Saturday, 30 November 2013

By on November 30th, 2013 in Barbara, science kits

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.

14 Comments and discussion on "Saturday, 30 November 2013"

  1. Lynn McGuire says:

    That is fairly strong sulfuric acid. Do the kids have cognitive ability to work with that in junior high XXXXX middle school?

  2. OFD says:

    I am fairly confident that whatever weapon Scrooge Grinch Thompson devises will be of no use against Santa, who is, after all, a saint. And SGT will also likely be undermined, sandbagged and sabotaged anyway by Mrs. T. and Colin, who likes his treats and may not care from whence they are delivered all that much.

    28 now in Retroville, overcast, snow dusting on the ground still frozen, and Mrs. OFD off to New Mexico via Dulles in Mordor. Daughter studying hard in intensive intermediate German and Russian. MIL learning how to bounce around the net on the iPad. OFD himself taking the night off to watch violent movies and tee-vee series and stuff his gob with leftovers, such as the nice sammiches he made last night: turkey, bacon, Swiss cheese and lettuce, on toasted buttered Kaiser rolls with Davy’s Secret Sauce. Broiled briefly to melt the cheese. Probably have something completely different tonight, though.

    Yes, folks another exciting night here in Retroville on the Bay.

  3. Chuck W says:

    I keep thinking it is Sunday today. I accidentally scheduled an AT&T tech to come tomorrow, thinking that would be Mon. Have to punt on the changes to my schedule that means. The Internets has been down and up for the last couple of days, culminating in outages about every half-hour. I finally called AT&T tech support about 2 hours ago. She somehow queried the modem remotely, said it did not look from the logs that anything was wrong—even though they were showing those every half-hour reboots to me in the log I could access, before I called. Since she accessed the modem, I have had no problems. It was my turn to listen to an audio stream as a QC check, which was being interrupted with maddening frequency.

    I was down in the education capital of Hoosierland for the first part of the week, spending time with my son while all the students at my alma mater were gone. We intended to do some video work at the edit suites in the library, but amazingly, they are closing the formerly 24/7/365 library for the student holidays to keep the homeless out. More homeless down there than ever in memory, so I am told by those who should know. Like the area in Back Bay around MIT and Harvard when I moved to Boston in 1987, many of these homeless people have graduate degrees. My guess is that they fried their brains with drugs. They certainly do not act or interface with people as capable of graduate degrees,—nor did those panhandling in Back Bay, Boston way back when.

    Greg, I did not mean to ignore your request for info about Winamp, but I took the Linux laptop down to B-ton. I forgot that I reinstalled from scratch a few weeks ago after some experimenting screwed things up. In the process I wiped the password file I keep, and so was without it, and could only read here.

    Bottom line is, if you don’t use Winamp now, don’t bother with it. If you do or think you might, grab the most recent versions before the website disappears. Most important are the plug-ins. There are hundreds, and they will all be gone forever by 20 Dec.

    I am catching up with calendar-making. For a good 30 years, I have made my own custom calendars and custom appointment book. I always made them 2 years in advance and did that at T-giving. But there is no T-giving or any kind of break this time of year in the hektisch Leben in Deutschland, so I got seriously behind. I am using this year to catch up. Couple more full days of work to go. One more week of video work, then 3 weeks off.

    Lauren Spiers disappeared from the IU campus about 2 years ago, and has never been seen since. Her rich parents moved there and there has been an almost continual physical and media effort to press for people to come forward with info. That included big signs at every road into Bloomington with her picture, a phone number and website to give information. Lot of criticism of that, because she is not the only person to have disappeared, and the less rich got nowhere near the manhunt effort Lauren did.

    Anyway, the signs were gone on my trip this time. Apparently, criticism has run so high about the signs being there for so long, that the city was forced to have them removed.

    There has been much speculation about what happened to her. You can google and find whole websites devoted to those guesses. She had a known congenital heart problem and was reputedly known by some students as a recreational drug user. The theory my kids and their friends have is that she OD’d based on her tiny 4’11” 95# frame and the heart problem, died while in the company of a couple guy friends, one of whom may have been her source for drugs. One or the other is alleged by some students to have disposed of her body, never to be found. Her father and the police chief believe she was given a date-rape drug and came to during the act, threatening them, and they smothered her with a pillow.

    Disturbing case, but even I got tired of seeing those signs on entering the city. After 2 years, she is unlikely to be alive. Obviously it is traumatic for the family, but so was the loss of my wife to cancer. Everybody has to move on. Finally.

  4. Don Armstrong says:

    Lynn has a good point. There is, on that subject, issues of legal liability if a “child” injures themselves with such a “patently obviously dangerous” chemical.
    I don’t know whether it would help, and I don’t know what it would do to your cost structure, but I wonder whether if you have a colour laser printer (or even a rubber stamp and red ink) it would be worth putting a copy of a Material Safety Data Sheet for the acid at the top of the contents, double-sided with the top side reading something like

    (in red, bold, large type)
    (then drop back to standard black)
    There is a small amount of a more than normally extremely strong acid contained in this kit.
    However, all chemicals are safe when handled safely.

    As an exercise for the student, the other side of this page contains the standard MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for this acid. Please have both student and supervisor go though this sheet together to understand this chemical in particular, and MSDS’s (an essential part of handling chemicals) in general.
    Further information can be found on our website at http://www.xxxxxx.yyy

  5. Lynn McGuire says:

    Hit 75 F here today in the Land of Sugar before the clouds rolled in. We are going to be 80 F for the next several days until the next cold front front on Friday. Next Sunday’s forecast (Dec 8) has 27 F for the low, I will believe it only when I freeze.

    At my first job, we used 90% Sulfuric acid to regenerate our cation, anion and mixed beds for cleaning the water in our steam boilers. That stuff worked well and was totally nasty to concrete and anything else it got on. Of course, we used 50 to 100 gallons per day of it and had 10,000 gallons stored onsite of it. Then the witch doctor XXXXX chemist found an epoxy that was acid resistant and coated the entire area with about an 1/2 inch of it. Worked well.

  6. pcb_duffer says:

    Were our gracious host to include such a warning, and some kid subsequently get hurt, the plaintiff’s attorneys would run amok. “See, see, the evil Mr. RBT *KNEW* that what he was including was so dangerous as to be the veritable blood of Satan, but he included it anyway!!! Make him pay!!!!”

  7. Don Armstrong says:

    They’d do that anyway.
    “He included the stuff and he’s a professional – he knows what it’s capable of! In fact, he’s on public record (Wayback machine record of this blog) as saying he only did it as a convenience for him, recklessly disregarding the now-realised danger to the children he was supposed to lead, tutor and particularly coddle.”

    I was wondering whether something along my lines would throw responsibility back on the user. Alternatively, maybe he already says something in the kits that would apply generally to ALL their contents. That would probably be legally safest for him.

    They ought to pay a bounty on lawyers.

    And, digressing, on politicians, come to that.
    And anthropogenic global warming proponents.
    And to the third power for Al Gore, because he made laws even if he didn’t qualify as a lawyer.

  8. Lynn McGuire says:

    Does anyone know of a good Windows 8 touchscreen netbook to replace my 2.2 pound Acer Windows XP netbook that has 8 hours of battery life? It looks like Acer stopped making netbooks at Windows 7.

    It looks like that I will need to move to an Asus touchscreen ultrabook XXXXX transformer book with 2 GB of ram and a 64 GB SSD for $444:

    And no Windows x64 for Atom cpus. And I can run my software on it for testing. And the 2.4 pounds is just right for the road. But some people seem to be … unhappy … with it.

  9. Chuck W says:

    My advice on Asus is not to get the beginning of any generation of their portables. They learn quickly, but always screw up the first batch. My Ultrabook is that way. First generation, and the touchpad is centered on the computer and not centered with the keyboard as the reference. Thus my right palm *constantly* touches the touchpad (which is too wide, anyway—no excuse for that, really; how difficult is it to move a finger twice over the same area?), causing havoc anytime I use the built-in keyboard. Fortunately, I use external keyboard and mouse a LOT. But last time I was in Fry’s, I see they moved the touchpad on the descendant generation to be centered with reference to the keys, not the computer.

  10. Chuck W says:

    Oh, and I only get 4 hours out of my Asus Ultrabook (UX32VD-DH71). Maybe they are going in reverse on battery life. Battery is not user replaceable, either. That is going to be a pain when the time comes.

  11. Lynn McGuire says:

    If I leave my screen dim, I can get 10 hours on my Acer netbook with the 1.4 Ghz atom chip. I just upgraded it from 1 GB ram to 2 GB ram so do not know how much the battery life was affected, if at all. So, I suspect that any Intel cpu laptop with an atom chip is going to be very battery efficient.

    Oh yeah, that Asus X32VD-DH71 has an Intel I7M chip in it. That cpu is 17 W whereas the Atom cpu is 2 W. But, you get some sweet performance out of that laptop and you probably x64 also. And, 4 hours is not bad for that level of performance.

  12. Chuck W says:

    I love the resolution on the screen. Even though it is smaller than the now 7 year-old Asus screen, when using all san serif typefaces with Mint, it is so much sharper I am wowed. Nevertheless, I had intended it as my truly on-the-road portable machine; but with the touchy improperly-centered touchpad, it is not going to work for that function. It will probably replace the old Asus as my desktop machine, plugged into the monitor, keyboard, and mouse, and I will find something else for the portable.

  13. Lynn McGuire says:

    My advice on Asus is not to get the beginning of any generation of their portables.

    So how do you tell what is the first of a new generation of Asus portables?

  14. Chuck W says:

    Not sure, but the Ultrabook line has had a couple generations now, and later models than mine have corrected things I did not like. Asus does not produce any model for very long. And production cycles seem to be getting shorter as time moves on.

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