Know I right good!

by Terry 6/26/2008 3:46:00 PM

I looked recently on my office bookshelf for my chemistry textbooks from college. I am disappointed that I don’t seem to have them anymore. I might have sold them back to the bookstore after I finished the classes; I only did that once or twice. (I paid for much of my school out of pocket, so selling back was a desperate move for cash.) I kept most of my textbooks most of the time, except where the classes were required but otherwise worthless. I think I still have, maybe, one textbook from my required English, Writing and Literature classes. In twenty years I have never once missed those books. I still look at my physics texts now and then, by contrast. Fortunately, Karen kept her chemistry textbooks, so I have hers to read.

Incidentally, Jerry Pournelle once recommended on his journal Dwight V. Swain’s books, Creating Characters: How to Build Story People and Techniques of the Selling Writer, for those interested in writing. I have read both and recommended them to two friends, both published writers. They found value in these two books. None of my college courses in writing were nearly as useful, and by a lot. I would go as far to say my high school literature classes taught me more about writing then my college writing classes. Know I right good!

So, while I wait for my lab supplies and find the time to finish my workbench, I am spending a few minutes here and there reading chemistry textbooks for fun. I needed something lighter than, and a break from, the series of books on Mythology I have been reading by Joseph Campbell. I have a few crates of books in the garage I have not looked through in a long time. Perhaps I will find my missing textbooks there.

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chemistry | Personal

Stocking my Lab

by Terry 6/25/2008 3:43:00 PM

This morning I ordered the remaining basic supplies I need for my lab. I called Elemental Scientific and placed my order for the glassware and equipment kits; goggles; apron and gloves. Yesterday I ordered the iBalance Lab Scale through Amazon. I expect both orders to arrive next week.

Elemental Scientific is very accommodating and friendly, and I look forward to continuing to order from them. In a few months time, when I get closer to the final labs and chapters in the Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture, I will order the Advanced Chemical Kit from Elemental Scientific, I will likely bundle in some additional hazardous chemicals with the package, if the combinations are allowed for shipping.

The scale shipped today from Texas via FedEx and is due to arrive next Tuesday. Not bad for $8.67 in shipping, and I did not need to leave my office chair.

Shipping costs are sometime steep, but I have to balance it against local sales-tax and fuel costs if I purchase items locally. Seattle is a 30 mile drive, so I try to economize my trips into the city. A shipping charge of $8 is less than the cost of gas to drive into Seattle. If I order a $100 package, an additional $20 in shipping is about a wash if I have to drive to purchase locally with gas and tax adding about $18.

I am also trying to keep costs in mind for anyone who plans to share my lab in the ‘Science Club’. I still plan to front most of the costs myself (I own the glassware, for example). Some items like the Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments, lab notebook, goggles, gloves and protective clothing will be required by each individual. I see that being less than $50 at the moment, with the book being the largest share of that expense. As I go through labs, I will track what I consume and calculate that cost as well.

Karen and I are still deciding on our weekend plans. If we stay home I will spend most of the time doing yard work, and maybe an hour or two in the garage to finish the counter and shelving around my workbench. I see a trip to the hardware store either way.

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amazon | chemistry | Personal

Meeting the Fire Chief

by Terry 6/23/2008 10:54:00 AM

Last Friday I received the Standard Chemical Kit from Elemental Scientific Karen ordered for me for Father’s Day. Naturally, I could not wait to open the box, and neither could Kaitlin. So, together, we unpacked all the chemicals and started to sort them out on the counter in the garage. I showed Kaitlin the color coding on the bottles and explained what they mean and she help me sort them properly into groups. While unpacking, I reviewed the “rules” with Kaitlin. These, like all chemicals, need to be treated with respect, she is not use them without me present, and so on. Now I have to address proper storage for the long term.

Friday afternoon I took Kaitlin to a birthday party. Karen was out for the evening, so I took the opportunity to ride my bicycle down to the fire station. (It is very much ‘down’, about two miles away and a 300 ft drop in elevation. The ride back up the hill was a good workout in the hot sun.) Karen really wanted me to make sure that if anyone were to ‘report’ me to the authorities that I had that base covered now, and I agree.

I talked to a couple firemen and the fire chief about what I was doing and if they had any concerns. I did not expect them to have any. If anything, they were encouraging and supportive. Their recommendations are, as I planned already to do:

  • Keep the MSDS printouts handy
  • Have at least one dry-chemical fire extinguisher on hand, within arms-reach of the garage door going into the house
  • Keep the supplies stored properly
  • Call them if I ever planned to have a large stock of any given chemicals

One fireman offered me his excess supply of Muriatic Acid. Before I could respond, one of the other firemen said he would use it for his pool, which was good by me. I am not looking for used stock of unknown origins. I left feeling I gained their trust by including them in what I am doing, which is what I set out to do. Based on their comments, like, “It’s the people who are not telling us what they have in their garage that worry us more”, that make me feel the fire fighters feel about the same as I do. We would rather have the devil we know knock on the door.

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chemistry | Personal | Snoqualmie

Six Weeks to One Hundred Push-ups

by Terry 6/20/2008 9:59:00 AM

My friend and fellow black-belt instructor at DMW Martial Arts, Steve, sent me this link recently. http://www.hundredpushups.com A six week program to doing 100 push-ups. It is a progressive repetition plan which if followed will help you be able to do 100 consecutive, well-formed push-ups. I am going to recommend this to the students in my Leadership class next week. Among many other requirements for reaching a black belt at DMW is being able to do 100 consecutive push-ups in 2 minutes. There is no magic to doing it; it just takes practice, patience and time. The current crop of black belt candidates has until the end of summer to prepare for the next black belt tests. This six week plan would help them reach their goal.

When I planned for my black belt tests, I attacked the physical performance requirements as methodically as I could. When I could, I would end every workout with push-ups and sit-ups until I reached or exceeded the requirements. I was not so good at running. I got a late start on my running because of a knee injury, and maybe a bit of sloth as I hate running to begin with. I can say that the running portions of my tests were the most difficult for me.

I have never been much of an athlete growing up. I would still not call myself an athlete. I did reach my athletic goals nonetheless, even starting into the martial arts in my early thirties. As the saying goes, if I can do it…

I am hoping to come back from the Martial Arts Super Show this year with more tips and effective plans to help students reach their goals. Not every plan will work for every person. Having a variety of plans in my repertoire will help me help others find a plan that will work.

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The legal Considerations of Starting a Science Club

by Terry 6/17/2008 2:40:00 PM

Karen is concerned, and rightly so, about liability and safety issues we would be at risk of building and maintaining a chemistry lab in our garage and starting a science club for a few local teens. Personally, I am of the mind that this is my own business, what I do in my house is my business, and not of concern to anyone else. I think if a lab in my house were strictly for me alone, there would be little issue, except with proper and legal storage and disposal of the chemicals. But I am not limiting a lab to just myself, so I do need to look at the problem more closely.

So I did a little research. I found the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) website to have some good information. In Washington, this is the state department which regulates the cleanup of Meth labs and sets the environmental health and safety standards for schools. I found nothing on home chemistry in the state laws, but then I won’t claim I know how to do an exhaustive search in that arena.

The DOH School Environmental Health and Safety Program has a Student Health and Safety Guide. I downloaded the 460 page document and started to scan through it. The section on Safety and the Law jump out at me. It states:

Safety and the Law

  1. Risk of suit is often greatly exaggerated in your minds; however, it is ever present.
  2. We will show you that there is more protection for you than you think. Fear of litigation should NOT restrict effective, safe teaching and learning. Participatory activities should remain interesting and exploratory. They should not become sterile and ineffective.
  3. We cannot insulate ourselves from danger at any time in our lives. This program is to teach you RESPONSIBILITY and forethought.
  4. We hope to make safety in the lab a HABIT in your teaching career.
  5. We believe that knowledge is the key to any potential problems.
  6. The law requires adherence to regulations and requirements (see “negligence” on next page). THIS IS WHAT GOOD SAFETY IS ALL ABOUT.

(Excerpt from the Safety Guide for Career and technical Education, page 18, Washington State Department of Health)

I cannot argue with what is written there. In the sections following ‘Safety and the Law’ are sections called ‘The Law Defined’ and ‘Safety Forms’. The Law Defined section could be summarized as get your CYA documentation and don’t be negligent. The safety forms include things like parent permission, various acknowledgements, medical treatment consent and safety training logs. I am thinking I will use these, as much as some of it grates on my inner-libertarian to do so. Some of the logs will be useful to record what lab sessions have been covered and by who, which will help to avoid confusion.

I will also make a trip down to the local fire station and talk to the station personnel. I would much rather befriend the local authorities and make them aware of who I am and what I am doing. This is more of an effort to avoid overreaction if anything were to happen. Again, it grates on my inner-libertarian, yet I would rather have the devil I know at my door than the one I don’t.

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chemistry | Personal | Snoqualmie

Snoqualmie Deer Induced Traffic Jam

by Terry 6/17/2008 9:23:00 AM

I am had a delayed yesterday morning. There were two week-old fawns stuck in the school yard across the street from my house. One got separated from its mother when the school kids were being dropped off for class. The momma deer somehow got outside the fence and wondered back and forth down the street trying to coax the fawns to the gate and freedom. Traffic backed up in all directions, people started honking. People were watching or getting frustrated with the traffic jam, but no one seemed to take any action. Then the kids arriving to school realized they could get a close-up look at deer. I stepped up and chased away some 20 kids from the fawns before school started and tried to keep people away from the fawns and momma deer.

Finally, the momma deer worked her way back into the school yard and collected one of her young, but the other got spooked and bedded down in front of my house, still in the school yard. Momma did not want to wait around any longer. She took the one fawn slowly down the street to the forest a block away. I kept watch over the lone fawn. People kept asking me if I would pick it up and carry across the street to the momma, suggesting I wrap it in a blanket. I elected to leave it alone. Deer have been separated from their young before and I figured the momma would know what to do. Besides, I don’t like getting kicked by hooves, big or little.

Karen called the wildlife department for a little advice. They said it could be a couple of days for the momma to come back. I hoped it would not be that long. The deer live nearby and make weekly and sometimes daily visits on my street. The adults are comfortable walking the sidewalks and eating flowers from gardens. I have more than once opened my front door to find a deer on my porch looking at me. So, I worked with my laptop from the front porch keeping the people and dogs away from the bedded fawn. The school traffic subsided and the streets became quiet again.

Apparently, according to the wildlife department, if a fawn this young is touched or fed by people, it will be abandoned by its mom. Leaving it be was a good choice. After about twenty minutes, a police officer drove by. (The police station is a couple blocks from my house. Oddly, I was not surprised it took an officer that long to show up.) I describe what happened and told him I would hang out for a few hours to keep an eye on the fawn. He said thanks and drove off. I talked with the school staff and they closed the playfield during recess so the kids would not try to play with the fawn.

A school staff member walked by and said that Animal Control was being contacted by the Snoqualmie Police. I found that interesting, as the officer said nothing about it to me.

Things were quiet for about two hours. And then, quietly, momma trotted back down the street. She was alone, so I presumed she stashed the first fawn in a safe place to wait. As soon as the fawn saw momma, it made one little bleating sound. Momma walk through the gate and baby sprang up, ready to nurse for a few a minute. Momma then led the way back out of the playfield. I took a few pictures from my yard, and then stopped the few cars on the street as momma led the week-looking fawn slowly across the street into my neighbor’s yard and to the woods. The local drama ended.

The police officer stopped by again at this time, I told him momma collected the fawn a few minutes earlier. He said if the fawn was still there he was going to pick it up at take it down the street to the woods and let it go. I mentioned what the wildlife department people told Karen. He shrugged and drove off; interesting. I called the school to let them know the outcome, they were relieved. I sat on the porch for another hour in the sun to work, and then packed in my mobile office to return upstairs to my more comfortable desk, somewhat delayed but otherwise pleased with the day. It was a pleasant change of pace.

Deer_returns_1_web.JPG (160 kb)

Deer_returns_3_web.JPG (117 kb)

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Personal | Snoqualmie

Father's Day Fun

by Terry 6/16/2008 5:40:00 PM

Well, Karen surprised me indeed, and more than I expected, too. Sunday afternoon Karen helped me outfit my chemistry lab by presenting me with two key gifts.

For her first surprise she printed all the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for all the chemicals needed for experiments from the Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture. The chemical lists for the book are available in kits listed at http://www.homechemlab.com/sources.html. Karen printed each MSDS and placed them in a binder. She booted me from the garage, where I was building a back board for part of my counter, and snuck the binder into the garage, placing it on the counter. I knew she had put something in the garage, but I am, apparently oblivious to items in the physical world. After several minutes working around the bench, with our friends Richard and Loraine watching, I finally noticed the binder. Karen saved me a time consuming step. My inner geek started to come out this morning and I had to resist the temptation to read the binder instead of going to work.

Karen’s second surprise dovetailed with the first. She ordered the basic chemical kit from Elemental Scientific, which is due to arrive this week sometime. Karen likes to take precautions. I am more use alive then not, so her first gift made sense if I am to have the second floating around the garage. I will have to think about proper storage soon.

The last surprise was more gastronomic in nature. We joined Richard and Loraine for dinner at the Melting Pot in nearby Bellevue with our kids in tow. All I can add is wow. I cannot believe how much I ate, and it was good. I thought I had stopped just shy of gluttony, but I think I was wrong. I was extremely full, no doubt, and doing well until I got home. Then I got the hiccups. I thought I was going to rupture.

At lunch with a friend some time back, we discussed how you know a meal was good. He said, “When you sit back with a satisfying smile.” I replied, “How about when you break out in a sweat?” Last night took me well past the sweat; tears.

Richard, on the other hand is a different sort of creature. Loraine described it as the “Richard Experience”, like it is some kind of interactive exhibit at a theme park. Richard is apparently blessed with the ability to eat like a lion and gorge himself without issue, sit back and smile on his accomplishment and never gain a pound. Thankfully he finished the leftovers that the other five of us could not manage. I say thankfully, as I would have felt compelled to eat them myself had he not intervened. Thanks buddy, for taking one for the team.

I think I will take time off from eating for the rest of the week and use the time to read my new MSDSs.

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I may have the perfect candidate for my science club

by Terry 6/13/2008 11:34:00 AM

I may have the perfect candidate for my science club. In my martial arts leadership class last night we were discussing qualities of a leader. When we talked about ambition, I asked for examples of ambition.

One teen girl in my class said she wants to pursue an education in forensic chemistry. She is a straight-A student, and a black belt candidate. She has demonstrated a healthy sense of ambition. I can see her getting her black belt early next year. I will ask her parents how they feel about allowing her to work chemistry labs in my garage before I approach her. I suspect the parents will be okay with the idea, assuming provisions are in place for her safety in a lab and personal sense. It helps that the parents know me from years of martial arts classes, but attending labs in my garage is another level of trust for a parent which I need to address.

On a side note, building my lab these last two weeks has gone to the wayside. Traveling to Atlanta last week and work and martial arts have consumed my time this week. I am hoping my wife and daughter are thinking about the chemistry lab requirements for Father’s Day. Really, any gift they give me would almost be a gift to them too, wouldn’t it?

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chemistry | Martial Arts | Personal

Sleepless night in pain – stretch!

by Terry 6/13/2008 9:25:00 AM

I played substitute the last two nights at DMW Martial Arts. I covered the ‘Black Belt Club’ class the last two nights teaching Bo staff drills. Scott, the instructor who had been teaching these classes broke his leg hiking last week. Normally, instructor Leni teaches this class, but she was unavailable for the earlier class, so to be consistent, I taught both.

Bo staff is not my best weapon. Forms with the staff, for example, I have the most difficult time remembering. I am good with technique in general, with and without weapons. So I spent most of the class doing various drills going back to basics in weapon handling and technique with specific combinations and moves.

Last night, in the first minute of class during the warm-up, I strained my lower lumbar muscles in my back. Have I mentioned the Bo staff is not my best weapon? That should have been a clue to me. I finished the class, and the following class on Leadership skills gritting my teeth in pain. I hope the students don’t think I am mad at them, as they had no idea what I did to myself.

My night was largely sleepless. Sitting hurts, laying down hurts, standing hurts, walking hurts. Stretching helps. I will take today off from a martial arts workout and just stretch at home. I have no classes this weekend. I see a weekend of stretching. Stretching is better than drugs, for me anyway, for back injuries. Stretching gets me through the otherwise sleepless nights of pain.

I first injured my back sixteen years ago or so, when I worked at the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue, Washington, as a building-maintenance engineer. The short story is when a fire alarm went off on the roof of the building, I was moving a manhole-cover six stories below street level; I swung the manhole-cover back in place and ran up 27 flights of stairs. That combination sprained my lower lumbar. The advice of the doctor I had at the time was to take the pain killers and muscle relaxers and not worry.

It took me twelve years to realize that was not good advice. That realization is, in part, what lead me into martial arts. Stretching and strength building of the abdominal muscles has been a blessing coping with periodic re-injury. I will forever be at risk of re-injury, but the strength and skill I have built in martial arts has made recovery faster and more bearable. Stretch. Stretch. Stretch! It makes recovery faster and more bearable.

I have re-injured myself vacuuming the living room, lifting Kaitlin from her crib, and so on. Last night, I simply jumped straight up from a standing position. So, in this case, I don’t blame martial arts for the injury. I will take a few days off and stretch on my own. I should be good to go next week.

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Martial Arts | Personal

The Vonage Saga Ends

by Terry 6/13/2008 8:50:00 AM

I made my afternoon call to Vonage yesterday with the hope of closing the still open issues I related yesterday. I can end on a good note; Vonage customer service is quite good, despite their billing system crash yesterday.

I called late in the afternoon expecting to be on hold for a lifetime and then having to argue my case to the support people. Surprisingly, I was on hold for about three minutes and only explained my issues one time, as would be expected. The lady who took my call dealt with my requests so quickly, that I did not even note her name before it was all done. It turns out they even had credited my account for the earlier charges, reflected in my next bill. Who can complain about that?

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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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