Thursday, 19 June 2014

07:55 – Three days down, two to go until Barbara returns home tomorrow evening. I think Colin just figures she’ll be home when she gets here and there’s no use worrying about when that will be.

I see that Obama has F-18’s flying “recon” over Iraq but has ruled out airstrikes. That’s a shame. Airstrikes would be nice, but they should be even-handed so that the US can’t be accused of taking sides. I’m thinking napalm and FAE’s. Lots and lots of napalm and FAE’s. If we obliterate both sides, no one could later claim that we were showing favoritism.


14:51 – Building more forensic science kits has become a high priority. Normally, forensic science kits make up roughly a tenth of total kit sales, so we typically keep only a dozen or so in stock. In the last week, we’ve sold four forensic science kits, which is at least double what I’d expect, particularly with June being a slow month. What’s very odd is that three of those four have gone to Austin, Texas. I wonder if someone is doing a co-op summer science forensics program. Fortunately, Barbara has already labeled 60 sets of bottles for the FK01A kits, and I have most of the solutions already made up. Now I need to make up the four or five solutions I’m short of and get a PO done for some hardware items.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

08:14 – Two days down, three to go until Barbara returns home. Colin slept through the night last night. The night before, I think he was expecting Barbara to come home, so he got excited every time he heard a sound that might be her returning. The official high in Winston-Salem yesterday was 92F, but according to both our outdoor thermometers it got to just over 95F here.

Today I’ll continue making up chemicals and filling bottles.


Tuesday, 17 June 2014

08:18 – One day down, four to go until Barbara returns home. Colin behaved pretty well yesterday, but last night was horrible. On average, every 45 minutes or so he’d jump down off the bed and go roaring down the hall to the front door, barking his head off. I’d just about get back to sleep when he’d do it again.

It’s not yet summer, but things are warming up around here. Our highs for the next week are to be around 95F (35C), with lows in the low 70’s (~ 22C). Thunderstorms are in prospect just about every day.

This morning I need to make up three liters each of Barfoed’s, Benedict’s, and biuret reagents, and 12.5 liters of Fertilizer concentrate A. Once I get those bottles filled, we’ll have all the chemicals we need to make up another 30 biology kits, and most of what we need for 60 or 70 more beyond that. And then I can get to work on making up chemicals for another batch of forensic kits.


15:57 – I just got email from Netflix saying that they’ve (finally) added season five of Heartland. Now they’re only two seasons behind. Speaking of Heartland, I’m now just over halfway through season two. With three evenings left until Barbara returns, I should get through season two and well into season three. I was considering the wild-women-and-parties thing last night, but Colin preferred to watch Heartland re-runs. He really likes hearing Amy say, “Good boy!” He thinks she’s calling him a good boy.

I now have all the chemicals made up for more biology kits. Tomorrow I’ll start on the ones I need for forensic science kits, which we’re getting low on. That includes one of my least favorite chemicals, black fingerprint powder. Our fingerprint powders use a proprietary formulation, but the white powder is a mixture of titanium dioxide, calcium carbonate, and cornstarch, while the black powder is a mixture of lampblack and graphite. The problem with the black powder is that it gets on everything and produces black smudges that are difficult to remove. I’ll fill unlabeled containers with the black powder, seal them, and then wash them to remove any remaining powder before we label them. Even doing that, we may end up with some black smudges on labels.

Monday, 16 June 2014

09:05 – Marcy picked up Barbara at 7:15 for their week’s driving trip up the Parkway. Colin wasn’t entirely sure what was happening, but he’ll figure it out this evening when Barbara doesn’t return.

Mary and Paul weren’t available yesterday, so Barbara and I did a Costco run by ourselves. I went prepared with Amazon Prime Pantry prices for some stuff I wanted to buy for our food storage program, and took along a small notebook to record Costco prices on other items for later comparison with Amazon. As it turns out, Amazon is considerably higher than Costco on all of the items I checked.

For example, Amazon Pantry sells a 16-ounce can of Bush’s Baked Beans for $1.48 plus about $0.16 shipping. I was thinking that Costco charged about $12 for a case of eight cans, but when I checked yesterday they were $8.49 per case of eight, or about $1.06/can. Also, the Costco cans were 16.5 ounces rather than 16. So Amazon was about 55% higher on that. Same thing on vanilla extract. Amazon had either McCormick or Kirkland (Costco) branded vanilla extract in 16-ounce bottles for $9.99. Costco sold their own brand for $6.99, so Amazon was about 42% higher on that. Costco had canned corn at $0.67/can. Amazon was $1.04. And so on. If Costco carries something, we’ll get it there.

But there are a lot of things that we want to stock up on that Costco doesn’t carry, or at least our Costco doesn’t. So just out of curiosity, I went over to the Sam’s Club website. As it turns out, unlike Costco, the Sam’s Club site lists store-only items, including prices, and they carry a lot of stuff that Costco doesn’t, including Campbell’s canned soups by the case. Barbara’s going to check with her sister to find out if they still have a membership at Sam’s Club. If not, we may join just for the better prices on a lot of items we want to stock up on.


15:42 – When Barbara travels, she’s often pretty much off-the-grid. But this time she took her laptop with her. I tried to get her to let me install Skype, but she didn’t want it. At the moment, she has no cell service, but at least she can email me. I emailed her earlier to say that Colin is still afraid that I’ll forget to feed him, and wants to know when she’ll be home. I got the following response a little while ago.

Tell him I will be home Friday afternoon.

We arrived at Peaks of Otter about 2pm. On the drive up we saw a fawn and her mom. The fawn was about the size of Colin at six months. We also saw a wild turkey and a ground hog.

We got off the Parkway and drove to the little town of Stewardsville, VA outside of Bedford for lunch at a little diner. Homemade food; she cooked and served.

After we checked in we were going for a walk around the lake but Marcy wanted to move the truck to a different parking area so we drove over to the lodge to see if we needed reservations for dinner and check out the gift shop. Good thing we waited we are having a thunderstorm.

No cell service. Had no problem connecting to the wifi. They give you a room map with the password.

Give Colin a hug.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

10:48 – We’re getting Barbara’s stuff ready for her to leave tomorrow morning on a driving trip with her friend Marcy up the Blue Ridge Parkway. Her Kindle is charged and has a good selection of books on it. I’m charging her cameras and clearing the memory cards now. Her notebook is ready to go, although I need to make sure she knows how to connect to WiFi networks where they’re staying.


Saturday, 14 June 2014

13:20 – We drove over to the LDS Family Home Storage Center this morning, where we picked up 24 #10 cans each of flour, macaroni, dry milk, potato flakes, rice, spaghetti, and sugar–28 cases altogether–along with one foil pouch each of their hot cocoa mix, flavored drink mix, and pancake mix. The total was 615.7 pounds of food for $708.45, or $1.15/pound. That’s 24 person-months’ or two person-years’ worth of dry goods at just under 26 pounds per month, a good foundation.

Of course, that’s just the dry stuff. As Barbara pointed out, with 150 pounds of macaroni and spaghetti, we’d better buy a bunch of sauce at Costco and Amazon Pantry. I’ve already been doing that, and will continue to stock up on soups, sauces, canned meats, canned fruits and vegetables, baked beans, and so on.

The LDS store was staffed by Elder and Sister Lockett, a nice older couple. They gave us a tour of the facility, which is really a warehouse with tons and tons of food on industrial steel shelving. They told us that 60% of their customers are not LDS members, and that many of their customers actually use this food routinely, as do they. In addition to selling food to all comers, the site provides food and other grocery items at no cost to LDS members who are down on their luck. They emphasized that it wasn’t welfare or charity; the recipients were expected to work at the center or other LDS facilities in return for the groceries.

We just finished setting up the steel shelving unit, which will make it easy to rotate old stuff out the front and new stuff in the back. We loaded everything on the shelves. It’s surprising how little space it takes to store 168+ #10 cans.


Friday, 13 June 2014

08:37 – Friday the 13th falls on a Friday this month.

Well, it’s finally happened. Until now, I’ve been making up solutions for science kits in 2-liter Erlenmeyer flasks, 2-liter soft drink bottles, or gallon (3.8 L) jugs. But one of the solutions I need to make up is the Fertilizer concentrate part A for biology kits, which is supplied in 125 mL bottles. A gallon of Fertilizer A is sufficient for only 30 kits, and I need to make up sufficient for 90 kits. Rather than make up 3 gallons (~12 L) of that solution in separate 1-gallon batches, I decided to make up a single 3-gallon batch. That means I need a largish mixing vessel. Fortunately, I happen to have some 19-liter polypropylene beakers on hand, AKA 5-gallon buckets from Home Depot. They’re bright orange, granted, but they’re clean, sturdy, and chemically resistant.

Unfortunately, they’re not graduated, but that’s easy enough to address. My shipping scales have one-gram accuracy and resolution up to 20 kilos, so I’ll simply tare an empty bucket, transfer 11,356 grams (3 gallons) of water to it, and use a permanent marker to draw a line at the 3-gallon level. Actually, I’ll probably just do the line at 12.5 liters and make up sufficient solution for 100 bottles rather than 90.


Thursday, 12 June 2014

08:39 – It’s a small victory for sanity, but the city government has finally decided to kill the West End trolley service downtown. The “trolley” is actually just a standard city bus duded up to look like an old-fashioned trolley. It’s been running since 1988, and has never had many riders. The vast majority of the time, it has no riders at all, and just drives around empty but for the driver. Every time someone gets on that bus, it costs city taxpayers $23. And it took the city council 25 years to realize that it was a waste of money.

I read an interesting article on CNN yesterday, America’s middle class: Poorer than you think

In terms of average net worth per adult, the United States comes in at $301,000, fourth behind Switzerland, Australia, and Norway. But in terms of median net worth, the US comes in 19th, at only $45,000. Neither of these numbers is particularly useful. The average is skewed by the fact that the US far and away leads the world in millionaires and billionaires. If you consider a group of 100 people, one of whom has a net worth of $100,000,000 and 99 of whom have a net worth of zero, the average net worth of that group is $1,000,000. The median is skewed by the fact that the poor in the US have essentially zero net worth. The bottom 40% hold less than 0.5% of total US net worth, the bottom 60% something under 5%, and the bottom 80% something like 10%, leaving about 90% of total US net worth to be shared among the top 20%. If you want numbers that provide a better picture of the US middle class, look at the net worth and income necessary to be in the top quintile.


10:16 – Most of the backorders are starting to clear out. UPS showed up yesterday with 200 beakers and 480 graduated cylinders that had been backordered for a couple months, and FedEx is supposed to deliver 300 5/10/15X folding pocket magnifiers today that have been backordered for 3 months or more. That’s a relief, because we were down to only 50 or so of the magnifiers in inventory, and just four of the cylinders. Now all I need to do is get all this stuff moved downstairs and checked into inventory.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

10:06 – I managed to cut down on the backlog of labeled bottles by about a third, which still leaves me with 1,400 or so labeled bottles to be filled. I’ll try to get a few hundred more of those done today.

I really wish we could ship forensic science kits internationally, but it’s just not practical both for cost reasons and the amount of hassle involved for us. In the last two or three weeks, I’ve gotten four queries about shipping forensics kits internationally, one to the UK, two to Canada, and one this morning to Australia. I hate turning people down, but the only option would be to ship them as hazardous materials via UPS or FedEx, which costs hundreds of dollars. And even if the prospective customers would agree to that, I’d have to go through the process of getting certified by UPS and/or FedEx to ship hazardous materials, which would take a lot of my time and cost several hundred dollars. It’s just not worth it, but I really do hate turning people down.

Barbara leaves next Monday on a driving trip up the Parkway into Northern Virginia with one of her friends. They plan to spend the week sightseeing and making side trips, staying in B&B’s along the way. Colin and I of course will be desolate, but we’ll manage somehow. Colin suggested having lots of human food and watching Heartland re-runs, which sounds like a plan to me. I’m already most of the way through season one. At 13 hours per season, Colin and I will probably make it through season two and most of season three before Barbara returns home.

Boy, talk about inflation. The other day I mentioned that Amazon Pantry was selling the 16-ounce cans of Bush’s Baked Beans for $1.48, but the 28-ounce cans for $1.78. Yesterday, I noticed that the 28-ounce cans were now $2.59, a 45.5% increase in only two days.