No More Chemistry Lab?

I just finished reading an article in Wired about how novice and hobby chemists are getting squeezed out of playing and experimenting with different chemicals. This, all in the “fight” against terrorism. This is just sad.

As a bit of disclosure, I’m quite biased in this argument, as I’m a Chemical Engineer.

The argument for clamping down on who can get access to these chemicals is that it will cut down on terrorists and meth labs. If you know who buys the stuff, then it won’t be a problem.

However, this has the chilling effect of making it nearly impossible for the hobbyist to get their hands on the chemicals (and other lab supplies) without going through unwarrented scrutiny. Students in school don’t get any sort of practical experience in a lab environment. And is it any wonder that interest in science is on the decline?
I remember performing experiments in chemistry in high school. We took a (small) piece of potassium (no sodium for us!) and threw it in water to watch it catch fire. You could tell the difference between the honors class and the regular class. The honors class would sit back when we put the potassium in, not wanting to inhale the hydrogen released. The regular class wanted to see the potassium burning up close.

It was experiences like that that captured my interest in science. I had a chemistry set growing up. I don’t remember much about it, but it did make a big mess. But if you take away these tools from kids now, why would they have any interest in chemistry in particular, and science in general?


Princess Fiona’s Big Adventure

Princess FionaSo Princess Fiona (AKA, The Kitty) decided yesterday that she needed to get out for a little bit. Normally, we let her go in the (fenced) backyard, where she usually wanders about before finding a place in the shade to lay down and watch the birds, rabbits, and chipmunks wander about. But yesterday was a bit different. She got out of the yard, and we didn’t notice because I was inside taking care of Julia while Sharon was working on her garden.

We searched the back and inside, seeing no sign of the kitty. So I started driving around the neighborhood to try and find her. No luck. I ran into (not literally) some neighbors who had seen Fiona running from their dog and into a garage. So we went to the garage, but there was no sign of Fiona. We did find a paw print about 4 feet up on a window, but that was it. So we continued to search.

Over the course of searching, we found at least four cats roaming around and about ten rabbits just hanging out. I started to make for home to get back in a drive around again, when I went to get Julia’s car seat. Who was waiting at the back door? Well, Fiona, of course!

She was peering in, waiting for someone to let her in, acting like nothing had ever happened. Sharon and I are happy that Fiona is back all safe and sound, especially after hearing about her being chased by some dogs. But she’s done now. No more going outside for the kitty. She will strictly be an indoor cat now, no matter how much she begs to go out.

News Random

Crazy Cat

I was reading [tag]CNN[/tag] today, and noticed an article about a woman going to court to save her attack cat. Once I read the byline, “Even Prozac can’t tame Lewis the six-toed cat,” I couldn’t wait to read the whole article.

Now it’s a story more suited to pit bulls. Cat attacks people, people demand the cat be killed. It’s not as funny as it is ridiculous. How about she keeps her cat inside all the time? Or puts it on a leash? Then everyone is happy.

My favorite part of the article:

Neighbors say they have been terrorized by Lewis [the cat], saying the cat’s long claws and stealth have allowed the cat to attack at least a half-dozen people and ambush the Avon lady as she was getting out of her car.

No! Don’t ambush the Avon lady!

[tags]attack cat[/tags]

Julia Photos

Comparing Baby Pictures

So I scanned in some baby pictures of Sharon and me and stitched them together to compare.

Sharon Julia Joe compro.jpg

Julia Photos

Pictures of the Week

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve uploaded any [tag]pictures[/tag]. So there’s a lot this time around. About 60 pictures of Julia have been added.

Here’s a few of my favorites.

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Gadgets Random


I saw a link to a site called SongTapper, where you can figure out a song title from just tapping the song using your space bar. It’s really neat.

I tried a couple songs out, and it displayed the song I was tapping out. You can listen to the song in iTunes too.



Spelling Lesson Needed?

I think [tag]Hillary Clinton[/tag] needs a spelling lesson.

She apologized to her daughter for saying that young people don’t like to [tag]work[/tag] hard. She said we think “work is a four-letter word.”

Umm… but work is a four letter word. (I know her intent, but it just doesn’t make sense.) Yup, four letters there, w-o-r-k.

On another note, she said that young people have grown up in a world that places “premium on instant gratification.” Young people may have grown up with that, but their parents seem to be pretty guilty of it too. There’s always a quick fix for something, and results need to be instant. It’s not the fault of young people that society has become this way.


Welcome, Big Brother

Our lovely administration is at it again, collecting millions of phone records in the name of “security.” I am reminded of a quote from Thomas Jefferson I’ve mentioned before, it goes something like this: “Those who would give up a little liberty for security deserve neither.”

What does the NSA think they are going to find in getting phone lists from all these people? The privacy violations that has been committed by this administration are shocking. Who would have ever thought that ordinary people would be monitored in a fashion like this? Just because it is possible to create a database like this shouldn’t mean it should be done. I blame all parties invovled in this one – the NSA, this administration, and the telcos (AT&T, BellSouth, Verizon) for rolling over and giving the government whatever they wanted. At least Qwest had the balls to say no.

There is one other thing that is particularly disturbing. According to a poll, most people think that what the NSA is doing is acceptable. This kind of intrusion needs to be stopped. If it’s not, it becomes just one more piece in 1984 actually happening. (If you haven’t read 1984, read it!)
[tags]NSA, privacy, secret database, phone calls[/tags]

Julia Photos

Pictures of the Week

A new batch of pictures!

1947 1872


A Good Deal

I picked up some Memorex DVD+RW from Office Depot this past weekend. A spindle of 25 went for only $10. It’s a pretty good deal, considering they usually cost about $1 each.

No idea what kind of quality they are. I’ve heard they aren’t the most reliable, but for $10, I’m willing to take a chance.