Sunday, 5 January 2014

09:00 – We dodged the bullet on the freezing rain. We’re currently getting a cold drizzle, with the temperature at 34F (1C). But the colder air is moving in overnight and tomorrow, with the low tomorrow night forecast to be 4F (-16C). Barbara plans to drive the Trooper to work tomorrow, presumably with Ritt der Walküren playing at high volume.

Kit sales continue strong. As of now, sales for the month are just under 50% of the total sales for January of last year. What’s odd is how the mix has changed. Most months, biology kit sales are about a third of total sales. In December, biology kit sales were only about 4% of total sales. This month to date, biology kit sales are about 50% of total sales.


25 thoughts on “Sunday, 5 January 2014”

  1. Rick,

    How coincidental that you should mention this: “We had a Delorme InReach with us which provided satellite tracking and two way communications. If you go to https://share.delorme.com/4df2bf5b9a0e49dc83dcf4376acfd50c and zoom out, you can see our track from Friday Harbor to Portland. If you click on any of the tracking dots, it gives the date, time, speed, elevation and heading for that tracking point. We were about 30 miles offshore at the farthest. ”

    A number of years ago I was a frequent participant in RBT’s Hardwareguys technical forum. However, as activity there withered, I wandered of to another hobby related to my off-highway 4WD activities and landed over here:
    http://forum.delorme.com/viewtopic.php?f=232&t=103185#p294514

    I, too, have a DeLorme inReach, along with their PN-60w handheld GPSr, and use both exploring the back country. I do find the inReach subscription a bit of a bite as I don’t go out on a regular basis and it adds no real value around town.

  2. I use my inReach with the Delorme Earthmate software on my Android phone and tablets. Earthmate uses the free NOAA nautical charts and can be used to send and receive emails via satellite. I thought of bringing it with me to China when I go at the end of the month, but, being the paranoid sort, I don’t want to attract attention from the Chinese or U.S. governments. I am leaving my regular phone and laptop at home and bringing “clean” ones. I have an Android phone and have obtained a Chinese data SIM card for it. I can use it to make and receive calls via Skype over either 3G or Wi-Fi while I’m there.

    After reading the description of the inReach SE on the Delorme forum, I’ll stick with my original inReach paired with an Android device. When I asked about a trade in, the Delorme folks said they didn’t have a trade in program, but they’d be happy to transfer my subscription without an activation charge. Such a deal!

    Rick in Portland

  3. Foot of snow minimum predicted for Tiny Town and all of central Indiana. Flakes just turned large and started coming down with vengeance. County has ordered everyone to stay at home. Sub-zero temps are to follow as the temp is already dropping. “Polar vortex” is to blame. We just had 10 inches on Thursday, and I finally got dug out from that yesterday. Before that, we had rain that flooded people who have never been flooded before, including my tech friend in the phone industry, who had lived at his present house for 13 years without incident. The only thing that kept his basement from flooding badly was a high volume German sump pump that he installed a few years ago just as a precaution. Electricity was out in parts of his town, which is about 20 minutes from mine, but his lasted. He had his 3kw generator standing by just in case.

    More snow is due on Wednesday. I am not spending another January in Tiny Town if I can help it. Puerto Rico sounds good for a month or so.

  4. School Experiment That Burned Boy Was Focus of Federal Warning

    It takes a special kind of moron to expose a large amount of methanol to an ignition source, particularly with a group of kids nearby. (Or any other liquid with high vapor pressure and low flash point/autoignition temperature.)

    I learned that lesson by proxy when I was in second grade. One of my classmates poured gasoline onto the hot remains of a yard waste fire in a barrel, and was burned to death.

    I’ve been horrified by the number of science teachers who aren’t aware that many common lab solvents can be ignited even without a flame or spark. A hot incandescent bulb is enough to ignite them.

  5. I’ve been horrified by the number of science teachers who aren’t aware that…

    That’s because they’re trained in the School of Education, with incidental coverage of science, math, and such.

  6. rick says: “..I thought of bringing it with me to China when I go at the end of the month, but, being the paranoid sort, I don’t want to attract attention from the Chinese or U.S. governments.”

    Not only that, but the NSA is probably grabbing everything that it transmits for you in any event.

    Good choice not to upgrade. I have the SE but always use in conjunction with my Android phone and have never had to use it in standalone mode.

  7. From the NYT story:

    “a young science teacher known for safety consciousness, used methanol as an accelerant to burn dishes of different minerals in the chemistry demonstration known as the Rainbow.

    With about 30 students watching from their desks, a snakelike flame tore through the air, missing the students closest to the teacher’s desk, but enveloping Alonzo Yanes, 16, searing and melting the skin on his face and body, according to witnesses. He was in critical condition on Friday in the burn unit of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, Myrna Manners, a hospital
    spokeswoman, said.”

    It sounds like this experiment is a variation of the first two qualitative analysis labs in your chemistry book, except that you don’t use methanol. Do you have any ideas on how the methanol demonstration could go so wrong? What would produce a “snakelike flame” that must have been at least three or four feet long?

  8. We are going to be 29 F tonight and 26 F tomorrow night. Spent the afternoon freeze proofing the house and office. Plugged the hole in the water well house roof with a shingle (the well guys cut a hole trying to pull the old well pump) and put a heat lamp in the light socket. I’m not really worried though until we drop into the teens. The rest of the Houston area may see 20 F. Pretty cold for us people living next to the world’s biggest hot tub, the Gulf of Mexico.

  9. The saddest thing is that—once again—Republicans have nobody—NO ONE—in the wings, with what it takes to counter Mrs. Big Dog. Both Cruz and Christie are unelectable, Cruz having done what we now know the electorate of both parties almost unanimously did not want: government shutdown. Christie is in the pocket of big business, and is no more electable than that master of corporate destruction and the leader of moving the 1% to ever fatter pocketbooks at the expense of jobs for the middle-class, Mitt Romney.

    Maybe it is not sad; perhaps it is inevitable. Me, I would like to see Ben Stein nominated; at least it would be somebody who is somewhat funny. Paul Lynde would be preferable, but he is gone. I am sure Lynde would bring back the 2 dollar bill, if elected.

  10. I can see that the car is covered in exactly the same amount of snow as I shoveled Friday and Saturday—about 10 inches. However, a low pressure to the east is holding the snow from moving outta here. The only benefit of that, is that the sub-zero temps are being held back for a while. The ‘stay at home’ order is supposed to continue through tomorrow, but actually, streets are in better shape right now than after the last snow, so I can hardly understand the order. I have to get back to regular activity after almost 2 weeks worth of downtime. This would really be a nothing snow in Minneapolis. Everybody would take the day off in Boston, even though they really did not need to. Never got this much snow in 10 years living in Berlin.

  11. I’m about 70 miles west and south of Chuck, and we have about the same amount of snow here. The biggest problem is every couple of hours we have a short power outage or two.

  12. On the rainbow experiment, aside from a chemistry teacher who obviously didn’t know what she was doing, there one thing I don’t get: How does this produce life-threatening burns? Any sort of demonstration on a lab bench ought to be using a few drops of methanol. To produce enough vapor to seriously burn students standing several feet away, she must have been using liters of the stuff?!

    Looking around for further info (I didn’t find anything specific), I came across a chemistry blog that pointed out (yet again) that most high-school chemistry teachers do not hold a degree in chemistry. I can accept that for primary school, but as of junior high/middle school, there really should be no room for discussion.

    @Chuck: Get ready for President Hillary!

  13. Ah, and here it is: “the teacher poured the highly flammable alcohol out of a gallon container rather than having on hand only the few milli-liters necessary, one source said, speaking of the ongoing investigation on condition of anonymity. Finally, and most critically, Poole did not ensure that the fire had completely gone out in all four crucibles used in the experiment.”

    She was repeating the experiment, still had an ignition source, and had a large, open container of methanol. Also, the students were not wearing goggles and were standing directly next to the table where the demonstration was taking place.

    Anyone wanna bet about that chemistry degree?

  14. Also, the teacher was obviously using pure methanol rather than methanol doped with sodium chloride. Otherwise, the spectra of the other ions wouldn’t have been visible, because the sodium lines are so overwhelmingly intense. The flame of pure methanol is invisible, which is why a lot of methanol is doped with sodium chloride, to give it a visible yellow flame. Any chemist knows that, but as has been said many high-school chemistry teachers aren’t chemists.

  15. We haven’t had any of the power outages since I posted last night. Like the ones Chuck mentioned, they were just a few seconds long.

  16. I don’t know what my high school chemistry ‘teacher’ majored in in college, but is sure as hell wasn’t chemistry or any other science. She was so bad that if you enrolled in the local community college, (where the Science Department was headed by a Ph. D. chemist) you weren’t allowed to take anything but basic introductory chemistry. Of course, if you went anywhere else you were blindly thrown into the deep end, thinking you actually knew something.

  17. I took three years of chemistry in high school. The first year, in grade 10, was actually a pretty rigorous general chemistry course, with a strong lab component. Heck, the class itself was taught with us sitting at lab benches. The teacher knew a bit about chemistry, but he was perfectly aware that I knew a lot more than he did about it. After the first test, he called me aside and explained that I’d gotten 100% and no one else in the class had come even close to passing. He mentioned that from then on he was going to leave the classroom during each quiz or test and not return until the end of the period. He hinted that he wouldn’t be at all upset if I offered “guidance” to the other students during tests. So, I’d whip through the test in a few minutes and then go back and start muttering about each question, commenting on important details, how I’d run calculations if it were me, and so on. IIRC, most of the students ended up with C’s, and a couple with B’s and D’s.

    I took two more years of chemistry during my junior and senior years, but both were independent study and I was the only one in each class. The teacher would wander in once or twice during each period, but that was about it. He didn’t even try to pretend that he was teaching me anything about organic synthesis or quantitative analysis or whatever I happened to be working on.

  18. Well, in a way, we should be happy it is ethanol that is mixed with gasoline these days and not methanol, as methanol is cheaper to produce—otherwise, these vapor burns might be more widespread.

    My high school chemistry was taught exclusively by teachers who had a Master’s degree in chemistry. They may also have had a degree in Education, but all of them were definitely chemistry experts, and a couple went on to work in industry. Another became a PhD in chemistry, married one of the girls in my class, and taught for decades at the state university.

    The other thing about methanol that it would be impossible for me to avoid, having worked in TV and at covering the Indianapolis 500 for so many years, is that USAC approved the use of pure methanol in the mid-‘60’s. If you have ever actually watched the Indianapolis 500 or any Indy car race, you could not escape seeing the occasional accident, where the driver ran from the car, looking like he was trying to put out an invisible fire on himself. Methanol burns without a visible flame, and those guys were actually on fire.

    I just find it pretty incomprehensible that experiments are conducted around students at all with a substance like methanol that can burn invisibly. You cannot even be remotely interested in auto racing without learning how dangerous methanol is.

  19. Well, actually methanol is considerably less dangerous than gasoline. The real reason that gasohol uses ethanol rather than methanol (other than the corn lobby) is that methanol softens some of the plastics used in older model cars. And I wonder about even that. Methanol makes a lot more sense than ethanol, which is both much more expensive and hygroscopic.

    As to auto racing, I never understood why they didn’t dope the methanol with sodium chloride. Even one part per billion is enough to give the methanol flame a distinct yellow color. (The old chemists’ joke, which really isn’t a joke, is that if someone sneezes across the room from a colorless methanol flame, that’s sufficient to turn the flame yellow. Which it really is.)

  20. I wish that I had had three years of Chemistry in high school (only had one). Two years of Biology was a waste except the quadruple bypass open heart surgery that we got to watch from the above observation room.

  21. We haven’t had any of the power outages since I posted last night. Like the ones Chuck mentioned, they were just a few seconds long.

    They were probably the high voltage lines touching each other in the high winds. Those lines get ice on them and then get to swinging out of sync and “touch”. That will cause the high voltage breaker to trip and then reset almost immediately.

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