Tuesday, 31 December 2013

08:50 – Our original goal for 2013 was to double kit sales over 2012. We didn’t quite make that, but we weren’t far off, either. We fell short of doubling by only $6K or $7K. That’s not too bad, considering that we got hammered in late spring by the sequester and in October by the budget deadlock. For those three months, which should have been big months, we barely beat 2012 figures.

For 2014, our goal is to at least double 2013 sales, which means we’ll need to ship 1,000 kits or so. That’s challenging but it should be doable.


09:59 – Here’s something interesting I just stumbled upon during a web search: Amazon Supply (Beta). First I’d heard of it.

Monday, 30 December 2013

09:48 – Barbara and I just finished the first season of the law firm drama The Good Wife on Amazon streaming. The show seems to be competently done but not as extraordinary as most of the critics seem to think. The cast is excellent and the writing above average. However, not an episode passes without at least one and usually several of the lawyers doing things that in real life would get them disbarred if not imprisoned. I mean, they casually engage in major fraud, evidence tampering in murder cases, suborning juries, and so on. Still, it’s not a bad show and Julianne Margulies is very watchable.

Barbara is still cleaning and I’m trying to get everything done that needs to be done by tomorrow.


Sunday, 29 December 2013

09:15 – Cool, rainy days yesterday and today. Our official month-to-date rain is about 5 inches (12.5 cm), but according to our own rain gauge we’re up over 7 inches.

Interesting article in the morning paper: The world braces for retirement crisis

The mainstream media is belatedly realizing just how bad things are. Even now, many people can’t afford to retire at 65, or even 70. As the years pass, this is going to get worse, much worse. With more and more older people expecting fewer and fewer younger people to support them, something has to give. Particularly since more and more of those younger people have crap jobs or no jobs, a phenomenon that is exacerbated by many of those older people hanging onto their jobs for dear life.


Saturday, 28 December 2013

08:18 – Yesterday, for the first time ever, someone filed a complaint against us with PayPal for non-delivery. I checked the USPS tracking number and found that USPS had attempted delivery on the 18th and left a notice. I submitted that tracking link to PayPal and emailed the customer to let her know that the package has been sitting at her local post office since the 18th and that she should contact them to arrange pick-up or redelivery. We’ll see what happens.


13:26 – We just made a Home Depot run to pick up some shelf brackets and 6-foot 1×12 boards to add more shelves to what used to be my work room and is now a storage room. We also picked up five 56-quart (53-liter) Sterilite storage boxes for $5.97 each. What’s odd is that they also had 28-quart Sterilite storage boxes that were otherwise identical for $5.98 each. Let’s see. A penny cheaper and twice the size.

I also grabbed three of the 5-gallon “Homer” orange plastic buckets with lids for about four bucks each. They’re not listed as “food grade” but they look fine to me for food storage. Buckets and lids are both polyethylene. What surprised me is that although the tops of the buckets appear to be threaded, the lids are not. They’re snap-on, and once they’re on you have to destroy the seal to open them by pulling a tab to remove the perforated strip around the circumference of the lid. Still, they look like they’ll work fine for bulk food storage for items like sugar, rice, beans, flour, and so on.

Friday, 27 December 2013

10:39 – Barbara is still cleaning up, inside and out. I’m doing year-end stuff, working on my submission for the SPARK competition, and thinking about new science kits for 2014.

I happened across an article the other day that mentioned early blogs, so I checked Wikipedia and found an entry on early bloggers. It mentioned Jerry Pournelle, of course, but not me. Jerry’s and my current blog archives both go all the way back to June 1998. The difference is, that’s when Jerry–who proclaims his site as “The Original Blog”–actually started blogging. I’d been keeping my journal page for years before that, but those pre-6/98 entries are no longer on-line. From the time I registered the ttgnet.com domain in February 1995, I posted entries/articles at least several times a week, and often daily. Before that, I ran a Gopher server, and before that I ran a multi-line bulletin board system, both with frequent journal entries. All told, I’ve been “blogging” for perhaps 25 years.

For the last 15 years, I’ve posted nearly every day, and many days I’ve made multiple posts. Call it a minimum of 5,000 blog-days. In the 10 years before that, I posted less frequently but not all that less frequently. Call it a minimum of 100 days per year, or another 1,000 blog-days. Alas, those pre-1995 entries are probably gone forever. I suspect I still have the 2/95 through 6/98 entries archived locally somewhere. Perhaps I should dig them out and put them back up on the Internet. I suspect there’s no other blogger on the planet who can match my record of longevity and consistency. And yet I’m hardly ever mentioned when someone writes about early bloggers.


Thursday, 26 December 2013

08:39 – Barbara continues with her annual Deep Clean. I’m doing year-end stuff.


14:32 – Well, data are still coming in, but it appears that the Christmas season turned into a debacle for UPS. The remaining Big Three package delivery companies, FedEx and USPS, appear to have had some minor glitches, but in general acquitted themselves pretty well. UPS basically collapsed. USPS was still making last-minute deliveries on Christmas morning. FedEx apparently wasn’t delivering, but at least they kept their centers open to allow customers to pick up packages on Christmas Day. UPS was apparently closed completely. I would expect UPS to have declared an all-hands-on-deck emergency and run full delivery services from the wee small hours of Christmas morning all the way through Christmas evening, or until they got everything delivered. Instead, they apparently all took the day off and just left a bunch of packages sitting in their distribution centers for delivery today and the rest of the week. Geez.

I just got another fundraising email from Wikipedia, so I went ahead and donated. I’d encourage any of my readers who use Wikipedia to do the same. Even $20 helps a lot.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

14:53 – Barbara has started her annual Deep Clean. She spent most of the morning in my office, and has declared herself satisfied with all but my main desk, which I haven’t even started on. Actually, I still have some work to do on my secondary (microscope) desk as well. My workroom is a disaster area, but I had to get my office organized and cleaned up first so that I’d have somewhere to use as a staging area while I cleaned up the workroom.

While I was cleaning off the microscope desk, it occurred to me that I probably still had everything there that I’d used to shoot the cover image for Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments. Sure enough, I did. Not just the microscope itself, but the slides, coverslips, 96-well plate, 20-microliter minipipette, tubes, rack, and so on. And the bottles of 3% hydrogen peroxide and 70% isopropanol. Well, not the original bottles, but ones just like them.

And it occurred to me that we never mentioned in the book what that bottle of hydrogen peroxide was for. Drugstore (3%) hydrogen peroxide is death on microorganisms. Not just bacteria, but fungi, protists, viruses, many spores, and even prions. Of course, there are many other solutions that are good at killing microorganisms. The nice things about 3% hydrogen peroxide are that it presents no serious handling hazards and that it’s fugitive. That is, it quickly breaks down into ordinary water and oxygen gas, leaving no residue that might kill organisms that you’re trying to culture. It’s not as effective as autoclaving, but nearly so, and it can be used to sterilize materials that can’t be autoclaved. For those reasons, 30% hydrogen peroxide is commonly used as a stock solution to prepare dilute solutions to sterlize commercial food preparation equipment, which means it’s cheap and readily available locally.


Monday, 23 December 2013

07:37 – Costco run and dinner with Mary and Paul yesterday.

For the last couple of months we’ve been in this alternating cycle of warm/wet and cold/dry. Yesterday, the high was 72F (22C) and we had about 1.6 inches (4 cm) of rain. Overnight, the low was 62F (17C) and we had another 0.8 inches (2 cm) of rain. The temperature is to remain about the same today with a 100% chance of more rain. Then the rain disappears and our low tonight is about freezing, with lows for the next several days well below freezing but no rain. We’ve been lucky that the cold and rain have been completely out of sync. If they’d been in-sync, there have been several times already this season when we could have gotten literally two or three feet (50 to 100 cm) of snow. Or, more likely, heavy ice storms.