package was delivered, after which my account might be billed additional surcharges retroactively. Jesus. Who could run a business that way? “Hire me to provide a service. After I’ve provided it, I’ll tell you how much you owe me.” So, yeah, I’m sticking with USPS Priority Mail for US shipments and USPS Priority Mail International for foreign shipments.

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