Wednesday, 22 January 2014

By on January 22nd, 2014 in science kits

08:36 – Winter is back in Winston-Salem, or at least the cold weather. We haven’t gotten any frozen precipitation and none is in the forecast. Last night, though, the wind chill was supposed to be -4F (-20C), and the next three days are to have highs around freezing and lows in the 10F to 20F range.

One thing about this business is that we go through bottles by the thousands. The number per kit varies by kit type, but typically when we build a batch of 30 kits that accounts for a thousand or so bottles. So we generally order several cases at a time, with one case being anything from 1,100 to 1,650 bottles, depending on size.

Our current kits use mostly 15 mL and 30 mL PE cylinders and 30 mL PE wide-mouths, with an occasional 125 mL PP cylinder and 30 mL amber glass. When we start shipping the advanced chemistry kit that mix will change to include a lot more of the 30 mL glass bottles, which are needed for chemicals like concentrated acetic, hydrochloric, nitric, and sulfuric acids, 30% ammonia and hydrogen peroxide, and so on. There’ll probably be a dozen or more glass bottles in that kit, which brings up the problem of breakage during shipping. There’s really no alternative to wrapping each bottle in foam padding. I think this is what we’re going to use, one 6×12″ sheet per bottle. The foam is only 1/32″ thick, but rolling each bottle up in one sheet and taping it should provide enough foam thickness to protect against breakage.

30 Comments and discussion on "Wednesday, 22 January 2014"

  1. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Nah. I think it’s the Martians screwing with us.

  2. Lynn McGuire says:

    Me too. I saw a cartoon with them standing in front of the rover with a painted desolate landscape so we did not see the city with three million martians in it. The two martians were complaining that their union wages were not high enough for this boredom.

  3. Lynn McGuire says:

    Facebook to lose 80% of its users by 2017–of-its-users-by-2017–according-to-a-new-study-142057526.html

    “In the case of Facebook (FB), the researchers used MySpace as a case study for a social network whose use spread rapidly, like a disease, and then quickly died out when the number of new users declined. The study finds that Facebook is “just beginning to show the onset of an abandonment phase.” The researchers believe that abandonment will accelerate to the point that Facebook could lose 80% of its users between 2015 and 2017. “

  4. Lynn McGuire says:

    Google Nexus 5 – Smartphone Review – Tom’s Hardware. Is 5″ too big for a screen?,3720.html

    $350 without a contract. Nice.

    Intel may be dead meat with this new ARM quad core 2.3 Ghz cpu.

  5. rick says:

    I wouldn’t rule Intel out. I have a Dell Venue 8 tablet which has an Intel quad core Atom processor. While the clock speed is slower than the ARM, it is a fast machine, although Windows 8.1 sucks. When I get around to it, I’ll try either Ubuntu or Android on it. It feels quite fast when I compare it with my second generation Nexus 7.

    I’m traveling to China for two weeks at the end of this month. I’m debating what computers to bring. I have tentatively decided on my Dell Venue 8 tablet, my Acer C710 Chromebook running Crubuntu and my Galaxy S (original model). I have a Chinese data SIM card to give me data access where I don’t have WI-fi and all of them can be used with Skype to communicate home if necessary. None of them are critical and none will have personal data on them.

    Things have changed since I was young. In 1971 I traveled for a month in Pakistan and Afghanistan by plane, train and bus through the Khyber Pass. The only way to communicate was by letter or cable. Neither was reliable and both were expensive. The idea of a phone call was inconceivable. Now I can communicate literally from anywhere in the world for free.

    Rick in Portland

  6. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Yes, I remember when our friend Mary Chervenak was doing the Blue Planet Run around the world. I got her set up with Skype before she left. One of her video calls home was from Mongolia, made from a yurt in the Gobi Desert.

  7. Lynn McGuire says:

    Right now, the biggest user of Intel CPUs is all the data center servers. If those guys decide to jump to the ARM CPUs for reduced power usage then Intel will lose a significant amount of their business. Maybe 20%.

    Data Centers use an unreal amount of power. Jumping from a 70 W Intel CPU to a 2 W ARM CPU could be a major reduction in power usage across +-5,000 servers. You need a smaller power supply, smaller cpu fan (or no cpu fan), smaller motherboard voltage changers, etc, etc, etc.

    Of course, I understand that Microsoft built their data centers with 8 W Intel Atom CPUs. And that the latest Atom CPUs are better at power management. And they run x86 machine language instead of ARM machine language. And there is an x64 Atom coming out soon if not already.

  8. rick says:

    The Atom in my Dell tablet is x64 4 core.

    You can get an Atom based Android tablet for as little as $100.

    If it weren’t a Walmart exclusive, I’d buy one. I won’t deal with Walmart.

    Rick in Portland

  9. ech says:

    Right now, the biggest user of Intel CPUs is all the data center servers. If those guys decide to jump to the ARM CPUs for reduced power usage then Intel will lose a significant amount of their business.

    IIRC, a startup in Austin that was trying to do this just went out of business.

  10. Chuck W says:

    I’m with Rick on the turning from Walmart—especially the stuff made for them. I bought a GE microwave that I later found out was made exclusively for Walmart. Before the year was up, the Klystron shorted out. Walmart had demanded that GE make it so cheaply, that they did it with a custom run of Klystrons. There were no extras; no more were made. So there are no spares; and because of the design, no substitutes. I was screwed even while in the warranty period.

    I maintain that were I a lawyer, I would have sued for getting zip from the warranty, but my dad WAS a lawyer and I occasionally commented that I thought he should sue somebody when he was faced with something like that. He responded that the money he would lose pursuing it was not worth the very small amount of satisfaction he would gain.

    And I mentioned how difficult it is to get things I need in Tiny Town, as businesses close and inventories purposely decline. A guy on another forum needed a PCI express NIC card and there are none to be found in stock in Mobile, Alabama. Man, whoever said here that we are going to be buying everything from Amazon is absolutely right!

    Wish I had done more travelling, like Rick, when I was younger. Now that I am older, I would like to have seen more places, but have no interest in the hassle of travel these days. That 5″ Nexus with an external keyboard would be perfect for travelling. It is a rite of passage in Europe, for kids to take a year off between high school and college and bum around. And Europe, especially, is filled with hostels and such to accommodate that. Not really possible here in the US, because you have to have a car. That is prohibitively expensive, and there is no alternative means to get around these days.

  11. Chuck W says:

    I am sure the power issue is going to be a driving factor in data centers. Facebook is locating a new one in northern Scandinavia, where air-conditioning will never be needed, because it is cold outside year-round, and they can channel outside air for all their cooling needs. I heard some figures on what their power requirements are, and it is astonishing. The other reason they are locating there, is that locally-produced hydro power is abundantly and cheaply available.

    As to Facebook declining, I will be surprised if that happens. People my age have taken to it, and I do not think they will easily abandon it. I have Pidgin interfaced with Facebook Chat, and it dings every time one of your Facebook friends signs on to it. That damned thing dinged every 30 seconds or so, all through the day and night. After a few days of that, I had to disconnect from it, because the dings are across all services or none. I did not want to miss when my kids sign on to IRC.

    There is a survey to measure your addiction to Facebook:

    I’m at 13%. No rehab necessary for me.

  12. Chuck W says:

    Ratings for radio stations carrying all Xmas music—essentially from T-giving thru Xmas—were significantly down in 2012 from 2011. I was starting to connect that perhaps this was all due to the bad economy, and people took refuge in the music’s “Xmas cheer”, so with the economy unquestionably improving, they did not need the Xmas music drug. But early reports are that, not only was it a good Xmas for retail this time, but ratings for the all-Xmas stations hit new highs.

  13. Lynn McGuire says:

    I am 12% addicted to Facebook. Some of my cousins post to Facebook hourly. Especially their kids.

    I did not know that you could have apps in Facebook. I still do not care.

  14. Lynn McGuire says:

    2013 was a weird Christmas year since Thanksgiving was so late. But the economy is still down unless you are selling crude oil or houses in the Houston metroplex.

    I gave up on Sunny 99.1 FM about a day in when they started the Xmas music. I moved to 107.5 FM and 93.7 FM for old people rock. Now 93.7 is a beat station as of Jan 1 but I got 99.1 back for the pop rock. Our other pop rock station, 96.5, plays a lot of hip hop so I just cannot stand it either.

    Ah, back to the days of “turn on a light, freeze a yankee”:

    All this global warming XXXXX climate change XXXXX frozen USA is depressing. Looks like even we in sunny south Texas are going to get a wintry mix Thursday night.

  15. SteveF says:

    My score is 4%, but that’s because the list of answers was excessively constrained. I’ve had several facebook accounts for four or five years, but that’s because a) I was developing an auto-log-in-from-facebook feature for a client website and b) I’m an idiot and used my real email addresses when creating test facebook accounts rather than the nonce email accounts I’d set up specifically for that purpose. (I mentioned I’m an idiot, right?) Since then I’ve never deliberately gone to facebook except once when some company provided a user manual only on facebook.

  16. bgrigg says:

    Chuck, many, if not most, of the FB users “our” age are doing so to keep in contact with their kids, or at least that’s what my anecdotal evidence claims, so they’ll switch to whatever their kids are using. I’m lucky, neither of my kids use FB much, except to keep in contact with some family in New Brunswick. I have an account that I started when the kids initially signed up with FB way back when, but I have never even logged back into it after I created it. My wife had an account, and it was hell trying to get FB to cancel the account.

    I just took the test Lynn linked to, and oddly I’m 4% addicted to Facebook. I should be 0% addicted.

  17. Chad says:

    Most of the “kids” have moved to Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (amongst a few others). Nothing will drive the 13-25 demographic away from social networking faster than receiving a friend request from grandma. So, they maintain a Facebook page to keep the relatives happy and because it’s the modern version of the “homepage” but they’re “being real” on something OTHER THAN Facebook.

    I agree that Facebook will probably be around longer than expected. It will chase away the Millennials and some Gen-Y’ers, but the Baby Boomers and Gen-X’ers are addicted. I do applaud FB for that. My mother has reconnected with some people she thought she’d never hear from again and that brings her great joy. In order for social networking to truly work there has to be one that is the overwhelmingly dominant one and that is Facebook and that isn’t going to change for a long time. The industry is obsessed with where the “kids” are, but I think they underestimate the number of people over 40 flocking to Facebook.

    Lynn, I am 48% addicted. 🙂

  18. rick says:

    I can’t take the Facebook test because I don’t have a Facebook account. I want an anti-social network. I’d fit right in there.

  19. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I am 2% addicted to FB, which is pretty strange considering that I don’t use it.

  20. Lynn McGuire says:

    I sent that Nexus 5 smartphone review to my Dad and of course he already has one. He just jumped off Verizon onto Straight Talk for $45/month. Voice, Message and Data (after 2.5 GB/month they throttle you). No contract, no weird fees.

    The Nexus phone is $349 directly from Google Play:

  21. Lynn McGuire says:

    My nephews and nieces have two accounts on Facebook. A family account and a friend account. The family account is for Grandma. The friend account is for, well you know.

  22. rick says:

    I am 2% addicted to FB, which is pretty strange considering that I don’t use it.

    The quiz doesn’t give you the option of saying “I don’t want a Facebook account” If you answer any question, you’re going to get a score.

  23. rick says:

    Chuck W said: Wish I had done more travelling, like Rick, when I was younger. Now that I am older, I would like to have seen more places, but have no interest in the hassle of travel these days.

    International travel is not nearly as bad as domestic travel. We got our China visas in about four days, including round trip shipping. We’re not flying a U.S. carrier, we’re flying Air Canada via Vancouver. A little over an hour from Portland to Vancouver on a regional jet and then 14 hours nonstop to Hong Kong. We’re flying back from Beijing nonstop to Vancouver. I anticipate no problem from anybody except, possibly, at the U.S. border on returning. We went through customs and immigration in Seattle when we returned from our last Europe trip. No problem. there. We came through Customs in Port Angeles last spring on our way home from Victoria and declared our “illegal” drugs (Tylenol with codeine) and were allowed to bring them in.

    When I was in high school, in about 1969, a couple of friends and I made a smuggling run to Vancouver to bring back some Cuban cigars. We were in an old Volvo 544 with California license plates. We had a half a dozen boxes of good cigars hidden under the back seat. You would have had to remove the entire seat to get to them. We had a one dollar package of Cuban cigars in the glove compartment. When we got to the border at Blaine, the customs guy looked at three long haired kids and our California license plate and asked “Where are you boys from?” I replied “Berkeley”. The customs guy said “Pull over there and we’ll have somebody search the car.” They sent a much younger guy to search the car. He opened the glove compartment and found our decoy cigars. He told us we couldn’t bring them in. We expressed surprise and he confiscated them. He opened the trunk. A couple of sleeping bags fell out. He poked around a few minutes and waved us through. They probably have cigar sniffing dogs there now. One of my friends worked in a tobacco shop and sold the cigars under the counter. It made the trip nicely profitable.

    I still like to travel. That’s one reason I bought a sailboat. I plan to take it up to Canada, possibly to Alaska at some point. This year the trips will be shorter.

    Rick in Portland

  24. Miles_Teg says:

    Chuck wrote:

    “There is a survey to measure your addiction to Facebook:

    I’m at 13%. No rehab necessary for me.”

    28% here, I guess I need to get a life.

  25. bgrigg says:

    Lynn wrote: The friend account is for, well you know.

    Porn? 🙂
    Security in Canadian airports is different, yet equally stupid, from the US version. Last time I flew back from NYC, we had gotten so used to taking off our shoes at security that when we landed in Vancouver for the connecting flight to Kelowna the security dude announced “It’s OK folks, you’re in Canada now, we’re not afraid of your shoes”.

  26. Richard Brown says:

    In reference to your glass/plastic bottle wrapping, have you considered designing up a standard block of Styrofoam moulded or cut to put sufficient foam between all the bottles. Or a wood mould and spray insulation that’s used in house insulation to make your own packing foam insert? (2 piece mold a box and a top with dowels screwed in that are the same dimensions as the bottles,. You latch the top down on the box mould, and inject the spray insulation and let expand, and trim with x-acto knife after taking apart.

    If this makes any sense.



  27. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Thanks. Yes, I have considered that. The problem is cubic. Our kits fit the USPS regional-rate boxes A or B, depending on the kit, and we also use the large flat-rate box to zone 8. Most of the kits are pretty tightly packed as is, and there simply isn’t room for any kind of foam block, especially since to meet USPS regulations it’d have to be surrounded by a plastic bag packed with absorbent.

    The problem with increasing the cubic of the kits is that it’d take us up into weight/distance shipping charges, which could easily double our shipping costs. They’re already significant, and I want to keep them in the flat-rate/regional-rate range.

  28. brad says:

    I got a Nexus 5 as soon as they were available here. It’s a really sweet phone. However, the size is an issue it is just a tiny bit too large for me to hold securely and also tap with the thumb on the same hand. Still, a minor complaint – you won’t find any other phone as good for anything near the price. The lack of uninstallable crapware is also worth a lot.

    Richard Brown suggests custom-made packaging. I can definitely second this. We went to a box manufacturer to work out custom-made boxes for sending whisky bottles (my wife runs a small whisky business). It cost a lot to get the custom work done, but it we were able to design boxes that exactly fit our bottles, and that were much faster to pack than the one-size-fits-all stuff you can buy for shipping wine.

    The absorbancy ought to be solvable. It seems to me that good packaging ought to increase the density of your kits, as compared to willy-nilly padding. Of course, you need to find a really good packaging company that has some imagination. Just contact 2-3 companies, give them your specs (this stuff needs to go in that box, etc.), and see what happens. Giving them an “empty” kit costs little, and you might be surprised at the result.

    If your kit contents are standard enough – and will remain standard – custom-made packaging will save you piles of time. Also not to be underestimated: the kits will look a lot more professional than wrapping bottles in paper towels and left-over bubble-wrap.

  29. Lynn McGuire says:

    Cute ad showing the Martians printing off new landscapes for the rover so it does not see the Martians running around the place:

    Updated, found the English version!

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