CO2 may be good

by Terry 5/29/2008 10:27:00 AM

I read Freeman Dyson’s review of A Question of Balance: Weighing the Options on Global Warming Policies, by William Nordhaus, earlier this week. Afterwards, I started wondering about the historical, or rather pre-historical, levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. This morning I saw, on Jerry Pournelle’s journal, a link to a sourced article, The Past and Future of Climate, by David Archibald, which presents data related to that very question.

All of this really means we need more research before we race to go Do Something. That is, we should have a much better understanding on what exactly is happening and what human measures will have, if any, before enacting costly change.

For example, reading the two articles makes me ask, if an increase in atmospheric CO2 increases plant growth, and seasonal plant growth measurably decreases CO2 levels, what impact will increase growth rates have on global CO2 levels? If the answer is obvious, then think about the possible variables. I do not see any certainty. For example, if the earth is still warming or even cooling, from, say, a change in solar activity, how will this affect growing season length and carbon uptake? Will a cooling period be buffered by increase plant growth, despite shorter seasons? What is the possible economic impact?

The science is not settled. Nullius in Verba indeed.

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Climate Change | Opinion

A Garage, a Lab and a Place to Park

by Terry 5/26/2008 7:44:00 PM

Monday, Memorial Day

I am thankful to the men and women who gave their lives in service to our country.

I cleaned my garage. This was not a hideous task as it may be for some people. Our friends, Richard and Loraine spent the day with us. I am not sure about the sanity of friends who happily spend the day cleaning some else’s garage, but I am grateful nonetheless. Thanks to their help I now have a clean garage, a place to park my car (which has not been parked in the garage once in seven years) and a functional work bench for a home chemistry lab. This is where I plan to practice my maniacal laughter as I work through the lab exercises from the Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture (DIY Science).

Karen is dead certain the only reason I spent the entire day working in the garage was to get it ready for a lab. I disagree. I want to have a place to park the car out of the weather, which is very windy and wet in the winter. Also, if I move the car back out into the driveway, I have a large clear floor space available to set up a large work table if I need the lab space. Keeping the car in the garage means I always have the space available. See, I am not completely self-serving.

I still need to level the work bench and screw down a more durable work counter. I plan to keep the counter cheap. I can go to Home Depot and get a sheet of melamine-covered particle board for a countertop. Once I cut it to fit the existing bench, I will have about 32 square feet of spill resistant counter space. I will post pictures.

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chemistry | Personal

Mac iBook and Networking with Vista

by Terry 5/25/2008 11:08:00 AM

Michael and Conny have two laptops, an older iBook with OS X and a new Toshiba laptop with Vista. Some time back I gave them my spare Linksys router for network and Wi-Fi access. They were never able to get the Mac to use the network properly, so I played with the Mac until it relented and connected to the network.

I am not a big Mac user, but I do like OS X. As Jerry Pournelle has written before, a task on a Mac is either easy or impossible. I did not take detailed notes, as I did not plan on doing any computer work at all while I was there, so I did not record dialogs and steps taken to get the successful results. However I did note two things that flat out irritated me about the Mac.

Configuring the network settings in one chain of dialogs gave me no way to cancel the operation. I eventually found the Force-Quit menu option, but this was anything but obvious to me. I will chock that up to being primarily a Windows user. I am sure what I was trying to do was obvious to any experienced Mac user.

I used the Mac Finder, with Help, to successfully connect to the Vista laptop on the network; having already configured a share on the laptop for the Mac to see. What was irritating was how the Mac behaved after I shutdown the Vista laptop. The Mac really did not like not finding the configured share. After several long delays to attempt to connect the Mac would repeatedly display a dialog that it could not connect to the share and I should consider disconnecting the share from Finder or I will be most unhappy, thank you. This is Michael’s laptop, and he is definitely not a power-user. It will take some training for him to reconnect the share when he needs it and leaving the connection defined will cause more headaches. This is not an optimum condition for a typical scenario. One day I will have a Mac and if this condition still exists, it will drive me to a minor fury.

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computing

Memorial Weekend

by Terry 5/24/2008 9:57:00 AM

My thanks to the men and women who gave their lives to the service of our nation.

I spent part of Memorial weekend with my sister, Conny, and her family. Her birthday is this week, so it was a good reason to make the trip. She lives across Puget Sound in Indianola http://www.visitkitsap.com/cities.asp?ID=6. This requires taking a ferry. Karen drove Kaitlin and me to the ferry landing in Seattle and we walked on to the ferry to Bainbridge Island. Karen was not feeling well, so she stay home. The nice thing about walking onto the ferry on a holiday weekend is that you are guaranteed to board a given ferry, whereas the car queue can sometimes be two or more ferry trips wait time. My sister picked Kaitlin and me up at the other end.

Fortunately the weather was beautiful. My sister lives close to the beach in Indianola, which is an exceptional beach for western Washington and Puget Sound in general. The afternoon low tide meant dozens of kids and adults making enormous sandcastles, just west of the Indianola dock. We stayed long enough to watch the tide batter the sand-fortress walls down and flood the inner keep. Kaitlin had a great time and, naturally, was covered with sand. We finished the evening with games and s’mores toasted on a fire in Conny’s back yard.

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Personal

Office 2007 and ODF Support in Service Pack 2

by Terry 5/23/2008 2:24:00 PM

Next Office 2007 service pack will include ODF, PDF support options
"In a breakthrough development, Microsoft has announced its future editions of Microsoft Office, beginning with Service Pack 2 for Office 2007, will enable users to choose OpenDocument support as an alternate default option."

Microsoft Office's ODF support might change the EC's mind
"Given the fact that the next changes to Microsoft Office will enable consumers to choose which native format it uses, the European Commission may find itself with no alternative but to reconsider its investigation into unfair competition allegations."

It may be too little too late, particularly since the update will not be available until the first half of 2009. Since I am required to use Microsoft Office formats for work, I cannot use Open Office or the ODF format. Nonetheless, I am delighted that the ODF format will be supported. I just think it will be offered so late by Microsoft that no one will really care. That is not a good place for a business to be.

I have been bitten by the proprietary document formats from Microsoft over the years, even between versions of office. I use Office 2007 at work, having been part of the beta program for my company; I have used it for a long time. But, I have to set my defaults to earlier formats so that others can read the documents as Office 2007 is not a fully deployed standard in the company. If the company could standardize on the Open Document Format, it would be win-win for everyone.

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BlogEngine.NET | computing

My-Weigh iBalance 201 balance

by Terry 5/23/2008 10:09:00 AM

On a whim I checked Amazon. The My-Weigh iBalance 201 balance is offered for about 99.00.

Mr. Thompson created a forum, http://forums.homechemlab.com, as a companion to the Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture (DIY Science). I noted the balance on the forum and I hope other people contribute to the Home Chem Lab forum over time too. I think it is a great adjunct to Mr. Thompson’s book and resource for amateurs like me.

I also added this item to my own storefront. My storefront is an ongoing experiment.

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chemistry

Enabling the Future

by Terry 5/22/2008 4:49:00 PM

When I asked my daughter, Kaitlin, who is eight, if she would like to work lab experiments with me, she said she really, really wanted to do that. And, without prompting by me, started listing of things she would need; goggles, an apron and a notebook. That last part surprised me. I asked her what she would record in her notebook. She replied that she would record what she did and what she saw with each experiment. Again, I was surprised by this.

When I was her age, I recall simple earth-science experiments in school and assignments to record the observations. I do not think I, at that time and age, could have articulated what the purpose was of the lab notebook. (This was not because I was dull. I was often bored in class. My teachers wanted to put me with the ‘special needs’ kids until my mother demanded that they stop doing that. At which time I started to gain some interest in school again. It was the later-half of high school and college when I could pick the classes that interested me where I became an honors student.)

Naturally, I have a bit of pride at Kaitlin’s grasp of science. More than anything, I want to enable channels of success for her. Keeping her interested in the sciences is one of the best way I can think of to enable her.

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Personal

Science Club is Germinating

by Terry 5/22/2008 4:26:00 PM

So far every person I have talked too about creating a small ‘Science Club’ has been excited about the idea. I asked a friend’s daughter, Heather, who is eighteen and planning on starting college in the fall, whether she is interested in participating in a Science Club. Her response was an enthusiastic, “yes!” My daughter is pretty excited by the idea too.

So I think I will be creating a local Science Club. I am planning on purchasing all the chemicals and lab equipment for myself, as it is now. I am thinking Science Club members would need only purchase gloves, goggles, notebook and the Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture (DIY Science). I may ask for a few dollars to replenish stock used in group experiments. It is an evolving idea at the moment.

I also am toying with the idea of staging a ‘Chemistry in Action’ demonstration for the local elementary school at next year’s annual science fair. I am not sure what yet. I thought of making slime to give away to the kids, but do that as part of a grand finale. I thought I could start with a less-than exciting micro-experiment, and then a larger bench experiment, finally ending with massively up-scaled experiment filling a 50 gallon trash can with slime. 

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Storefront Experimentation

by Terry 5/21/2008 5:25:00 PM

I added an Amazon storefront to my site today. I am curious how this will perform on my site over time. I lost a steady readership when I took three years off from writing (big shock there!). I noted earlier that I want to repost all my original content, but I need to edit all the data before I do. Perhaps that will slowly rekindle the traffic to my site. Mind you, I am note particularly trying to drive traffic for the sake of bragging rights. I am here to practice my writing, build my web development skills and basically keep a general journal of what I do. I do not have dreams of fame.

I used to have links to Barnes & Nobel affiliate items on my original site, and I even made a couple of dollars from it. I never liked how B&N worked, however, and it took something like two years before I got my miniscule kickback as a check in the mail. I hope the Amazon does better. One option that Amazon offers is gift certificate kickbacks in $10 increments, presumably every month, provided the minimum is reached. My own orders alone, over time, will make that worth the effort.

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amazon

Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments

by Terry 5/20/2008 4:47:00 PM

I received my copy of Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments last week while I was in Orlando and I just cracked into it this week. I am oddly quite excited about the whole thing. I love lab science. I liked chemistry in college, but I can say the labs were already diluted when I started college in the late ‘80’s. I recall middle-school labs that were more informative and interesting. I have been chomping at the bit since I heard Mr. Thompson was writing this book.

Now I am trying to find excuses to outfit a full lab. About two weeks ago I started discussing with my wife and some friends the possibility of building a home lab in my garage and tutoring local kids in chemistry. Also, I want to have my daughter, Kaitlin, be exposed to true science and be comfortable with lab work by the time she is in high school. That is still a few years away, but I will use the time to get my own skill sharpened.

I remember getting a basic science kit when I was eight or nine. I played with it all the time, until I ran out of chemicals. The problem I had, as a child of divorced parents, was lack of supervision. I had little guidance; so much of the science I could have learned vanished with the corrosive goo of melting my toys. I was smart enough to stay wide of serious trouble growing up and I got lucky as an adult to be where I am today. I feel I have an opportunity to pay-forward to some degree. That first science kit did not get put to the fullest use, but I have the ability to compensate for that in spades today. Robert Bruce Thompson has provided a collective field manual to let me build the chemistry kit I dreamed of owning.

Physics in college was one of my favorite topics; I was often vying for first in my class with another classmate, Chris Bosland if I recall his name correctly. We enjoyed a friendly competition on every exam and lab session. I remember sketching out a plan to build a capacitor out of an oil-filled trash can. On advice from our teacher we scrapped the plan; we did the math on the destructive, explosive, energy could be released had the capacitor discharged violently.

I would have pursued a career in physics but fate and tuition costs changed my path in life. The short story is money; I could not afford to work and put myself through school at the same time. I went with my other favorite subject, eventually finishing my degree in computer science, with honors, by going to school at night. Now I have a stable and generally enjoyable career with enough disposable income to consider going back to the sciences I enjoyed as a young adult.

So, that brings me back to what to do with a decent home chemistry lab. Because of my teaching time with martial arts and the small, close community I live in, I am relatively well known to many parents and children in the area. I also know several people who teach and volunteer at the local elementary school. I hope to use their knowledge and skills to make a plan to create a science club or something along those lines.

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About Terry Losansky

Terry Dee Losansky

I am a software architect, actively practice and teach martial arts and live in Snoqualmie, Washington. I have an amazing daughter who is the jewel of my life.

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