Friday, 3 January 2013

07:54 – Winter has returned to Winston-Salem. It’s currently 21F (-6C), with a stiff breeze. The forecast calls for freezing rain over the weekend and lows next week as low as 14F (-10C). For around here, that’s really cold. Colin doesn’t appear to care about cold. He wants to go out and sniff regardless.

The deadline for the S.P.A.R.K. competition is the 7th, but I want to have our entry submitted today if possible, and if not over the weekend. Come Monday, I want to be back at work on the earth science manual and on building more kits.

I got email from PayPal late yesterday afternoon to let me know that that complaint for non-delivery had been resolved in our favor. I checked the account and sure enough the money they’d held was again showing as available.


10:59 – Barbara just called to say she’d changed her plans. She was going to head over to her mom’s place after work and take her mom out to dinner and to run errands. With the weather forecast as it is, I wondered at the time if that was a good idea. Barbara said she and her sister had talked about it and decided not to do it. By the time Barbara got over to her mom’s place, it’d be well below freeezing with a stiff wind. That’s no weather for a woman in her 80’s to be out in.

I know that a lot of Northerners scoff at our piddly little cold spells, but it’s really no joke. Northern homes are equipped to deal with really cold weather, with heavy insulation and high-capacity furnaces. Many Southern homes aren’t equipped to deal with temperatures much below freezing because they seldom experience weather that cold. When we replaced our furnace a few years ago, I intentionally chose a model large enough to keep us warm when outside temperatures are below zero Fahrenheit (-18C). And then we have our natural gas logs, which on high put out another 60,000 BTUs per hour. Even during a power failure when the furnace can’t run, those natural gas logs put out enough heat to keep the whole house reasonably warm and to keep any pipes from freezing. Many of our neighbors aren’t so well equipped.


14:56 – We’ve had a busy start to the new year. Through this afternoon, we’ve sold a third as many kits as we did in all of January 2013, which itself showed a six- or seven-fold increase over January 2012. Or, another way of looking at it, we’ve already sold twice as many kits so far this month as we did the entire month of January 2012.

The only problem is, we’re backordered on the CK01B chemistry kits. One customer ordered four of them this afternoon. I shipped her the two we had in stock and told her the other two will ship Monday. So, I’m madly building CK01B kits. I actually plan to ship her the two backordered kits tomorrow if at all possible. And I really, really need to build more forensic kits as well.

16 thoughts on “Friday, 3 January 2013”

  1. They’re forecasting a low of -15°F (-26°C) on Sunday here in Nebraska. I love it when you inhale deeply and feel your mucus freeze.

  2. It’s currently 41°F (5°C) and sunny in Portland. I’m going sailing this weekend. The weather guessers are predicting 10 kt (18.5 km/h) winds gusting to 18 kts (33.5 km/h) tomorrow and 19 kts (35 km/h) gusting to 31 kts (57 km/h) on Sunday. Wind like that makes sailing fun and exciting.

    Captain Rick in Portland

  3. I’ve been on a sailboat once in my life. That was in the summer of 1974, when I was about to start my senior year in college. My girlfriend had borrowed a lake cabin from friends, and with it their 14-foot Sunfish. She told me she’d skipper and I’d crew. I told her that I’d never been on a sailboat and had no idea what it meant to crew. She said I just needed to lean into the harness per her instructions and that it’d be no problem. So, shortly after we started, she (I?) managed to capsize the boat and stick the top of the mast in the lake bottom. I was tangled in the harness underwater. I never knew how long I could hold my breath until that day. I finally managed to get untangled and back into atmosphere. She was in the water with me and a couple other boats had come roaring over to help. She was hysterical, and I wasn’t feeling much better myself.

    Since that day, I have never been on another sailboat, and I always (ALWAYS) have a knife on me.

  4. There’s a big difference between a Sunfish and my boat, which is 33 feet (10 meters) long and displaces slightly under 10,000 lbs (4,500 kg) with 4,400 lbs (2,000 kg) of lead ballast in the keel. It is almost impossible to capsize a boat like mine and it is self-righting if it is knocked down. Like any watercraft, if you do stupid things, you can get killed. Yet another form of natural selection at work.

    Properly designed larger sailboats are incredibly stable. In the book and movie “The Perfect Storm” there was a scene where the Coast Guard “rescued” the crew of a sailboat. In fact, the captain of the sailboat only reluctantly abandoned the boat. The boat was found washed ashore several weeks later, virtually undamaged and still seaworthy .

    Rick in Portland

  5. Bob wrote: “I know that a lot of Northerners scoff at our piddly little cold spells, but it’s really no joke. ”

    I, for one, never make fun of people who end up bearing the brunt of an ice storm. I make fun only of other Canadians, when they whine about the cold, and people from Southern California, who think 65F is cold.

    Rick, Portland is a fair bit inland, do you sail the Columbia? I’ve only sailed around the Gulf Islands of Georgia Straight, which is simply a wonderful place to sail. I have a healthy respect for water, which carries a little bit more than simple natural selection. Even smart people can get it massively wrong in the water.

  6. Back when I was a teenager, we owned a Morgan Out Island 41 sloop with three other families. We tried to sink that beauty or flip her all over Galveston Bay and never did so. She weighed 25,000 lbs and had 12,000 lbs of lead in her continuous keel. We had a 150% (50% larger than design) jib on her with a rolling main sail for good / bad weather. With a 20 knot wind, she would go 11 knots max. She only required four feet of water so she was difficult to get grounded but we did it anyway as Galveston Bay is very shallow. Very, very comfortable with 8 berths, 3 cabins, two bathrooms, a diesel inboard and a diesel generator. We added two air conditioners to her and she was awesome for a weekend sailing around the place.
    http://sailboatdata.com/viewrecord.asp?class_id=2225

    Just a tremendous amount of work though. Probably about two manhours of maintenance for each hour of sailing. Cleaning was the main problem with salt spray all over her. And the engine was a real pain in the butt when the radiator got pinholes in it. And the bacteria in the diesel was totally nasty and fuel pump killing.

  7. Stumbled across Newsday’s summary of 2013 deaths

    http://www.newsday.com/entertainment/celebrities/recent-notable-deaths-1.1236203#58

    There are 150 in there, but missing is NYC conservative radio talk host Bob Grant, who checked out on New Year’s Eve. Grant was the forerunner of Rush Limbaugh by a good long stretch of years, and was fired from WABC for commenting substantially to a caller when Ron Brown was presumed dead after a plane crash in S. America, ‘I’m a pessimist and believe he survived.’ Grant was super-opinionated, loved by New Yorkers, and was always hired right away by another station after his couple of firings.

    Also in that lot of obits, is Harold Camping, the preacher who predicted the end of the world twice and was wrong. He missed it only by a year, though. The world has ended in oblivion for him. He just got the message wrong: it wasn’t us destined for the end of the world as we know it; it was him.

  8. Lynn, your experiences in Galveston Bay bring back great memories. I, along with our electronics/computer teacher would go across the bridge over to Pleasure Island on Lake Sabine (just a few miles east of Galveston Bay) after classes on Thursdays. There we would crew a 30 ft sailboat in the “social” races of the Port Arthur yacht club. The boat was owned by an old retiree from Gulf Oil who had macular degeneration and couldn’t see beyond bow of the boat. The race course was various routes through buoys set in an octagon covering most of the lake. We even won a few races. I later bought myself an 18 ft boat with a centerboard (as opposed to a keel), but later sold it. As soon as my place in Fort Worth sells I’m going to buy a small place for myself near Galveston Bay and help my youngest daughter with the medical supply business she’s starting in League City.

  9. bgrigg said:

    “Rick, Portland is a fair bit inland, do you sail the Columbia? I’ve only sailed around the Gulf Islands of Georgia Straight, which is simply a wonderful place to sail. I have a healthy respect for water, which carries a little bit more than simple natural selection. Even smart people can get it massively wrong in the water.”

    I keep the boat on the Columbia, right near the Portland Airport. I bought it last spring in Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands and we sailed it down the coast to Astoria and up the Columbia to Portland.

    Smart people can get it massively wrong in the water, but stupid people are begging to be taken out of the gene pool when they’re on the water.

    Most of the stupid things I see are done by power boaters, especially those on jet skis. “The most common types of vessels involved in reported accidents were open motorboats (47%), personal watercraft (19%), and cabin motorboats (15%). ” In 2012 32 of 651 deaths on boats in the U.S. were on sailboats. The overwhelming majority of boat deaths occurred on boats under 26 feet in length and the overwhelming majority of drownings happened to people not wearing life jackets. http://www.uscgboating.org/statistics/accident_statistics.aspx

    On my boat, everybody wears a life jacket when they’re in the cockpit or on deck. Out in the ocean, anybody who went on deck was tethered to a jack line.

    Rick in Portland

  10. Well, as a friend put it, “A sailboat is a hole in the water you shovel money into.”

    The only boats my dad had, he got after I moved out. He had a small fishing boat for a while, and then moved up to a bass boat. He took it up to the Thousand Lakes area of Canada to fish with his brothers in the early 70s, and the locals acted like he’d brought a NASCAR racer to a funeral procession. Ten years later, all the guides up there had them.

    One of his patients found out that he liked to fish and invited him out on his “boat”. Which turned out to be a WW II minesweeper, with a crew of 10 or so. All tackle was provided. There were deck hands to take your catch and a butler to deliver drinks and snacks. Shortly before lunch he asked how you wanted your snapper cooked, and the guests (10 or so) sat down to a lunch of fish, potatoes, salad, etc. served on china, with a selection of wines and beers. As they left the boat, their catch was delivered to their car, cleaned, and iced down in an ice chest.

  11. I always thought boating sounded like fun, and I’ve enjoyed the (rare) outing on someone else’s boat. But even from afar, the amount of money and/or work required to maintain a boat is just incredible. There are already not enough hours in the day – I can only suppose that anyone with a boat makes it the center of their life.

  12. Your natural gas heating will be fine if you have provision to keep the gas valve open. Furnaces have a safety feature in the form of a gas valve which must have power in order to stay open, this prevents uncontrolled gas flow in case the the thermocouple goes bad or the flame gets blown out. A small generator will easily provide the AC power necessary. You probably know this, and have made the proper connections but thought I’d mention it.

  13. But even from afar, the amount of money and/or work required to maintain a boat is just incredible.

    It is all a matter of priorities. I have owned a power boat for 35 years. Currently have a 22 foot wakeboarding boat with a 340 HP V-Drive. Biggest expense besides gas is the yearly, sometimes twice, reworking of the propeller. The metal is really soft and hitting a fish at speed will bend the prop enough to require rebuilding.

    Furnaces have a safety feature in the form of a gas valve which must have power in order to stay open

    Not only that, mine also has a flame detector and an airflow detector. Lose either of those and the gas will not remain flowing. My system is micro processor controlled and monitors several functions to ensure safe operation. Long gone are the days of a simply thermocouple to monitor the pilot light, such pilot lights also a thing of the past with electronic ignition. Couple that with an intelligent thermostat and the systems of today work very well.

  14. Rick, that must have been quite a journey to sail from the San Juan Islands to Astoria! Sailing around the Olympic Peninsula would be a thrill. Did you hug the coast, or head out to the open ocean? I am well acquainted with Friday Harbor. Its a popular stop for boaters from the Canadian side of the border.

    How was your crossing of the tide bar at the mouth of the Columbia? I spent some time at the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria a few years back and wouldn’t want to attempt crossing it when it’s angry, without massive amounts of HP, and one of those Coast Guard boats that can operate upside-down!

  15. My gas boiler is c1994. When my folks retired to Tiny House, they redid all the heating, plumbing, electrical, and the kitchen. I added central air for my mom when my dad passed, and it cut the bill from window air-conditioning by two-thirds. I do miss the boilers from Europe, however. Here, the gas comes on, heats the water to incredibly hot temps, the house overheats, the boiler shuts down, and the house feels progressively and noticeably colder until the boiler comes on again. Over there, they vary the water temperature with the outside temp so the water is just hot enough to keep the house warm. That has the effect of keeping the radiators almost always warm, and with radiant heat, the house feels warm all the time.

    I do that manually here. Have had to kick the water temperature up twice so far, and will probably have to do it again before the below zero weather slides down from Canada on Sunday night.

    Right now we’re getting incredible 30 mph wind gusts in 26°F/-3°C.

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