Month: September 2013

Friday, 20 September 2013

11:28 – Barbara gets back tomorrow. I can’t wait. Colin had the squirties yesterday and overnight, not to mention barfing up his dinner on the foyer rug, so I’m running on very little sleep.

Barbara called a few minutes ago. The tour bus had made a stop at a Cabellas, so Barbara was walking around the guns and ammunition section. Geez. The last time I bought a box of 100 .45 ACP ammunition at Wal*Mart, it was something like $29. She said Cabellas had the same box, but it’s now $78. She said she wasn’t comfortable buying ammunition, which was fine with me since I have no idea whether it’d even be legal to transport it interstate on a tour bus. She did say she could pick up a couple of shotguns, but I passed on that as well. I told her about Colin’s squirties problem, and of course she was very concerned. But it seems to have cleared up today, so I told her not to worry about it.

I’m working today on designing an earth science kit. Kit design is always an iterative process, adding stuff tentatively and then taking it out later when it turns out it’s not worth the cost because there are cheaper ways to accomplish the same thing. And the whole time I’m roughing out the lab manual, adding stuff here and removing stuff there.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

08:34 – Only two more days until Barbara returns. Colin is getting impatient. Since Sunday, Barbara’s been in the Michigan UP area, first at Mackinac Island and yesterday at Sault Ste. Marie. She hasn’t had a cell signal since they arrived at Mackinac, so I called her last night at her hotel just to make sure everything was okay. She said everything is fine and that she and Marcy are having a great time.

The morning paper reports that Duke Energy has joined a large and growing list of big companies that are eliminating retiree health insurance. Duke will now pay a fixed amount toward Medicare supplement policies for its retirees. I expect this phenomenon to snowball over the next few years. Eventually, all private retirees and many local and state government retirees will find that their only option is Medicare, with their former employers perhaps paying something towards a supplemental policy. Eventually, I expect federal government and military retirees will also be lumped into the Medicare system. This is just an early sign of the creeping defaults government will make on unsustainable promises.

Kit work continues. I need to inventory our bottle supply and put together a PO for more bottles and caps once I figure out what we’re short of.

12:07 – As it turns out, we’re in a lot better shape on bottles than I thought we were. I found a couple of cases that I didn’t realize we had. That gives us enough empty bottles for another 100+ kits–in addition to the labeled bottles we already have in stock, another 100+ kits worth–so I can put off ordering bottles and caps for another couple months.

I did start transferring cases of bottles from the manufacturer’s packaging–large plastic bags inside cardboard boxes–to 66-quart translucent plastic bins. Those stack a lot better than the boxes and make it easy to see how many bottles of each type we have in stock with just a glance. I need to pick up another six or eight of the 66-quart bins the next time we’re at Home Depot.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

09:47 – Barbara’s been gone 96 hours. We miss her. I told Colin this morning that she’d be back in only three more days. That seemed to satisfy him.

The plastic bottles we order in bulk come in cases of 1,100 to 1,650, depending on the size of the bottle. They’re packaged loose-filled in large cardboard boxes with a large plastic bag inside to protect the bottles from dirt. The 30 mL glass bottles are different. They come in “cases” of 168 bottles, which are shrink-wrapped. I hate that packaging, because as soon as I cut the shrink wrap I end up with a loose pile of breakable bottles. I wish they’d package them in cardboard boxes with cardboard dividers to protect the individual bottles.

Katie sent me these two images yesterday, taken in Fort Collins, Colorado where she lives and works.

Hi Bob,

Here are a couple flood pictures (before and after). The first one was taken Friday and the second one was just a few minutes ago.

These were taken right by our work on the path we take our daily walks!

Thought I would share since we were talking about it yesterday.

Katie Dugan


Flood After

11:57 – Those who follow RCC superstitions should be aware that contact with “holy” water can be hazardous to their health: Holy water in Austria is contaminated, unsafe to drink, researchers say

Although the researchers limited themselves to churches and other religious sites in Austria, it seems likely that the problem is universal. Many people don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom, so the bacteria and viruses on their hands–including potentially deadly coliforms and other pathogens–are transferred to the ‘holy” water. So, the next time you think about touching “holy” water, you might want to think again. Either that, or boil or otherwise sterilize the stuff before you handle it.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

09:50 – Barbara’s been gone 72 hours. So far, Colin and I are making do. Only four more days until she returns.

I called AmEP yesterday afternoon just to make sure that Katie was okay. She said she and her husband are fine, as is the business, but that much of Fort Collins and the surrounding area is a complete wreck. She was off Thursday and the business was closed Friday. She said it took her about two and half hours yesterday to drive the two or three miles from their house to the office. Almost all of the bridges are out, and the traffic was a bumper-to-bumper parking lot. But they’re still operating normally, taking orders, receiving shipments from their suppliers, and sending out shipments to their customers. Colin barked while were talking, and I told Katie that that was my Border Collie assistant. As it turns out, Katie also has a Border Collie. She got her when she was in college, and the BC is now 13 years old.

I told Katie that our next science kit would probably be earth science, and that I wanted to include rock and mineral specimens. AmEP has dozens of different rock/mineral kits in their catalog, but as I told Katie I fear single-sourcing anything. I’d hate to have a standard kit that requires a product that the vendor might discontinue without notice. She said that their rock/mineral kits are an “evergreen” product for them. They sell them in large numbers and have been doing so for years. They build the kits themselves rather than importing them from China or wherever. They actually employ a geologist and they own the quarries where they get their rock specimens. Katie said they’d be happy to do a custom kit for me, or if I preferred they’d sell me the stuff in bulk. So, for example, I could order 50 pounds each or whatever of 1″ chunks of 25 different rocks and minerals and build the kits ourselves.

Monday, 16 September 2013

09:25 – Barbara’s been gone 48 hours. Surprisingly, Colin seems to be doing pretty well. He’s not pestering any more than usual, nor demanding that I Do Something about Barbara being missing. Like most Border Collies, Duncan and Malcolm were one-person dogs, and that person was Barbara. They tolerated me. When Barbara and I were both out of the house and I came home alone, Duncan and Malcolm would bark like crazy to celebrate Barbara’s return. When they saw it was just me, they’d say, “Oh, it’s just you” and go back to watching/listening for Barbara’s return. Colin seems to be a two-person Border Collie, and he’s happy as long as at least one of us is with him.

I ran myself flat out of the CK01B chemistry kits this morning. Fortunately, I have everything I need for a dozen more sitting on the shelf, so it’s just a matter of boxing them up. We’re also down to four of the BK01 biology kits as of this morning, so I’ll get another dozen or two built over the next couple of days. Come to think of it, I’m out of the iodine solution, so I’ll have to make up another two liters of that and fill bottles before I can build more kits.

Our thoughts are with the flooding victims in Colorado. I just read an article that mentioned that evacuations were voluntary, but those who decide not to evacuate their homes are being warned that they could be without water and power for weeks to months. Given that many roads and bridges have been utterly destroyed and will require months to years to be rebuilt, those folks may literally have to hike out if they change their minds. And, of course, emergency medical care will be unavailable or at least very slow in arriving.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

08:52 – Barbara’s been gone 24 hours, and Colin and I are already descending into barbarism, filth, and squalor. Last night, we stalked, pounced, and killed our dinner and ate it raw. That frozen Stouffer’s chicken and brocolli pasta bake never knew what hit it. It was kind of crunchy, though. Next time, we may heat it first. All of Barbara’s training is not lost on us, however. I’m doing a load of laundry as I write this, and later I’ll clean the toilets.

I have all but two of the solutions I need for a new batch of 60 biology kits made up, and most of the bottles filled. I’ll make up three liters each of the 6 molar hydrochloric acid and 6 molar sodium hydroxide solutions today and try to finish bottling everything. Tomorrow I’ll build a dozen or two biology kits and then get to work on what I need to build more chemistry and forensic kits. As expected, kit sales have started to tail off a bit. Some days, we ship six or eight kits and other days none or one. We’re still averaging about three a day, but that’s starting to decline. In October/November, we’ll probably average 1.5/day and then jump back up to around two a day in December.

10:18 – I’m getting a bit concerned about Katie Dugan, who’s my rep at one of our wholesalers, American Educational Products. She’s a delightful young woman, and I talk with her regularly, most recently a day or two before the flooding started. AmEP is in Fort Collins, Colorado, which until this morning I thought was not one of the worst-affected areas. The news reports kept talking about Boulder, but this morning I saw one that mentioned that Fort Collins and its county have more than 350 people unaccounted for, which is the bulk of those unaccounted for. I hope Katie and her new husband are okay.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

08:45 – I just got back from dropping off Barbara and her friend Marcy at the tour bus stop. They return next Saturday, so it’ll be wild-women-and-parties until then. Either that or the Heartland marathon. I just checked, and on this iteration I’m through series 3 episode 5, which means at 6 or 7 episodes per evening I can make it partway through series 5 before Barbara returns.

Friday, 13 September 2013

08:06 – Friday the 13th falls on a Friday this month.

Colin and I are preparing ourselves for Barbara’s departure tomorrow morning. She’s stopping at the supermarket on her way home from work to stock up on stuff she knows I’ll eat while she’s gone. Nothing that requires much preparation, because she knows I won’t bother if there’s much work involved. Speaking of which, I just realized something recently. Barbara sometimes buys those 10-ounce bags of small doughnuts. They’re labeled “Snack Size”. Until very recently, I honestly thought that referred to the bag as a whole, rather than to the small doughnuts inside. I finally looked at the nutrition panel, which I expected to say “Serving Size – 1 bag”. Instead, it said something like “Serving Size – 4 doughnuts”.

We’re back in pretty good shape on chemistry kits, so today I start filling bottles for biology kits.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

09:32 – Kit sales continue to be strong. We shipped six kits yesterday, including our first ever to Switzerland. We’re getting perilously low on all types of kits, but the chemistry kits are the top priority. I’ll build another batch of two dozen of the regulated chemical bags for the chemistry kits today and then assemble a batch of kits. Over the weekend, I’ll work on another batch of two or three dozen biology kits.

Barbara leaves Saturday with one of her friends for a week-long bus tour, so Colin and I will be on our own. I considered doing the wild-women-and-parties thing, but I decided instead to have a Heartland marathon while she’s gone. Six nights at six episodes per night will get me through two full 18-episode seasons.

15:40 – I’ve been watching the growing literacy divide for the 25+ years that I’ve been on-line, and it’s becoming stunningly apparent that the US is no longer a nation in which basic literacy can be assumed. I’m shielded from this, at least to some extent. I correspond mostly with smart, well-educated people, and most of the blogs I follow are written by very bright people as well. Homeschoolers–students and parents–are generally well-educated and fully literate.

It’s when I dip my toe in the waters of general blogs that the low standard of general literacy nowadays becomes apparent. I have no doubt that the appalling decline in public schools over the last three or four decades has caused this. There are now 30-, 40-, and even 50-year-old people walking around who never learned basic grammar, spelling, and punctuation. I suspect that many of them cannot read at even what used to be considered an elementary-school level. Certainly, many of them cannot write above that level. And I don’t see anything on the horizon that will stop this growing catastrophe.

As just one example, I was reading an article yesterday about the Common Core. One of the criticisms leveled against it was that the standardized tests had changed some of the wording in test questions. The example they gave was that the earlier version of the question referred to the “main idea” while the updated question referred to the “central idea”. Apparently, many students’ vocabularies are inadequate to allow them to understand that the rephrased question is the same as the original question.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

14:38 – Another anniversary today, this one not a happy one. It’s been 12 years, and the US has done little to avenge an attack comparable to Pearl Harbor. Worse, in fact, because the 9/11 attack targeted our civilians. We’ve known since the day of the attack that Saudi Arabia was responsible, and yet there they still sit, undamaged and laughing at us. And, incredibly, the US president wanted to intervene militarily in Syria to protect Al Quaeda terrorists, the group that was primarily responsible for the attack on 9/11.

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