Saturday, 29 March 2014

By on March 29th, 2014 in science kits

09:31 – Our current inventory of forensic kits is down to zero, so we’re building more today. I’d intended to build two dozen forensic chemical bags the other day, but I had enough of everything needed to build only 16. Still, even at the increased run rate on forensic kits 16 should hold us for at least a month, which gives me time to make up more chemicals.

My father used to do something that drove my mother absolutely nuts. If he was sitting at the kitchen table using, say, a jar of honey, he’d carefully balance the lid on top of the jar and give it about a sixteenth of a turn. Just enough so that if someone then picked up the jar by the lid, the lid would come off and the jar would go rolling away. He didn’t do it consciously, which is probably the reason my mother never assassinated him.

And I do something similar, but I’m the one that I end up annoying. When I empty a chemical bottle, instead of discarding it I carefully replace the lid (screwing it down completely) and set it aside. I think by keeping it I’m trying to remind myself to order more, but it never works out that way. Instead, I end up with a collection of empty bottles, which look exactly like full bottles.

So, yesterday I was making up two liters of Hucker’s crystal violet stain, which requires 20 g of crystal violet and 16 grams of ammonium oxalate. I had five-count-’em-five bottles of crystal violet in stock, sitting right there together on the shelf, exactly where they belonged. Four of them were 5 g bottles, and one 20 g. I thought I had enough to make up four liters. But when I started weighing out the crystal violet, I found that the 20 g bottle was partially used, with only 15+ g remaining. Three of the 5 g bottles were empty. Fortunately the fourth was still full, so I was able to make up the two liters with a bit to spare. So I just tossed those empty bottles in the trash, where they belong.

At least while I was making up the Hucker’s I solved the Mystery of the Missing 100 g Bottle of Eosin Y. There it was, in the Hucker’s bin. What it was doing there, I have no idea.

22 Comments and discussion on "Saturday, 29 March 2014"

  1. bgrigg says:

    “At least while I was making up the Hucker’s I solved the Mystery of the Missing 100 g Bottle of Eosin Y. There it was, in the Hucker’s bin. What it was doing there, I have no idea.”


  2. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Must’ve been. Biological stains like to hang out together.

  3. SteveF says:

    Can you put an “Empties” container near the trashcan? It doesn’t need to be fancy, just a cardboard box labeled “Empties – reorder”.

    As for the misplaced bottle, you know darn well it was the dog, mixing up who-knows-what and not covering his tracks adequately.

  4. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I thought I had a pretty good system, but it doesn’t work as well as I’d hoped.

    Non-hazardous chemicals that are used for only one thing go in the bin for that thing. For example, the eosin Y powder is used only for making up eosin Y stain solution, so it goes in the bin for eosin Y stain bottles. Same deal on the ammonium oxalate, which is used only for making up Hucker’s crystal violet stain.

    Chemicals that are used for two or more purposes are stored in general chemical inventory, as are hazardous chemicals whether they’re used for only one thing or multiple things. For example, concentrated nitric acid is used only for making up bottles of (you guessed it…) concentrated nitric acid. But large bottles of concentrated nitric acid are the last thing I want stored in the pick bins for finished inventory chemicals.

  5. Chuck W says:

    All of a sudden, everybody around me is using Team Viewer. Over the years, one of my collaborative projects has used several remote desktop applications, including Remote Desktop itself and LogMeIn. Everything had shortcomings, but Team Viewer has no hitches, works as smoothly as if you were right at the remote computer, and most importantly, allows file transfers with a dual-pane interface that looks like the old Norton Commander. For me, Team Viewer came out of nowhere. A month ago, I heard from one radio friend that they were using it, a couple people independently told me about it, my son started using it in his work, and then my collaborative project changed our access method to Team Viewer.

    Because of the way it works — every computer is assigned a number — you just put in the remote computer’s number and password, and you’re in. No side trips searching for changeable IP addresses. Which tells me Team Viewer is tracking that info itself, and keeping computer passwords. Imagine if somebody hacked into that info. They would have more power than a credit card number.

    It is a German company, which does give me more confidence, because privacy laws have teeth in Germany, as Microsoft and others have found out. So I have more trust that the company itself will not misuse the information they have.

    Still, the farther we go with computing, the less secure the methods used seem to be. It is not an option for me not to use Team Viewer, so there is no escape, even if I want it.

  6. SteveF says:

    Chuck, the proper way to use Team Viewer and equivalent is to have two computers, or a dual boot setup if you have only one computer. The computer used for remote connections has no more data than needed for the jobs you’re doing, so if someone gets into it they won’t have access to your personal email and browser history and such.

  7. Chuck W says:

    Ah, good idea! I guess I could also put it in a VM where it would be restricted to only what is in the VM partition?

  8. SteveF says:

    In theory a VM might work. In practice, I don’t know if the VM would give the remoting software enough access to the display and keyboard and such. There’s also a big performance loss when running through a VM, and the virtual computer might not be fast enough to do the remoting at a speed acceptable to humans.

    Caveat: It’s about three years since the last time I looked into this specific scenario. It’s possible that VM software has had some breakthrough and now provides enough access and runs close to the native machine speed.

  9. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I wouldn’t even trust dual-boot. I’d run that only on a dedicated machine that was not connected to my network.

  10. Lynn McGuire says:

    Hi Bob, have you thought about creating a reorder list clipboard with check boxes and the names of stuff in 14 or 16 point type? Something that you would not mind getting dirty or wet while you are mad scientist mode?

    Here is a true picture of our Lords and Masters, “FBI Arrests Anti-Gun California Senator on Firearm Trafficking Charges”:

    They all know what is best for us riffraff but nothing is too good for them. Full auto rifles and RPGs, oh my!

  11. Lynn McGuire says:

    63 F here in the land of Sugar and heading to 78 F today. I just turned the lawn sprinkler system back on and the back-flow preventer valve is leaking. Lovely.

  12. OFD says:

    39 here with snow and ice on the way tonight and tomorrow. We don’t care.

    “I wouldn’t even trust dual-boot. I’d run that only on a dedicated machine that was not connected to my network.”

    Agreed, and ditto on the vm; but what is someone to do who has only the one connecting network for these capers? I’d wanna know more about that app’s security before even using it.

  13. pcb_duffer says:

    RBT – I think you’re going to have to break down and implement a better inventory control system than OMGWO, or even your prodigious memory. Best, but most complex, would be to go to bar codes. When you empty a vial of Hucker’s crystal violet stain, scan the code, and set the program to flag a reorder (or re-create, for the things you distill in the lab yourself) at 10g. Or just go to a pull ticket system. When you make up a batch of five bottles of dimethylmercury, put a pull ticket on the last bottle, so when you open it for use you put the pull ticket in SteveF’s cardboard box labeled “Empties – reorder”. Of course, you then have to check the re-order box every evening, but that shouldn’t be too difficult a habit to ingrain. You might even train your mongrel to fetch you the box with your slippers and newspaper in the morning. 🙂

  14. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    As I’ve said, the real problem is that for the first 35 to 40 years of my life, I depended purely on my memory. I never got into habits like writing down phone numbers or addresses or taking notes because I never needed to. I remembered things without even trying to do so. Geez, I still remember the phone number of a girl I called exactly once when I was in 6th grade. Hell, I remember the license plate numbers of our neighbors.

    But that’s broken down now, on both ends. I can’t store detail like I used to, and even when I can store the detail, I can’t always reliably retrieve it. And I never developed the habit of writing stuff down for future reference. New habits are not easy to develop. Fortunately Barbara, being a librarian, is extremely organized.

  15. jim` says:

    Your story reminds me of a silly thing that almost everyone, including me, does. You pull a ballpoint out of the pen pot and when it doesn’t work, what do you do? Put it back in the pen pot, of course!

  16. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I remind myself of a squirrel. They create literally thousands of food caches over a season. Young squirrels remember where about 99.9% of them are. Older squirrels, like me, forget a higher percentage.

    Of course, without those forgetful older squirrels a lot of oak trees would never have existed.

  17. bgrigg says:

    Speaking of squirrels hiding nuts:

  18. bgrigg says:

    And of course, it’s always fun to ask Germans to pronounce “squirrel”:

  19. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Hmmm. I wonder why they never used that in all those WWII movies, where the German infiltrators who spoke perfect English got tripped up because they never knew who won the last World Series. As I said to Barbara one time, in that situation I’d have been shot by the Americans, because I never know who won the last World Series.

  20. OFD says:

    On the Team Viewer stuff:

    “TeamViewer uses RSA private/public key exchange (2048-bit) and AES (256-bit) session encryption.[14]
    In the default configuration, TeamViewer uses one of the servers of to start the connection and the routing of traffic between the local client and the remote host machine. The software then determines how to establish a connection. In 70% of the cases, after the handshake a direct connection via UDP or TCP is established; the other connections are routed through TeamViewer GmbH’s router network (via TCP or http-tunneling).[15]”

    I suppose in a corporate, business or gummint workplace environment it doesn’t really matter; you’re stuck with it. But someone who’s an independent operator, more or less, might cavil at the situation; I’d want a machine dedicated to only this operation and I’d take my regular work machine off that net for the duration of the caper.

    I second SteveF’s concern about the vm usage and I’ve not been too thrilled, even recently/currently, with how vm’s work on various host machines and with various vm software.

  21. pcb_duffer says:

    [snip] And I never developed the habit of writing stuff down for future reference. [snip]

    A long time go, I was taught that a dull pencil beats a sharp memory.

  22. Chuck W says:

    Geez, UDP? Radio mostly passes the Now and Next song info in audio streams using UDP and it usually gets mangled or lost when it hits the Net. If you have fast connections on both ends, some get around it by tunneling with a VPN connection. The traffic then behaves like it was a LAN, and UDP does not get corrupted.

    At the moment, I have no choice but to use Team Viewer on my main PC. It is the way we transfer files and get stuff scheduled on air at the moment. Ultimately, that will be handled by an internal dropbox, but that is months away. All I can say is that Team Viewer is leagues ahead of what we used previously. Aside from any security issues, it behaves exactly as if you were at the remote computer for all keystrokes, including those requiring Ctrl and Alt, which was a problem with previous methods. And no separate application to transfer files; Team Viewer does it within the application — and fast! Whatever we used before could take hours for a 1 hour program. Now it is just minutes.

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