Sunday, 19 March 2017

10:47 – When I took Colin out around 0730 it was exactly freezing with a stiff breeze. The snow flurries/showers forecast for overnight never showed up, other than as a very light dusting. Still, Ray’s Weather does a pretty good job of forecasting. It’s notoriously difficult to predict weather at all, and harder still for a location sitting on top of a mountain.

Speaking of which, I never particularly trusted the National Weather Service forecasts. As it turns out, I had good reason. The latest scandal is the NWS concealing an updated forecast, supposedly for the common good. The great blizzard they predicted for the Northeastern US turned out to be a squib. Areas they’d forecast 18 inches of snow for actually ended up getting three to six inches, and some areas for which they’d forecast heavy snows ended up getting little or none. One could write that off to forecasting being inexact, but the problem is that they had an updated forecast that was much more accurate but they chose not to make it public because they apparently believed that reducing the forecast amount of snow would cause people to disregard the dangers.

I’ve seen various estimates that cluster around $3 billion as the total cost to people, businesses and governments of acting on that obsolete forecast. Businesses closed needlessly. State, county, and city governments spent a lot of their snow removal budgets needlessly. And millions of people made needlessly pessimistic decisions based on bad information.

There’s never any excuse for government failing to disclose what should be public information. Now that Trump is taking the ax to CPB, NEA, NEH, and so on, perhaps he should consider eliminating the NWS entirely.

We encountered a major problem yesterday as we were making up chemical bags for biology kits. A few days ago, we’d made up 90 bottles of 6M hydrochloric acid in 30 mL amber-glass bottles, capped them, and taped the caps (as required by USPS regulations). When we were building regulated chemical bags for biology kits yesterday, I opened the ziplock bags of those bottles and found that several of them had leaked. Not good.

We’d had another leakage problem a few weeks ago, but that was Kastle-Meyer reagent in forensic kits, which we produce in relatively small numbers. I found out about that one when I got email from a customer reporting a bad leak that had destroyed the labels on most of the chemicals in the forensic chemical bag.

I didn’t think much about it at the time. These things happen, although very infrequently. So I sent him a new forensic chemical bag that I pulled out of an already-built kit. A few days later, I got email from him that the second bag had the same problem. Shit. So we went back and opened all of the forensic kit chemical bags and found that several of them had KM reagent bottles that had leaked. Double shit.

So we replaced all of the damaged bottles in those bags and pulled out and discarded the KM reagent bottles. I made up new KM reagent bottles, but this time using phenolic-cone caps rather than the standard caps. We’d been using PC caps only on bottles that contained iodine solutions, because iodine vapor penetrated the seal on the standard caps. (Iodine vapor penetrates just about any seal. It really wants to be free.) We use the phenolic caps only when necessary, because they cost about $0.35 each, versus about $0.05/each for the standard caps.

We’d also made up 90 bottles of Lugol’s iodine solution a few days ago, using the phenolic caps as we’ve been doing since we found out a couple of years ago that they were necessary on iodine bottles. I was very surprised to find that there was a problem with those bottles as well. Over just a few days, enough iodine vapor had escape to turn the labels light brown. That’s really only a cosmetic issue; there was no actual leak. Everyone has this problem with iodine solutions. Here, for example, is an image on the Home Science Tools website of their iodine solution, brown stains and all.

So we’re replacing the standard caps on the undamaged hydrochloric acid bottles with phenolic caps. As a belt-and-suspender measure, I decided we’ll also package both the hydrochloric acid bottles and iodine bottles in individual sealed plastic bags. That means we need to go back and open every chemical bag that we have in stock and make that change. It’s probably several days’ work, but it has to be done.

I don’t expect our bottle vendor to do anything about the situation. I’ve determined the problem is with the amber-glass bottles themselves. I suspect a production issue. We’ve used the standard caps for a long time. They’re literally from the same bag of 5,000 that I ordered long ago. And there were never any problems with them until recently. We buy the bottles themselves in small quantities, but this problem has showed up with bottles from several different cases/batches. I think they’re doing something different recently with the bottles themselves.

I’d hate to change vendors. I’ve been happy with our current vendor for the five or six years we’ve been using their bottles and caps. But this goes far beyond the cost of the bottles and caps themselves. We’ve discarded a lot of those because they were ruined, and it’s certainly costing us a lot in terms of chemicals, labor, and so on to fix that damage, not to mention postage costs on replacing damaged shipments. One bottle leaking can mean we have to replace the 20 or 30 other bottles that were in the same bag. But the real cost is in damage to our reputation among our customers. One customer who received a damaged shipment may tell lots of his or her friends. That one unhappy customer could end up losing us a dozen or a hundred potential customers.

* * * * *


36 Comments and discussion on "Sunday, 19 March 2017"

  1. ech says:

    As Samsung found out, quality control at some Chinese plants is not very good. I suspect your bottle vendor has the same issue. I would let them know.

  2. Miles_Teg says:

    “(Iodine vapor penetrates just about any seal. It really wants to be free.)”

    How come? WHAT makes it want/able to get out?

  3. Dave Hardy says:

    Wow, that sucks! A lotta hassle plus damage to yer rep and none of it your fault. Hope it works out for you. I wonder if it is, in fact, more problems with Chicom QC.

    Same temp here today as in Spahtuh. Bright and sunny again, too, with snow melting. I’m not sure which NWS forecast you were talking about, but we did, indeed, get a sizable blizzard up here last week, only nobody got too excited about it. We just dealt with it, as in days of yore, when many of us remember getting heavy snowstorms all winter long.

  4. SteveF says:

    I’m not sure about the “able” part, Miles_Teg, but the mercury wants to be free because of a history of oppression.

    And a shared sorrow I can commiserate with MrAtoz over.

  5. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    “As Samsung found out, quality control at some Chinese plants is not very good. I suspect your bottle vendor has the same issue. I would let them know.”

    They’re not just a vendor; they’re a manufacturer. When I started using their products five years or so ago, I talked to them. At that point, all of their bottles and caps were US-made, most in their own factories.

    I certainly intend to let them know, not that I expect them to do anything about it. They have a disclaimer that basically says the customer is responsible for determining the suitability of the containers for their own applications. Which I did. At one point, I actually ran filled bottles of all of the types we use through a dryer cycle, packed as we pack them for shipping. I ran it on low, but even so they got quite warm and obviously got banged around a lot. Not a single leak.

  6. nick flandrey says:

    The British Met office had a similar issue a couple of years ago, where they were caught
    ‘correcting’ their long term forecasts to match the AGW theory. Lots of people, including British Air, used that forecast to buy fuel, plan actions, etc. Lots of people spent money they really didn’t need to spend.

    Don’t recall what happened, if anything.

    Politics destroys anything it touches.


  7. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    “How come? WHAT makes it want/able to get out?”

    It’s a small molecule that yearns to be free. Solid iodine has a very high vapor pressure at room temperature. In other words, it’s undecided as to whether it wants to be a solid or a vapor. At normal pressures, iodine sublimates (goes directly from solid state to vapor state without an intervening liquid state).

  8. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    ” I’m not sure which NWS forecast you were talking about”

    The one that forecast blizzard conditions and heavy snowfall for much of the NE. You guys got it, but lots of places that were supposed to get 12″ or 18″ or whatever ended up with a small fraction of that amount, which NWS’s revised data/forecast caught. They just decided not to tell anyone and let everyone keep expecting what they’d originally forecast.

  9. Dave Hardy says:

    “Lots of people spent money they really didn’t need to spend.”


  10. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    “Politics destroys anything it touches.”

    That’s why I’ve been a radical anarchist/libertarian since the 1960’s.

  11. Dave Hardy says:

    “They just decided not to tell anyone and let everyone keep expecting what they’d originally forecast.”


  12. Dave Hardy says:

    I’m still a paleoconservative. Since the 1980s.

    I distrust and dislike the State but also distrust and dislike most of my fellow human beans. The Founders were pretty smart guys, the majority of them, a couple of them too smart and clever for their own good, but a myth about what texts influenced them should be dispelled again; it warn’t Brother Locke, but Brother Hobbes. Things that make you go hmmmmmmmm….

    ….As in, what were they about, our Murkan history teachers all through skool?? All that blather about Locke and Rousseau….not SO!

    And some of the guys to my putative right refer to us paleos as “fail-eos,” and figure to move beyond our poor miserable efforts. I would advise them that neither their efforts, ours, or those of radical anarchist-libertarians are likely to bear legitimate fruit in this country anytime soon. We’re too married to Our Nanny, the Almighty State, and as long as Nanny distributes the loot taken at virtual gunpoint, we’re good with her.

  13. CowboySlim says:

    IIRC, it’s two things.
    1. Flowing through another gas, or gas mixture, such as air from high to low concentration is mass transfer rate depending molecular diffusivity.
    2. Leakage through seal or membrane with rate a function of pressure differences.
    Molecular size relevant factor in both.

    Did Algore ever study fluid mechanics and mass transfer? Obamanable? Cankles?

  14. OFD says:

    Obamanable obviously studied mass transfer, as in mass transfer of crimigrants and musloid scum (but there I go repeating myself again) to this country. Cankles studied fluid mechanics from high skool on, until stuff dried up and became fossilized, not to put too fine a point on it. Algore studied chicanry, snake oil medicine, carny barkering, and would have given the Duke of Bridgewater and the Dauphin of France a good run for the money. Which is what he’s all about. Period.

  15. nick flandrey says:

    Funny bit of synchronicity there Dave, I just flipped through a magazine that featured a “Huck” tour along the Mighty Mississippi….


    Unfortunately, Ol’ Hockey Stick is unlikely to end up like Mssrs Dauphin and Bridgewater…

  16. OFD says:

    Oh, to be devoutly wished! Tarred, feathered, and ridden outta town on a rail, along with all the other warmist imbeciles!

    And, from the Department of Paranoia:

    Thoughts? I try to make it a little harder for the fuckers but of course I’m “made” and so is everyone else by now. One wonders just when something they do triggers, haha, get it? an event that has zillions of gun owners and combat vets and others up in arms, literally.

  17. Miles_Teg says:

    Canada to the rescue! Now Trudy can put his country’s money where his mouth is… 🙂

  18. OFD says:

    The crossings seem to be mostly on the Alberta international border so fah. Haven’t heard much about it up this way. Go, Trudy! You wee commie prick!

    The Week’s Most Tickly, Sickly, and Prickly Headlines

  19. MrAtoz says:

    I didn’t know until today that Robert Osborne, host of TCM, passed away. I always liked his movie intros. MrsAtoz and I had a bucket list item of going on the TCM cruise to meet him. RIP.

  20. RickH says:

    Re; weather forecasting and that Nor-easter….I read a weather blog from a guy in Seattle which is pretty good at explaining things. He discussed that weather system and how things changed, and why the forecast changed. Good reading, IMHO…

  21. I’d be taking a close look at the openings of those leaking bottles. If the sealing surface is more irregular than it was in the past, it’ll be harder to get a seal.

  22. OFD says:

    “She was – the newspeak word goodthinkful – meaning naturally orthodox, incapable of thinking a bad thought. She had not a thought in her head that was not a slogan, and there was no imbecility, absolutely none that she was not capable of swallowing if the Party handed it out to her.” – George Orwell, 1984”

    Sunday Night Reading Department:

    ” ‘Our free press’ sells the message every day that to be accepted you must be part of the group, or you’ll be forced out into the cold, alone. They then tell you what you must do and think to be part of that ‘group.’ The whole business is manufactured.”

    Got that, citizen?

  23. nick flandrey says:

    Well, part of my list of tasks today was installing the new router, so I can share my new high speed comcast internet with the rest of the house.

    Ordered a Ubiquiti EdgeRouter X which has an astounding feature set for a $50 router, and a massive 800 Mbps of aggregate throughput to the WAN port.

    Many of the reviews complained about how hard it was to configure. It is. There is a ton of function, huge choices, obscure settings, &c. BUT after running the wizard (named something misleading) to set it up as a normal single WAN router, it’s running.

    Had 10 or more streams playing in HD and couldn’t saturate my downstream…

    I’ll have to do some more setup on blocking out some addresses from the pool, and get some port forwarding and DDNS set up, but that can wait. Spouse has internet…

    I got some work done on the lawn tractor. Got the bearings in the spindle replaced from some I had sitting around. Fit perfectly. Adapted a seat (seat was missing) I got for $5 at the scrap yard (Toro brand and everything) to fit. Hit it with rust killer and paint. As soon as the blades come in, I’ll get the deck mounted and be ready to cut. There are a couple of other things I could tweak or fix but this will get the season started.

    I bought two apple trees. I need two for pollination. I’m putting them on the side of the house where the other citrus trees are. I’ll be pruning them heavily over the years. They are already shaped the way they need to be (2D plane) to fit the area, I’ll just have to keep them short and continue shaping them. They have better cold tolerance than the dead lime, so we’ll see how they do in the heat.

    I’ve got 2 blueberry plants to put in too. I killed the blackberry- which is considered an invasive weed in TX- so we’ll see how I do with blue berries.

    Picked up soil and manure to replenish the beds. Hope I can get some plants in in time. In retrospect, the soil mix the dirt place recommended was terrible for veg. It was cheaper than the bags, but seems to have zero nutritive value. Lesson learned. Lotta work coming up in the gardens.

    Didn’t get to a single sale this week.

    Ebay sales were off a bit, but did some craigslist and scrapping to fill in. Good thing the wife is a steady earner 🙂


  24. lynn says:

    I killed the blackberry- which is considered an invasive weed in TX

    Says who ? My Harshbarger grandmother made the awesomest blackberry cobbler that you ever tasted. She used a vanilla cake mix to start and then made layers until it was 2 to 3 inches thick.

  25. nick flandrey says:

    Just saying that it is generally considered pretty hardy and tenacious and yet it completely ‘failed to thrive” in my yard….

    didn’t say it wasn’t yummy….


  26. OFD says:

    Blueberries didn’t work for us here but we have wild blackberries. I’d like to plant more blackberries and raspberries along the rear perimeter fence. We’ll try tomatoes again and I’m a stubborn bastard and third time’s a charm so I’m going for jalapeno and habanero peppers again. Also herbs, and some other plants that allegedly do well in Vermont: garden sorrel, good King Henry, walking onion, Jerusalem artichoke, asparagus and rhubarb. I wanna also get in some spuds, turnips, carrots, and maybe garlic. Among the herbs I’ll be going for those touted as medicinal.

    Meanwhile I’m gonna skim off some cash every month and stash it somewhere, and I’ll be doing roughly the same amount for food and ammo in alternate months. The food and water storage are at about six weeks worth now and I want six months, at least. One to two years of that, assuming we have that long now, and we’ll be in pretty good shape, as I also beef up the exterior security this spring and get both of us to the range regularly. Wife thinks her asshole employer is gonna cut her back to one gig a month which would be a sizable hit for us, and this is in spite of her top seniority and experience and the zillions in revenue she’s brought them over seven years now. So I have to keep looking for ways to increase revenue from my efforts anyway; it’s just a blessing that I’ve got the two regular monthly payments rolling in so far. We’ve also decided that if she wins any dough on Jeopardy!, we’ll line up a good tax lawyer and go to battle this summer with the you-know-who, Fed and state.

  27. nick flandrey says:

    And THAT sounds like a plan.

    I’d look at hay bale gardening some more given your situation, or more containers.

    I’ve seen people using all kinds of containers, including kiddie pools, and those plastic shipping cube liquid containers cut in half. Buckets appear to work well too. Look at some of the vertical planters people on instructables have done with shipping pallets too. Some are a bit too “precious” but some are good working designs.


  28. OFD says:

    We have six raised beds plus a dozen or so “grow bags.” Judging by last summer, I think we did better with the raised beds after all. We’ll use taller and more rigid tomato cages this time, and I’ll talk wife into trying some hay bales.

    The RAV4 works OK for hauling chit but I’d really rather have a truck, as I’ve mentioned before, older diesel, w/4WD, manual transMISSION, etc. If not this year, then next.

    I also gotta get us a good sturdy wagon for hauling firewood from the pile to the racks, and bags of topsoil and manure and fertilizer, etc., etc.

  29. OFD says:

    Busy day tomorrow in meatspace for ol’ OFD; offline most likely until fairly late.

    Several errands abroad, plus dump run, laundry detail, two VA med appointments, town Selectboard meeting, etc.

    So, as always, Pax vobiscum, fratres….

  30. Greg Norton says:

    Now that Trump is taking the ax to CPB, NEA, NEH, and so on, perhaps he should consider eliminating the NWS entirely.

    Turn it over to the Navy. I already trust their hurricane forecasts more than the National Hurricane Center.

  31. Jenny says:


    You all are killing me with your garden talk.

    Meanwhile in Alaska we are shoveling snow away from the walls of the fabric green house. Because there is so much of it the weight leaning against the sides, 3′ deep packed down, is tearing the fabric.

    The crocus have not yet made their appearance. Nor the rhubarb.

  32. nick flandrey says:

    Sorry Jenny!

    When I listen to the Alaska Morning Net on ham radio, I’m amazed how often the weather is similar to ours. It does come quite a bit later though, esp for people in North Pole!


  33. lynn says:

    The RAV4 works OK for hauling chit but I’d really rather have a truck, as I’ve mentioned before, older diesel, w/4WD, manual transMISSION, etc. If not this year, then next.

    Did your previous diesel truck ever have any problems with the diesel fuel freezing ?

    Can you shift a truck manual tranny comfortable with your back issues ?

    Be careful with diesels made in the last ten to fifteen years. The new emission schemes have made them unreliable in the transition period.

  34. SteveF says:

    Rather than get a new truck, would it make more sense to get a trailer for the Rav4?

  35. paul says:

    Or rent a trailer.

  36. nick flandrey says:

    I rent a trailer when I need one. That way I can get the one best suited to the job, and don’t have to store the damn thing 363 days when I’m not using it. BUT I’ve got lots of Uhaul dealers near me to pick from, and I can always get me first or second choice from someone….


    (I do have both an expedition and a ranger pickup, so that I can do all the pickup and hauling type stuff that I do. Wife would like to have only one, but having the pickup has too many benefits for me.)

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