I cannot get started soon enough

by Terry 7/8/2008 10:45:00 AM

I have a large order from Elemental Scientific due to arrive, but I won’t have time to unpack it until I return from Orlando next week. It is just as well, I suppose, as I have not had any time to work in the garage this last weekend. On the HomeChemLab.com forum (http://forums.homechemlab.com/) another user posted a concern and prompt for people to start posting their experiences on the forum (Dont be shy...say hello). I am now realizing how much effort it takes to build a lab from scratch. Note that I am not really surprised, more like impatient. I want to get started now, if not sooner.

To paraphrase what I said on the forum: I would presume once you have a lab and the supplies, you will use it. And if you have made that investment you will likely use it for years. There is staying power in the hobby that transcends time better than some hobbies. This is an investment.

For me, the investment is partly for my own pleasure and knowledge. It is also an investment in the future for my daughter and anyone else, particularly youths interested in science.

One teen I talked to told me he was excited to take a science course at the local high school next year because the teacher does a cool experiment with Hydrogen. I would think it would be cool if the student could do the experiment, not the teacher. Gee, I can go to school to watch someone else do science!

I cannot wait to unpack the equipment. I cannot get started soon enough. I cannot wait to see my daughter and others want to learn as they experiment.

You too can build your own chemistry lab. You too can do science at home. Robert Bruce Thompson made it pretty easy. Start by getting a copy of the Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture. The effort is less than you probably think and the rewards will be more than would appear.

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chemistry | Personal

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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chemistry | Personal

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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No, I am not making a Meth lab. I already have a day-job

by Terry 6/3/2008 1:10:00 PM

Naturally, when I tell people I am building a chemistry lab in my garage the first reaction people have, almost universally and without exception, is to say, "are you making Meth?" and, "dude, you’re going to get put on a government watch list."

Okay, they don’t always say "dude", but the affect is about the same.

So, to be clear, I am not building a Meth lab. I am not sure what the margins on Meth production are, but I am fairly certain that my day job, or any job at all, pays more than the risk is worth. I have no desire to, and this is not an exhaustive list, go to jail, kill or injure any family, friends, guests or associates, poison the neighborhood or blowup my house.

At a break in class today, one of my coworkers (friends really, as I have worked with all of these guys for years) suggested I go to Walmart and buy some blue tarps and propane tanks to leave around my yard. Apparently all meth-labs in the northwest are littered with blue tarps and propane cylinders. I added that I need to get a trailer in the back yard with a couple of flat tires. I am thinking I can get a good deal on a used FEMA trailer.

Joking aside, my reasons for building a lab in my garage are as follows.

  • I want to relearn, learn and practice lab sciences. Had my course in life been a little different, I would have been a scientist or engineer of some kind; physics being my favored branch when I was in college.
  • I like to teach and share knowledge. I think I have always been this way. I give or loan books to anyone who is interested. I teach martial arts and look for new ways to teach and I teach a class on leadership at a local martial arts school (DMW Martial Arts). I am often enlisted at work specifically because I balance teaching and learning software practices. Going back to my previous reason, I want to share my love of science; particularly with kids.
  • I have wanted a decent chemistry set since I was a kid. I am reliving my childhood dreams, now that I can afford it. Thankfully I have relatively inexpensive dreams. Robert Bruce Thompson made the dream a reality by doing much of the hard work and publishing the results in Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture.
  • My garage is the only place I can build a lab. Karen would not allow me to use the kitchen.

There are only a few things keeping me from starting the labs in Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture; time and money. I did not plan on building a lab (reading Robert Bruce Thompson’s journal, and the quality of his book is what added fuel to the spark) and it does take some money. Being a single income family I have to budget this kind of expense. So Karen and I are setting money aside with every paycheck and I will make purchases as I have the cash. While I wait to assemble the lab and supplies I will start managing my time. Now that the garage is clean I can work in the garage on nagging projects that need doing for the home. This will get the projects done and get me working in the garage regularly. I am hoping Karen and I can work together, both on the labs and on garage projects so we can spend the time together.

I also want to contribute back to other people. Kids in my neighborhood, for example; I can give to them almost directly. I cannot imagine where I would be today if someone when I was a youth in my neighborhood had mentored me in the sciences with access to a lab. I also like to experiment and write. I expect I will devise my own experiments once I get my skill back in order. I will post my efforts and results here and in the Home Chem Lab forum (http://forums.homechemlab.com) as appropriate.

If I do get on some government watch list, it will not be because of any intentionally illegal activity. I intend to be transparent on what I am doing. While I know ignorance of the law is not a defense of illegal activity, I will make efforts to avoid ignorance. I most certainly will not put myself on a list by making a Meth lab. Besides, my yard is too small for the white FEMA trailer.

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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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