We have the technology…

October 25, 2009

Just felt like sharing: I got Windows 7. Although I didn’t mind Vista, my Windows Update got all kinds of fucked up way back at SP1, and I’ve since never been able to update properly. Which, in turn, didn’t allow me to connect via a hardwire to my campus network. (My lappy has to have all its shots, and be up to date to connect with a network cable… I could still connect to wireless hubs, though. Weird…) So I did a clean install of Windows 7 yesterday, and am now in the process of reinstalling drivers/software/networked things as I need them.

Right off the bat I can say:

  • It seems stable. If I open the task manager, the CPU meter quickly goes to zero instead of fluttering around like with vista.
  • It does eat up a bunch of memory/HD space. On a clean install from Vista, the OS alone takes up 28.6 Gigs worth of HD space (I moved the windows.old file to my external, but to be honest, I don’t know if there’s other Vista residue lurking around). With Firefox open now, and McAfee running in the background (not actively scanning, just on) I’m already eating up 930 MB of RAM. I’m not enthused…
  • Along with the other obvious tweaks to the user interface, they re-vamped the task bar. As a default, programs running in the taskbar don’t have text, just the program icon, and now, you can drag and reorder things on the task bar. Despite the obvious similarities to Mac operating systems, it’s about damn time.
  • If you’re a student and considering upgrading, definitely consider the über-cheap student deal. While full price is the suck, 30 bucks is wicked cheap.

So, blogosphere, don’t expect a full review or anything from me, but if you have any specific questions, perhaps regarding how it handles chem related software, let me know and I’ll try to be of some assistance.

UPDATE: I just learned Windows 7 Home Premium does NOT support automatic backup to a networked drive. I admit, it was a published difference, but given dirt cheap student deal vs crazy ‘spensive regular deal, I hadn’t paid the most attention to the minor details. Regardless, for that luxury, you need to bump up to one of the more expensive versions. Weak sauce, Microsoft. I believe even Vista offered network backups at any product level…

I am not pleased with this, as my wifi enabled apartment of the future is now slightly less futuristic.


Midnight Oil Crisis

October 18, 2009

I feel like I’m travelling down a dark and tumultuous path by saying this, but I don’t mind working crazy late hours in lab. Not to say I enjoy working long hours all the time, but I’d generally prefer to be in lab from afternoon to evening. In fact, I’ve been looking forward to late nights in lab since my highschool guidance counselor joked that I was the kind of person to be struck by an idea at 2 in the morning, and shuffle down to the lab in pajamas to work on it. Although I’ve yet to be struck by some wild idea and head to the lab around 2 in the morning, I think the latest I’ve stayed in lab is around 2 or so in the morning.

It does have its perks. By day, I’m the undergrad, I’m pretty reserved and am still trying to feel everything out. In general, I try to keep up the appearance that I know what I’m doing. By night, I own the lab! But, seriously, I play whatever music I want, at volumes slightly louder than during the day (but exponentially more satisfying), perhaps dance around a little bit. I never have to wait for a rotovap. I can multitask or unitask, work at whatever pace I feel like, and learn to troubleshoot my own problems – even if that means trying something I’m not sure will work. I can also blog about things while I wait for my stuff on the high vac. Like right now!

And it does come with it’s sense of isolation, which allows one’s mind to wander. Which, can be good, bad, or indifferent.¹

The only reason that I bring it up is that I’m, in a way, concerned about my well being. I mean, it is 11 o’clock on a sunday night, and I’m in lab. Grad students here, as well as grad students across the inter-blogs have lamented the long, grinding, soul sucking hours of lab, and the students who become absolute slaves to lab. I’m only an undergrad… and I’m here, and I don’t mind it. Kyle, over at yonder chemblog, stresses the idea of working smarter, not harder. And, while I agree with him (in theory), I feel weird that I’m still OK with working relaxed, late hours. (It’s not the 12 hour workday, everyday, that Kyle sought to escape, but it’s far from a focused beam of chemical productiveness that he describes, or even conventional hours.)

Ultimately, I just don’t want to find myself a hopeless slave to lab. Maybe my preferences will change when lab essentially becomes the all day, every day occurrence in grad school, but I’d hate to think I’m already a prisoner, and suffer from Stockholm syndrome.

[1] Gloves can be used for many things. Aside from protecting your skin from chemicals, they can also serve as a quick notepad when you’re at the balances, or for other sketching purposes…


Steal this blog post

October 11, 2009

Wait, scratch that. Don’t steal it. But if you do, at least link to it for pete’s sake.

Anyway, while biologists were busy stealing the nobel prize¹, I was busy stealing books and software. Thus, I’ve had piracy on the brain lately. Something something something, Somalia joke.

But on the real, what’s the moral concensus on stealing things in the name of science? (And weird that only the music industry really seems to care about pirated goods. But that’s for another blog post. Perhaps even another blog…)

Aside from tuition, food, and housing, I reckon that books/software make up a significant chunk of student expenses. Frankly, the only reason I buy required textbooks is because nobody has invented a convenient way to access books digitally. Paper > PDFs any day, especially when it comes to several-hundred-page textbooks. But, when it comes to non-required books, references, or “fun” reads, all bets are off.

Take, for example, the plethora (and expense) of reference books offered by John Wiley & Sons. Many of these books are easily available through illegitimate means, simply though a quick google search. Of course, stealing is wrong and I’d never ever condone such actions: downloading these books, redistributing them, referencing them without citation would probably fall into the “stealing is wrong category.” But, what about downloading the book for use as a quick reference? What if that reference is already available on wikipedia? What if I could walk into my bookstore, pick up the book, flip through it, find exactly what I need, then set it down and walk out without buying it? What if my library has a copy of it, and I’m just saving myself a trip there? What if I’m not even denying any money to public transit to facilitate my trip to the library because I would have biked anyway?

For all intents and purposes, each of these scenarios still probably falls within the domain of “stealing is wrong.” However, when the magnitude of the “wrongness” gets smaller and smaller, attempting to classify the stealing as right or wrong kind of becomes trivial. If your library doesn’t have some critical reference you were looking for, then what do you do? Run to the bookstore to have a look at it, shell out the cash to buy it, illegally download it, or keep looking until you (hopefully) find the information elsewhere?

Similarly, let’s have a look at software. In particular, ChemDraw and MestRe Nova. I’ve use both, I enjoy working with both, both are fairly expensive. (Academic pricing: $150 for a perpetual license on standard ChemDraw, and no updates. 305€ for MestRe Nova. Nearly $450 USD, and only includes 1 year of updates/support.)  Luckily, I have a license to both through my university. If I didn’t, I’d be in a real pickle. Of course, there are free options, but realistically, it makes little sense to familiarize yourself with obscure software that’s not widely used out in the real world, and furthermore, they’re frankly not as good. Reason? I don’t care if free software can do everything that the big name software can do if it can’t do it efficiently/with an intuitive user interface. Unfortunately, that comes at a price.

While other forms of piracy (music/movies/gaming software) are generally for entertainment, the piracy reference books and scientific software can greatly impact the work of a chemist. Maybe they won’t make one’s work better, but I’m damn sure that “proper” references and software can make work easier, more efficient, less aggravating, and less time consuming. So if your school does not offer the resources you need, you’re roped into a pretty dismal cost-benefit analysis. Same goes for the workplace, but that’s (hopefully) less of in issue, given that you’d (hopefully) be making big boy money, and not be scraping by on a grad student stipend or even paying for your undergrad education. In either case, you can: pony up for the goods, waste time dealing with subpar resources, or find an illegitimate source. What do you do?

1) For the non scientists out there, or for the scientists out there who have been living in a hole the past week, it’s been blogged about everywhere

Other microwave reactions

October 6, 2009

In pchem today, we briefly mentioned the electromagnetic spectrum. As one of those fun little “snapple facts” that my professor threw in todays lecture: the microwaves a standard microwave oven emits are ~2.45 GHz. I’ve never really thought about what frequency a microwave operates at, and as luck would have it, haven’t had such a problem ever as homework. It seems like such an obvious homework question, too…

But, regardless, my prof mentioned that microwaves operate at 2.45 GHz….

According to wikipedia, the concept of the microwave oven was patented in 1945. Between the 80s and 90s, the microwave oven saturated domestic America.

In the late 80s, the cordless phone came to pass, and by the late 90s, the technology seemed well within reach of average consumers. In 1998, the FCC allocated the frequency of 2.4 GHz for cordless phones. (And up until 2003, when they allocated 5.8 GHz, most new cordless phones were hawked with 2.4 GHz as a ‘feature.’)

Therefore, whenever I’m at home-home and have access to both a microwave and a landline/cordless phone, one conversation is usually comprised of unintelligible fuzz.

It’s rarely an issue for me, but considering that microwaves had been commonplace for longer than the cordless phone frequency range: what ‘tard over at the FCC allowed the overlap/interference to be a problem in the first place?
Just wondering…

The Rotovap Is Not A Toy

October 6, 2009

A coming of age tale:

The rotovap is easily one of the best engineered things ever to grace the lab. It’s simplistic, does exactly what it’s supposed to do, lasts forever as long as you take care of it, has modular replacement parts, and everything’s analog – pretty much my criteria for engineering of anything. (Not analog analog, but all the controls are accessible immediately, by hand.)

However, knowledge of the superior design makes rotovap troubles particularly insulting/frustrating, because you know that 99% of the time, they’re your fault. There was this one time, though, that the neck of a flask broke spontaneously while on the rotovap. Which, although alarming, was salvageable, and most importantly, not my fault.

Worse than the typical stubbornly bumpy flask is when it’s really obviously your fault. Like when you’re putting your flask on the bump trap, think its secure, lean over to grab a Keck clip, take your other hand juuuust off the flask, and it not only falls into the water bath, but shatters on impact… because I did that for my first time the other day! Hooray. And I must say, it was not enjoyable.

Armed with a giant funnel, an even bigger sep funnel, and the aid of a labmate, we poured the grimy mess into a more manageable vessel. A quick separation later and I yielded about half of the original volume I had intended to rotovap. (Upon closer inspection, the other half wound up on the floor as it dribbled out of the water bath but didn’t quite make it into the funnel. Oh well.)

On the plus side: the whole ordeal happened pre-column. So I collected my organic layer best I could, and continued along with no other interruptions. Also, I’m glad that I reached this ‘milestone’ with helpful grad students around. I hadn’t really considered the prospect of reclaiming my product before it was presented to me as an option. Then again, it was only step 1. Had I been several steps underway, I might have immediately turned scavenger… Biggest plus of all, I get to share the lovely experience with you.

On the down side: I lost about half my product. I’m still obviously the new undergrad.

Advantage: Chiral Jones.

Who is Chiral Jones?

October 3, 2009

Hello, and welcome to chiral jones: a blog about science, chemistry, and above all a strong desire for stereocenters. (a chiral jones, get it?)¹² Not to say that I’m only interested in methodology/synthesis of chiral everything, but I dig organic chemistry in general.

If you’ll note, my username is also chiral jones. Sure, I could have named my blog “Synthetic Fix”, and continued the whole fix/jones theme, but A) I thought chiral jones was more clever, and B) googling “synthetic fix” results in different ways to pass urine drug tests. Kinda gross. “Chiral Jones” does not.

Most importantly, I think Chiral Jones is the coolest sounding pseudonym ever! Like, a Keyser Soze of chemistry…

So, thats that. With any luck, coherent posts will start appearing soon, and with constintant frequency, I’ll have a proper “About Me,” and I’ll keep up the appearance of a decent blog!

1. As you may soon realize, I’m a sucker for wordplay.

2. Like so many other chemical bloggers, I enjoy footnotes and references where applicable.

Excuse me if things are jumbled or out of place, as I’m getting accustomed to wordpress and this whole “blogging” thing.