Saturday, 17 June 2017

09:18 – Colin let me sleep in this morning. It was 67.2F (19.5C) when I took him out around 0730 this morning, mostly cloudy and with a light misty drizzle. Barbara’s friend Bonnie from Winston is coming up this morning. They’re going to spend the day driving around the county visiting various arts/crafts places.

I got some chemicals for science kits on order yesterday, a gallon (3.8 L) each of n-butanol, 99% acetic acid, and 28% ammonia. The total was $161, including shipping, or $6.71/pint. I could order this stuff from a lab chemical vendor, but lab-grade versions of any of these would typically cost 50% to 100% more, not including shipping.

If possible, we avoid technical-grade chemicals. This vendor carries tech-grade, but it also offers many chemicals in either repackaged USP (pharma-grade) or FCC (food-grade) versions, which are pure enough for our purposes.

The other issue is hazardous-material shipping. Many vendors, including Fisher Sci, simply refuse to ship hazardous chemicals to anything but a business address, but these guys will happily ship to a home address.

Which is probably just as well. Soon after we started the business, I ordered a bunch of hazardous chemicals and had them delivered to our house in Winston. The total amount was probably a couple liters of liquid and maybe two or three kilos of solids.

A few days later, Malcolm barked ferociously at a loud noise out front. It was a tractor-trailer emblazoned with hazmat placards parking in front of our house. The guy got out of the tractor and started placing orange cones to block off the street to all traffic, and finally unloaded a couple medium size boxes. I’m sure that got the whole neighborhood talking.

I spent some time yesterday going through the material for the Technician-class amateur radio exam and repeatedly taking the practice exam at HamExam.org. I’m now at the point where usually I score 35/35, with a few 34/35 thrown in. Passing is 26/35, so I shouldn’t have any problem with that test.

Truth be told, the Tech license is all I care about, but I figured I might as well take the General exam as well as long as I’m there. So I’ll spend some time over the weekend and early next week going over the General-class material and taking the practice exams for it.

When I first signed up for the ham radio course, the guy instructing it mentioned that there was another ham locally who was interested in starting an ARES group. The Amateur Radio Emergency Service is intended to help provide comms to local emergency services and law enforcement during emergencies.

After reading more about ARES, I decided not to bother with it. For one thing, they expect you to “register” your radio equipment and skills, and I have no interest in registering anything with the government or an auxiliary agency. For another, they expect you to respond to emergencies outside your immediate area.

So I think I’ll try to get an unofficial local group going that will support only Alleghany County and Sparta emergency services. That fits well with the mind-set around here anyway. We have a local ham radio club, but it has zero official presence. No membership roster, no dues, no officers, no rules, etc.

While Barbara was volunteering at the historical society yesterday afternoon, the Sheriff stopped in to say hello. There wasn’t anyone else there, so he and Barbara spent a long time talking. She said he’s a really nice guy.

So I think I’ll see how many members of the ham radio club are interested in volunteering to provide emergency comms and then talk to the Sheriff and other local people involved with emergency management and see what we can get going informally.