08:37 – I’m making up chemicals and filling bottles for forensic science kits today. We have most of what we need to make up 60 more kits. As usual, I’ll put off making up Kastle-Meyer reagent until the last moment. We package it in glass, store it under an inert atmosphere, and refrigerate it until we prepare each kit for shipping, but making it up as late as possible extends shelf life. Actually, I’m not sure why I worry about it so much. I hold back examples of each batch, and periodically test them. I just tested one that I’d made up two years ago, and it still worked properly.
08:24 – Business is picking up nicely. Ten days ago, it looked like we’d be lucky to do 50% of last July’s revenues this month. As of this morning, we’re only a few hundred dollars short of matching last July’s revenues, with two days remaining in the month. Routine orders over the next couple days should let us beat last July’s revenues, and if one bulk order comes in we’ll blow through those numbers.
09:16 – In the rush to build science kits this time of year, one thing I keep forgetting is to hold back enough chemical bags to make up refill kits. For example, when I made up another batch of chemistry kits over the weekend, I held back two sets of the regulated and non-regulated chemical bags. I shipped one of those yesterday and the other this morning, taking me down to zero available. That means to fill the next order I get for a refill kit I’ll have to remove those bags from a completed chemistry kit. Same deal on biology kits. I held back four sets of chemical bags for those, of which I have only one left.
For many years, I’ve been the official maintainer of the Cutieness Index (CI), a list of women ranked numerically by cutieness. Officially, the scores ran from 0.000 to 0.999, until Amber Marshall completely blew away the top score by earning more than 0.999. (My ranking spreadsheet ran out of room on Amber’s entry, so I have no idea how much higher she actually scored.) I suspect the other cuties may be annoyed with Amber for messing up the curve.
Until Amber arrived on the scene, Emily VanCamp had held the top position for several years, at 0.983. But Barbara and I are now up to series five of Dawson’s Creek, and Katie Holmes is now at 0.979 and gaining on Emily.
09:56 – I’m building and shipping science kits, which will be the story of my life for the next couple of months. We’re in pretty decent shape on kit inventory. As of this morning, we have 40 of the CK01A chemistry kits in stock, with subassemblies on hand to build another two or three dozen; about two dozen of the BK01 biology kits in stock, with subassemblies on hand to build another 30, and bunches of labeled bottles that need to be filled and made up into chemical bags for various kits. We’re running short of a few chemicals, but I just placed an order Friday with Fisher Scientific for those, as well as bulk amounts of some of the chemicals we’ll need for the AP Chemistry kit. By “bulk”, I mean items like 4 kilos each of anhydrous sodium carbonate and anhydrous calcium chloride and a kilo or two each of several other chemicals.
Watching the developing Ukraine situation is like watching the proverbial slow-motion train wreck. Economically, the EU in general and the eurozone in particular are weaker now than they have ever been, even at the height of the crisis. One major shock is all it will take to collapse everything like the house of cards that it is. Tier III economic sanctions against Russia should be more than enough to get the ball rolling, and unless Putin backs off big-time it appears that those sanctions are very likely to be implemented. I admit that I am amazed that the eurozone appears unanimously to be supporting strong sanctions against Russia. I never expected Germany or France to support such sanctions, let alone the Eastern European EU members. I expected the US and the UK to go it alone in terms of implementing sanctions, with at best lip-service from the rest of the world. Just the US would have been sufficient, of course, because the US government has absolute control of the entire world’s banking system. Every foreign bank–including Russian banks–understands that it will be crushed like a bug if it tries to ignore orders from the US government. But with the UK and apparently also the EU on board, Russia doesn’t have a prayer.
12:47 – I was just unpacking and shelving some chemicals when I was struck by a Cunning Plan. I thought about those Stop Aging spams I sometimes see in my junk folder, and realized that I could start selling genuine Stop Aging pills that I could absolutely, positively guarantee to be 100% effective. They could probably be sold for a lot of money per pill, and they’d be very cheap to produce. The only active ingredient would be 1000 milligrams of potassium cyanide. In addition to being a big money-maker, it would also improve the gene pool. Not many products can say that.
14:20 – Barbara and I did a Costco run this morning, mainly to return the dehumidifier and pick up a few items we needed. I’m now pretty comfortable with our emergency food inventory levels, but I take every chance to add a bit more. Today I added 24 cans of Bush’s baked beans, a dozen cans of corn, eight cans of peas, and six bottles of spaghetti sauce. When we got home, I ordered another dehumidifier (different brand) from the Costco web site.
08:03 – We have ten kits to ship today, which is the first time in a couple of months that we’ve shipped double figures in one day. Kit sales are still running well behind last July’s numbers, but at least we’re now within striking distance of matching last July. With five days left in the month and the start of the autumn semester fast approaching, it might well happen. Our all-time record so far is shipping 34 kits in one day. I’m sure we’ll eventually beat that. Eventually, I’d like to see that become a routine day.
09:35 – Our order from All American Clothing arrived the other day: one pair of jeans and a pocket t-shirt for me and two casual shirts for Barbara. I haven’t tried on the jeans, but I’m wearing the t-shirt now. They didn’t have tall sizes with pocket, so I ordered a regular XL. It’s a bit shorter than I prefer but it’s nicely made with good material. And, despite being made in the US, at $11 it’s cheaper than the equivalent foreign-made shirts from Lands’ End or Bean.
Barbara tried on the two shirts and said they were much too small. I suspect they’re actually the nominal size, but few companies nowadays size clothing honestly, particularly women’s clothing. I remember when this started, 25 or 30 years ago. What had always been a women’s size 10, for example, suddenly became a size 8. This size deflation has continued over the years, to the point where I’d guess what is properly a women’s size 10 is now called a size 6, if not a 4.
Apparently this size deflation has started to happen in men’s clothing as well. After I mentioned ordering jeans from All American Clothing, someone commented that he’d continue ordering $15 jeans from Costco. Until then, I hadn’t realized that Costco even sold jeans. So I visited the Costco site and looked at their Kirkland jeans. Several reviewers commented that they ran huge. One measured the waist of a nominal 32″ pair and found it was actually 35″. The pair I ordered from AAC has a 38″ waist, which I suspect will be an honest 38″. (My chest is 48″, and the nominal XL 46″ to 48″ t-shirt I’m wearing fits comfortably but without much extra chest room.) I guess that means if I order a pair of Kirkland jeans they’d better be in a 36″ waist, if not 34″.
09:27 – This is the time of year when we start getting bulk orders for individual chemicals. I’m processing one at the moment for 100 bottles of 0.1% bromothymol blue. A more typical order of this sort might be for 30 bottles each of six or eight different chemicals, whatever particular teachers need for doing labs for their classes.
09:33 – The new walk is finished, and Barbara is delighted with it. It looked like it would rain all yesterday afternoon and evening, but all we got was a couple of minutes of very light sprinkle several hours after they poured the walk, enough to dampen the street slightly but not to wet things under the trees.
With the two conflicting court decisions yesterday, it looks like ObamaCare is headed back to SCOTUS. Given that SCOTUS has ruled several times recently against Obama’s attempts to legislate, things look pretty dim for ObamaCare subsidies in the 36 states that don’t operate their own health care exchanges. I saw a moronic AP article in the paper this morning that said health care premiums on the federal exchange would increase by 76%. What they really meant to say–at least if they understood basic arithmetic–is that premiums on the federal exchange will more than quadruple. The average policy holder on the federal exchange is paying 24% of the cost of the policy out-of-pocket, with the subsidy paying the remaining 76%. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. SCOTUS has no sympathy for Obama’s attempts to usurp the right of Congress to legislate. There’s no chance that Obama can push his changes through Congress right now, and things will only get harder for him after the elections. I think Obama’s best option at this point would be to assassinate the four or five more conservative justices and appoint progressives in their places.
10:08 – The crew just finished pouring and leveling the concrete walk. We may get some rain today, but it looks like it’ll hold off long enough not to damage the new concrete. If necessary, they’ll cover it with plastic sheeting before they leave. They said they avoid doing that whenever possible because it can cause the surface to dry unevenly, affecting the color/texture in patches.
I’m building chemistry kits today, and getting started on another batch of biology kits.