Furious to the Point of Speechlessness

by Terry 1/27/2009 3:26:00 PM

Seldom do I get my hackles up in anger to the point where I am almost unable to calm down and talk normally. Last night my hackle-button was seriously pushed.

I was on my way home from retrieving my daughter and her friend from school. A neighbor pointed out to me that three young teens where skateboarding on the corner and using some real-estate sandwich boards as ramps. She asked if I would speak to the teen that using other people property was not right. I said sure, knowing by past observation these teens are not so respectful. I can understand she did not want to make a show in front of her own kids and the skateboarding teens

I walked over and told the teens that I understand that there not many places to skateboard in the neighborhood, but could they stop using the signs as their personal toys. It is not their property and they are being destructive.

Here is where my astonishment grew to fury. First, they simply ignored me. When they realized this was not working, one actually said to me, “what do you care, it’s not your sign.” Explaining that who owns the sign was not the point, they continued to ignore me. I repeatedly asked, “Excuse me, do you hear what I am asking you? Will you acknowledge what I have said?”

Eventually one of the boys said, “Yeah, I heard you.” It took another minute, but one boy finally put the sign back and continued to skate around on the curbs. I walked back to my house, about three houses from the corner. Naturally, as soon as I shut the door the teens grabbed another sign and went back to their earlier behavior.

This is where fury grew to speechlessness. I walk back to the corner. I basically cut to the chase. “I will give ten seconds to put the sign back or I call the police.” This prompted another round of, “what do you care, it is not your sign. It was just sitting there.”

At this point I decided these are some of the stupidest teens I have ever met. The brightest of the bunch left without saying a word. The other two continued to alternate between skating over the signs and arguing with me. I dialed the phone and started talking to the police (I live four blocks from the police station). Amazingly enough, I think the two remaining teens thought I was bluffing and continued to argue with me that what they were doing was somehow alright. When they realized I was no longer talking with them, but with the police, they took off down the street, settling with the smarter boy in the school parking lot – in front of the no-skateboarding sign.

If finished my call to the police. Having spoken with the school principle about these kids, I figured the police would give it the priority needed. The point was made and the teens had stopped willfully damaging other people’s property.

What leaves me astonished is the lack of respect these teens have – none for adults, none for property. I can understand the need to have things to do, some of which are less than socially acceptable. My record as a child is not spotless by any standards. I cannot understand how they could believe ignoring me was wise.

Since I was in high school, people have assumed by my appearance that I am either a cop or in the military. I never think of myself that way, but I apparently have a presence. This may be the first time I have been ignored so blatantly.

So, to the parents of these teens, if you have any connection to your children at all, please advise them that their behavior is unacceptable. I am sorry these kids so disconnected. They need something to do. When speaking at the teens (not ‘to’, as ‘to’ would imply more conversation then they were capable of I fear), the first thought that came to me was these kids should take three months of martial arts. It would give them something to do, they may learn some respect and it would likely make them better at skateboarding to boot.

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Science Fair Demonstrations

by Terry 1/20/2009 3:50:00 PM

I have been asked to make a stage presentation on chemistry at my daughter’s elementary school for the school’s annual science fair. Fortunately, I am not shy on stage, so that is not much of an issue, but I have no experience making a show of chemistry publicly. The PTSA President-elect, who happens to be a good friend, suggested I make a large volume of hydrogen and blow it up. That is all well and good. However, I am open to suggestions for possible demonstrations. There will likely be several hundred parents and children, so some interactivity would be fun.

I considered filling balloons with oxygen and hydrogen, enough to represent giant model atoms in the shape of a water molecule, then using a giant model of a 9v battery to separate the atomic bond.

I also am thinking about building a primitive fire-extinguisher from a 2L cola bottle, water, vinegar and sodium bicarbonate. Like a large version of the experiment in the Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments. The point being chemistry is used to make useful things.

Overall, I want to impart that science and chemistry, is fun, practical and good for society.

Suggestions welcome!

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Cleaning the Aftermath of Floods

by Terry 1/9/2009 4:33:00 PM

I am off to help clean up from the recent flooding here in Snoqualmie. Karen has done something like 16 loads of laundry for a family in town who live in a flooded first floor apartment. Karen spent yesterday afternoon helping gut the home. Tonight is my turn. I am taking Kaitlin with me so she can learn some life lessons.

Except after I posted this, the plan changed. Now I am doing laundry. The remaining cleanup needs to wait until insurance adjusters have their piece. A sock folding I go...

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Christmas Coal, 2008

by Terry 1/9/2009 4:27:00 PM

On Christmas Eve Karen braved the snow and wind to retrieve the mail from the box at the end of the street. She was fully expecting to find a packet of genealogy documents she had been waiting for. She was delighted to find a large box from Pottsville, PA, from a friend who runs the local historical society. Ok, she was a little annoyed carrying a sixteen pound box back to the house through the drifts of snow and wind, but the shear enjoyment on opening the box was worth the effort.

Imagine our surprise when we opened the box to find it full of Pennsylvania Anthracite Coal. To me, this is one of the most humorous Christmas gifts ever, real, big, heavy box of coal.

Karen has been researching her family roots, many of whom settled in Pottsville. Pottsville is an old coal town. Coal is central to the town history. While the gift was not the packet of documentation she was looking for, the gesture and double entendre gave it a brilliant spot in our hearts.

Last weekend Karen and I found a nice glass vase to showcase the chunks of coal in our living room. This left me with two large pieces of coal and some small bits and dust I have since placed in my lab. The irony, for me at any rate, was I was looking at some labs that call for bits of coal only a couple weeks ago. I have no idea where to get coal. Washington State has no coal resources that I know of. The timing of this gift was perfect.

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On Snow, Facebook and Car Loans Boom and Bust

by Terry 1/5/2009 5:17:00 PM

I am back from a break. I just did not have the energy to post for during the holidays. I spent the time with family and friends.

Snow

It snowed, again, last night. Fortunately the school district kept their wits about them and called the delayed start time early this morning. Just before the winter break the schools in Western Washington fell for the collective predictive qualities of our weather service and closed schools across the area. It turns out in our district it would have paid to wait, as it only rained. It was such a knee-jerk, herd mentality reaction that I am almost surprised the district didn’t burn the schools for firewood when it started snowing the day after. As it stands, Kaitlin got a longer winter break and all is normal again.

Facebook

Sometime in the last three weeks I figured out how to incorporate this site (http://www.nerva.com/) into my Facebook page. I am not big on Twitter and the one sentence updates on Facebook. I lose patience for it. I am more interested now that I have my RSS feed fuel my Facebook page automatically. I will continue to poke around with it for now.

Car Loans

I read that Chrysler is getting something like $4 billion dollars in bailout money from the government. I heard on NPR or someplace that the company is lowering the credit ratings needed purchase a new car. This makes the cars attractive to the least likely to be able to make payments on the product. The first thought that struck my mind was this is exactly the mentality that created the housing boom-bust over the last couple decades. Government guaranteed backing and a race to the bottom for buyers with the builder stuck in the middle.

I understand that Chrysler needs to sell its vehicles. A short term business loan in the billions is a big motivator to get the wheels of business turning again. I am not sure what the solution should be, but what I feel is this is a recipe for delayed failure of the company. Sure, sales may pick up, but in a year or two the loans for new cars will have a higher failure rate. Maybe those bad loans don’t affect Chrysler’s bottom line, but it will affect someone.

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Not Snowed In

by Terry 12/22/2008 10:26:00 AM

Saturday morning I completed the wiring of the generator transfer switch. The winds started in earnest in the evening. After dinner I lubricated and fueled the generator. It started smoothly and flawlessly. Karen, Kaitlin and I were ready to take on the stormy night.

The winds were fascinating Saturday night. I have not been able locate, yet, the recorded wind speeds from any of the local weather stations in the area, but I have heard reports of 87 mph gusts. It sounded like a flock of low-flying jets pulling out of a dive with ice filled jet wash.

Remarkably there is little damage in the neighborhood that I can tell or have heard. We lost power overnight and it was restored by morning. The neighbors lost a panel from their fence which they mended on Sunday morning. Otherwise there were just snowdrifts on the leeward side of every standing structure. I shoveled a meter of snow from my driveway so I could use my car if needed. As it stands I have had no reason to drive anywhere.

I never used the generator. I did not see the need to run it so late in the evening. We elected to just go to bed. At least I know it all works. We just got lucky this year and lost power for eight hours instead of six days.

Sunday was spent re-warming the house and digging into last minute gift making, which we are sorely behind on.

Monday morning and I am back to work, from my home office. The roads are mostly bare and wet or patched with packed snow, with big drifts of snow narrowing the streets to one lane roads in some areas. There is still more snow predicted, although unlikely to be much of any significance. I promised Karen I would toss the chains in the car when we next go out. I got the chains when we bought the car in January, 2000. I have never opened the box. I am very much a just-in-time user of technology. It drives Karen nuts.

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Storm Predicted, Generator Ready

by Terry 12/20/2008 6:58:00 AM

Last night I worked on mounting and wiring the generator transfer switch in the garage. Karen commented that I had to wait until a major wind and ice storm was predicted to hit before finishing this task. I was merely employing just-in-time services. Right, that is it. I am simply efficient.

This morning I will kill the house mains so I can connect the bundle of wire in my electrical panel. I could have done that last night, but I figured it would be smarter to roll open the garage door in the daylight rather than fumble in the dark with a screwdriver in one hand, a wire in the other and a flashlight held in my mouth to see by. It is beastly cold out, so working in the daylight makes the task a bit easier.

Of course, sunrise is around 7:52 AM, the temperature is a 14.5° F (-9.7° C) and the storm winds are predicted to start around 9:00 AM with gust hitting 90 mph (144 kph). In theory, this gives me an hour to complete all the work and test the generator on the new mains. See, just in time delivery.

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Fear Induced Tyranny

by Terry 8/12/2008 8:10:00 AM

This morning I read on Robert Bruce Thompson’s web site his comments [ttgnet.com, MakeZine.com] on an article in the Worcester, Massachusetts, Telegram; Chemist allowed to go home, sans his lab. Apparently, Mr. Deeb, a retired chemist had a chemistry lab in his basement, conducting experiment possibly in support of patents he owns. His lab was seized after fire-fighters responded to an unrelated call.

Pamela A. Wilderman, Marlboro’s code enforcement officer, said Mr. Deeb was doing scientific research and development in a residential area, which is a violation of zoning laws.

“It is a residential home in a residential neighborhood,” she said. “This is Mr. Deeb’s hobby. He’s still got bunches of ideas. I think Mr. Deeb has crossed a line somewhere. This is not what we would consider to be a customary home occupation. … There are regulations about how much you’re supposed to have, how it’s detained, how it’s disposed of.”

Mr. Deeb’s home lab likely violated the regulations of many state and local departments, although officials have not yet announced any penalties.

Because Mr. Deeb is being cooperative, he is not being charged. Not yet.

The comment, “I think Mr. Deeb has crossed a line somewhere”, is pure fear and ignorance.

You see, we ain’t sure if he’s done wrong, but we’s sure can’t let him have this stuff. It may be dangerous and we don’t think he’s qualified.

So, without apparent warrant, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has executed some hidden authority to dismantle and dispose of Mr. Deeb’s personal property and, while doing so, look for possible violations of some regulation or zoning law.

To my understanding, typically a zoning violation is met with a request to become compliant before the authorities step in. Stepping in and looking for violation is disturbing at best.

Whether this is tyranny or not, I cannot say for sure, as I do not have all the facts. Greg Laden contrasts this in his comments. At the very least, it is a slippery-slope case; once the powers-that-be step on this slope, the slide down begins.

Karen, my wife, suggested, strongly, I should at least discuss my desire to build a lab in my garage with the local fire department. I am glad I did so. I met with a couple of firemen and the fire chief for half an hour discussing my plans, providing the list of chemicals and quantities I would likely have an storage plans. They were encouraging and supportive. I accepted and implemented their recommendations. Meeting with the fire department gave me some sense of relief that my local fire department and officials are still sane.

I certainly do not want to have what happened to Mr. Deeb happen to me. But I will not bow to fear.

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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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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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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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