To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Doesn't it irk you, when you are reading a long comment thread somewhere full of interesting back-and-forth stuff and a certain amount of repetition, to have people comment "I haven't read all the comments but ..." and then proceed to make a point that's been made about ten times previous?

Like, if you can't be bothered to read the thread, why do other people who evidently can need your special wisdom?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

What do you suppose happens when you have a separatory funnel with a slow leak, and material that polymerizes when it contacts air?

This happened over Friday night.

Next day:

BTW, my lab doesn't look like this. We set these up elsewhere, in an un-airconditioned storage area, so the samples would be exposed to the same temperatures as the material out in the plant. No, we do not want this polymerization in our process. Still, it looks kind of cool.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I had a moment today.

My tech moved a beaker on the hot plate. I asked why he did that. He did it because he didn't like hearing it sizzle (there was some water trapped beneath it).

I said that that reminded me of "The Cremation of Sam McGee". (Here's a fun reading.)

He didn't know what I was talking about. He has not read poetry.

Not "Lochinvar". Not "The Highwayman". Not "Little Orphant Annie". (I've seen the movie, he said. Not the same story, I said.) Not "Casey at the Bat". Nope, has not read poetry.

Sometimes I feel like an anachronism.

If I am, F is a worse one because she's the next generation. I remember that one day she called me from school, having a fit because in her Brit Lit class they had read Yeats' "The Stolen Child"* and her classmates were saying how cool it was that the fairies were taking the child to make his life better.

F broke her policy of keeping her mouth shut in that class to say, "It is not a good thing to be abducted by fairies!" Her classmates did not agree.

She pointed out that the fairies are giving trout "unquiet dreams" - did that sound like a good thing?

Her classmates pointed out that the child is "solemn-eyed".

"He's bewitched!" she said.

I asked F if they had not read "La Belle Dame Sans Merci". "We just read that in class!" she said. "Thomas Rymer?" *Sigh*.

So we're losing the important parts of our culture that warn us of danger and keep us safe. I fear for the republic.

*Here's the text and here it is beautifully set to music.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Apparently a 14-foot python was not pulled from a storm drain.

Trapper Admits Python Hoax

Justin Matthews’ account of capturing a 14-foot Burmese python gave him 15 minutes of fame last month in the opening days of a statewide anti-python campaign.

Thursday he got his 15 minutes of infamy at a press conference convened by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission after wildlife officials concluded the whole thing was staged.


Matthews told Bay News 9 that he had bought the snake, which he called Sweetie, at a Tampa reptile store and then staged the capture, saying the snake was found in a culvert in Bradenton.

He said the staging was part of a plan to educate the public about the python problem.

Matthews said, when the original owner who sold the snake to the reptile store saw his snake on the news, he contacted the Wildlife Commission.

“I do want to apologize to anybody that thinks this was wrong, what I did,” Matthews told Bay News 9. “To me, I’ll never do it again but as is turns out, like I say, I’m getting more calls, and I did raise awareness by doing this.”

Willie Herenton picks up petition to run for Memphis mayor -- again

Less than two weeks after retiring as Memphis mayor, Herenton walked into the offices of the Shelby County Election Commission this morning and picked up a petition to run for the office again, election commission officials have just confirmed.


A special election is set for Oct. 15 for the mayoral vacancy created by Herenton's retirement July 30.

“I think it’s shocking for everyone to know that we’re about to spend a million dollars on a special election to replace a man who intends to run in that special election,” said Bill Giannini, chairman of the Shelby County Election Commission.

Words fail me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

After the harrowing events of yesterday evening, during which I briefly considered calling 911 but ultimately prevailed without help, I am left with a question it is probably futile to ask:

Why would a cat want to try to eat a threaded needle?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

We had a perfectly wonderful evening today. (About to be yesterday.) We decided to go to Clearwater for dinner and then to the beach.

Dinner was had at the Mandalay Grill. Good food, good service.

And then to the beach. I had not planned to swim, so was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. The water, when I stepped into it, was not just not cold or not cool, but actively warm. I was beguiled further into it until finally I had to give R my watch and whatever else, and just go on in. If any of you were at Clearwater Beach on Sunday and saw a crazy middle-aged woman go swimming fully clothed, that was me.

Loved the warm, warm water, the sand under my feet, the swells lifting me and setting me back down - splashing my face if I wasn't paying attention. And watching the sunset. The water was lavender against the peach sky - you could see that from the beach - but actually in the water you could see the orange from the sun reflecting on the backs of the waves. Absolutely stunning.

That's me, coming in. I remember the feeling from childhood, of feeling very heavy as I came out of the water.

R is not so impulsive as I am. I offered to hold our stuff if he wanted to go in, but he declined. I asked him if I embarrassed him - he said no. I guess he's used to me.

We went onto the pier afterwards, and looked at the vendors' stuff, listened to the band (which wasn't bad at all) and got a snack for the drive home.

Now I have to go to bed. Work tomorrow. Work is the curse of the drinking class, I told R today. It's the curse of the wannabe beach bum class too, I reckon.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Was going through the spam folder on my hotmail account, to make sure I wasn't missing anything.

Hotmail does a pretty good job these days, segregating this stuff.

Besides the usual lotteries I have won, and the rich childless widow who has cancer but is most disturbed by her stroke sickness, people who have died without wills whose attorneys have selected me to inherit from ("Being a well traveled man, he met sometime in the past or implicating him were nominated by one of his numerous friends abroad who wished you are not too sure again."), and phishing attempts from several different credit cards I don't have, I saw a new one. Subject line: "To see her pretty plaything once more". Body: "When it had got to the top.". And then a link.

No, wild horses could not make me click on that link.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

College Grad Can't Find Job, Wants $$$ Back

She went to college to boost her chances of finding a great job once she got out of school, but now that that hasn't happened, Trina Thompson wants her money back.

Thompson, a graduate of Monroe College, is suing her school for the $70,000 she spent on tuition because she hasn't found solid employment since receiving her bachelor's degree in April, according to a published report.

I may be the only person in the US who feels this way - but I kind of support her in this.

First of all, the student loan situation is a nightmare for a whole lot of people. Kids - and I say "kids" because many of them are 18 or younger - and their parents are promised "financial aid" but then the "aid" turns out to be loans that you have to pay back. And the schools and loan brokers promise them unicorns and rainbows once they get that degree. Well, if you're majoring in something like pharmacy, and you finish, you'll have your pick of high-paying jobs lined up. (Unless health care reform screws that up, and it could happen.) Otherwise, you're no different than any other person out there with a degree looking for a job, except that now you have this tremendous debt burden. Your parents, if they borrow money, are even worse off, because nothing is expected to change for them so that they have more money - and if they didn't have it for your tuition, they aren't going to have it later.

But people get snookered into these loans, probably because everyone they know is doing the same thing. Does that sound like the housing bubble, with an incredible number of people taking on debt they can't support to buy an overpriced product?

The girl in the story studied information systems, so it's not like she majored in women's studies or some other what-were-you-thinking subject.

The question is frequently raised, why does tuition cost so much. It goes up and up and up every year, well ahead of COL and things like that. And then one reads about extra programs that big schools offer, that cost a lot of money, because supposedly the kids and parents demand them.

What is the mechanism for a high school student or his or her parents demanding programs in universities that they will then have to offer their firstborn to pay for?

No, it's that if money can be got, a way will be found to spend it. Parents and working students are willing to cough up X to pay for college. If that's all there is, a college education will cost X. If the government steps in and offers Y, then magically the college education will cost X + Y. If it's expected, and accepted, that loans to Z amount can and will be gotten, then the education will cost X + Y + Z. Then you get the whole student-loan thing, which became parent loans too, and tuition costs skyrocket.

Unless you go to a modest state school, without the prestige of the Ivy League name, and where the classes are taught by professors and not by TAs who are concentrating on getting their own degrees while the professors are doing research and so on. F went to such a school, on an academic scholarship that covered everything except a very modest bit which we were able to kick in with no trouble. She doesn't have an Ivy League degree, but she does have a degree and a job, and is debt-free except for her car loan.

I think one of these days people are going to wake up, like they've had to wake up about the housing market. Lawsuits like the one Trina Thompson is bringing hopefully will speed this up. It would be good if people stop and think, think critically, before they blunder into that student loan trap. Much better for the tuition bubble to be corrected that way, than for there to be another bank crisis and another government bailout - although from what I read it may be too late.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Memphis has undergone yet another change. This one almost has to be for the better.

Myron Lowery is sworn in as 66th mayor of Memphis

Thus ending the long reign of King Willie.

This is a plus:

Before his first official day in the mayor's office began at 12:01 a.m. Friday, Myron Lowery had already surveyed damage from Thursday's severe storms.

This is a minus:

Lowery has been using a city-issued vehicle and security staff provided by the Memphis Police Department. The mayor pro tem said he was pleasantly surprised when he encountered a traffic jam Friday afternoon, and his bodyguard flipped the police lights on and cleared traffic.

"He said, 'We do this all the time and we're going to get you there,'" said Lowery with a laugh.