Saturday, 30 November 2013

08:57 – Barbara has finished installing and decorating the Saturnalia tree, which means I’m now free to walk Colin around the neighborhood wearing the Saturnalia antlers and little red blinking Saturnalia snout cover. I just realized that that sentence is ambiguous. It’s me who wears the antlers and snout cover, not Colin.

That also means it’s time to start planning the ASG (anti-Santa gun) installation for this year. If there’s one lesson I’ve learned in previous years, it’s that the old bastard is FAST. So this year I’m thinking speed-of-light weapon, maybe a 4-megawatt UV laser. The utility feeds into our neighborhood can’t provide 4 MW of electrical power, so it’ll have to be a chemically-pumped unit.

Yesterday I decided to add another SKU for the earth science kit, a 30 mL bottle of ACS reagent grade 98% sulfuric acid. We’ll use that in the labs on chemical weathering and the effects of acid rain on plant growth. I thought about using technical-grade acid, which is cheaper and would have been fine for those purposes, but using the reagent-grade stuff will allow that SKU to do double duty. One of the forensic kits includes two presumptive drug test reagents, Marquis reagent and Mandelin reagent, both of which are reagent-grade concentrated sulfuric acid with a small amount of formaldehyde or ammonium metavanadate added, respectively. Both of those reagents are reasonably stable, but they do degrade eventually. So in the past I’ve been making them up on-the-fly as I shipped the kits. So yesterday I made up new batches of Marquis and Mandelin reagent bottles that contained only the formaldehyde and ammonium metavanadate. We’ll also include a separate bottle of sulfuric acid, which will allow kit buyers to make up those reagents themselves simply by adding sulfuric acid to the appropriate bottles, thus extending the shelf life and allowing us to pre-pack those two reagents rather than adding them at ship time.