dxmachina: (Dizzy)
I find myself using the word "sweltering' quite a lot lately. Indoor/outdoor thermometer is reading 86° in the house right now*, and 100° outside. I don't think it's really quite that high. The outdoor sensor is under the eave in front of the house, which faces west, not the best place for accuracy. Weather.com is telling me it's 86° out there, but that's not right, either. Somewhere in between, I think. I was going to mow the lawn when I got home, but heat stroke is a concern. I took a ride last evening, and it was like riding through soup. The piney woods smelled nice**, while the Great Swamp was more fetid.

* I only got home from school/lunch with Tom and his family an hour ago, and the A/C hasn't yet caught up yet.

** Speaking of smelling nice, driving by Schartner's strawberry fields towards the end of June was just amazing.


I think the heat and humidity actually affected the experiment the class did today. They were measuring the heat of fusion of ice, the amount of energy it takes to covert water from a solid to a liquid. You do this by throwing some ice cubes in a styrofoam cup with warm water in it, and calculating how much heat the original water loses. The two values are equal and opposite, so you then know the total energy it took to melt the ice. Except... even though the building has A/C, it was really humid in the lab. Warm, humid air carries a lot of heat, so there was more than one source of heat to melt the ice. The average percent error I saw was about 50%. Not good results. The procedure isn't especially accurate to begin with***, and the conditions made it worse. Tom and I discussed the procedure later, so maybe some changes will be made.

***I told one student that the procedure was a "quick and dirty method," although not especially dirty considering the final outcome is cold water.

I need to start gathering my camping equipment for the trip to Maine on Thursday. I'm off tomorrow, so I have the whole day to pack the truck. Key things to do include figuring out how I mounted the bike rack on the back of the truck back in 2002 when I took it to Canada. Normally the bike stays under the tonneau cap, but with all the camping stuff there isn't much room. The rack was designed to attach to a trunk or hatchback, as on my old Subaru, not so much a tail gate. I did switch the narrow tires on the bike to a pair slightly more suitable for riding Acadia's gravel carriage trails.

Don't find out till tomorrow night if I have to teach Thursday.

Still sweltering...
dxmachina: (Holmes)
..while waiting for this week's episode to turn up online.

A change in tone... )
dxmachina: (Books 02)
Snagged from [livejournal.com profile] debg and [livejournal.com profile] serenada, among others.

When you see this, post a couple of quotations from your own favorite writers. These should be people you read over and over again, not people who had one great idea; go ahead and do it from memory, mistakes and all.

Like serenada, I'm not the sort of reader who can often quote passages at the drop of a hat, but I do remember the gist. I looked these up to make sure I had them right.

Jim Bouton:
You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.

Roger Zelazny:
"None sings hymns to breath," said Yama. "But, oh to be without it!"

Zelazny is one of the few writers whose lines I can quote. Here's another:
I was rabbit.

Terry Pratchett:
That was another thing. Her books on alchemy were marvelous objects, every page a work of the engraver's art, but they nowhere contained instructions like "Be sure to open a window." They did have instructions like "Adde Aqua Quirmis to the Zinc untile Rising Gas Yse Vigorously Evolved," but never added "Don't Doe Thys Atte Home" or even "And Say Fare-Thee-Welle to Thy Eyebrows."

To understand my affection for this passage, it helps to know that as a kid I once cleared out the family home with hydrogen sulfide (aka rotten egg gas) whilst experimenting with my chemistry set. My mother was not amused. They don't make chemistry sets like that anymore. Sigh.

Larry Niven:
Never throw shit at an armed man. Never stand next to someone throwing shit at an armed man.

---
The Pratchett quote is from
Feet of Clay
, which I just finished. It's another Watch book, and the mystery is really quite good. There were also (for me, anyway) two laugh out loud moments. A terrific book.
dxmachina: (Marvin01)
Hi. My name is DX, and I'm an organic chemistry geek...

I rarely get to stretch my chemistry legs anymore, at least not in any way that's interesting to me, so I really have come to enjoy reading the adventures of someone whose chemistry interests seem to parallel my own. The most recent entry especially caught my eye, because he talks about a trick I used to use in the lab:

I had a need for some anhydrous HCl and couldn’t find the Aldrich 2M/Et2O solution that floats around. Someone gave me a tip on how to make your own dry HCl solution in the alcoholic solvent of your choice, so I thought I’d pass it along: Add acetyl chloride to methanol or ethanol, producing 1 equivalent of HCl + methyl/ethyl acetate. The reaction is instantaneous. Perfect for crystallizing amines!

It's all great fun to read about, and I don't have to clean anything in Chromerge afterwards. I'd like to think that had blogs existed back when I was in grad school, I might have produced something similar, but since my grad school career was more about playing softball and golf than doing, you know, research, probably not. OTOH, maybe it would've focused my attention better upon the matter at hand. Le sigh...

---
ION, I just got a piece of junk mail at work, one of those card decks for industrial products that would normally go right in the trash, except that the top card caught my eye. It's for industrial-sized ceiling fans. That's not made me hesitate. What caught my eye was that the company is called Big Ass Fans.
 
dxmachina: (Opus)
The stars and the full moon are visible in the sky tonight. What's up with that?

Spent this morning playing CIA analyst. I was watching This Old House the other night, and their new project is located in Cambridge. One of the things that surprised me about is that the house is only about fifty years old, and it is a modern style house, all boxes and angles, not at all TOH's usual choice. The other thing that surprised me was the size of the back yard, which was very large. That seemed decidely un-Cambridge-like, at least for the neighborhoods I was familiar with.

Anyway, I was curious as to where it was. I've seen one other TOH project house, Kirkside, but that was by accident. It's right on Rt. 20 in the center of Wayland, and I happened to drive by it one day. This one is a bit more secluded. Now, TOH doesn't give the address, so I had to do some Googling. First I found an brief article in one of Cambridge's free papers that mentioned what neighborhood, then found a real estate site that mentioned what part of town the neighborhood was in. After that I just used Google Earth's satellite imagery to search the neighborhood visually. That was a piece of cake, first because the satellite imagery for Cambridge has incredible resolution, probably the best in the whole database, making it easy to zoom in to see details. Second, the house is all boxes and very pink. It sticks out like a sore thumb in a neighborhood full of Victorians. I drove by it today in the pouring rain. I didn't stop. There were a couple of contractors trailers there, but nobody was working. I was surprised at how much smaller it looked in person than it did on TV.

I didn't drive to Cambridge this afternoon just to satisfy a whim. I was up there to exercise my long unused, mad organic chemistry teaching skilz for [livejournal.com profile] vwbug. It was fun for me, because it's something I like to think I'm good at, and I rarely get the opportunity anymore. I hope it was useful for vw. Afterwards, she, [livejournal.com profile] helvirago, and I went out for dinner, then saw Serenity. I'd seen one of the preview showings, but it was nice to see the final product. Also, I got to pay attention to things that I didn't know would be important later. Still bugged by Joss's complete lack of science education, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the movie again.

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