12 Dec. 2009
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 The Case of the Haunted Halogens


Have you been following my Chemical of the Day/Periodic Table "bonus" item?  If not, then you haven't anticipated my loud declaration of "Bingo" as I finally filled in the fourth row of my Periodic Table with the halogen "bromine."  It's hard to believe that bromine was the holdout since it's such a common and well-known element.  Certainly one would expect a bromine sighting before vanadium or scandium or gallium, but it was not to have been.  Sure, "bromide" surfaced many times, but the element itself not since I started, and my strict criteria for sightings allow no ides.
What's still missing?  Two more haunted halogens, astatine, so rare and so radioactive that it has been estimated that there is only a single atom of the naturally occurring element present on the earth at any given time.  The Wall Street Journal is unlikely to mention this element any time soon, and so row 6 might frustrate me indefinitely.  But the other element is one you know:  Fluorine!  Despite daily fluorides, fluorine itself hasn't been mentioned in years.  I remain hopeful, unless, as is certainly possible, the Journal reporters are conspiring to avoid the word just to leave my table incomplete.  Although not a halogen, the final puzzle piece for the bulk of the table is the element rubidium.  Rare but not drastically so, and uncommon, but not without its everyday uses, primarily in atomic timekeeping standards, I expect a rubidium sighting before astatine or before completion of any of the remaining bottom rows. 
The World Series is over; please root now for my elements.

My Red Dot Incident

A rare RIKLBlog television reference:  Despite my ignorance of most things sitcom, I have seen recently a number of Seinfeld episodes.  The Red Dot resonated when I saw it, and echoed a few days ago.  I, for the first time in my adult life, found myself in a clothing (as distinguished from a T-shirt) store shopping alone.  I was tasked with procuring a "sport jacket" and a "shirt."  Sam the salestron was helpful and understood the terminology, so I was able to get them.  In the process of selecting the shirt, I "tried it on" and picked the one that seemed to accommodate my body more accurately.  I thought both shirts were the same price, but no.  The less accurate shirt was about $40, the more accurate one (with a "designer name" label) was close to $175.  As Sam was about to charge me for it, I saw the number and began to protest.  He assured me that the price was correct and I, idiot that I sometimes am, agreed to purchase it nonetheless, since it's something I do about twice per century and so could afford to be less frugal than usual.
As my mind was ruminating about my loss of sanity, my eye spied a blemish on the shirt and, remembering the Seinfeld episode, they coordinated with my mouth and index finger to show same to Sam.  "A BLEMISH" I pointed out, triumphantly.  "90% DISCOUNT!"  After a perfunctory attempt to brush off whatever it was with his fingernail, he had to admit that it was, indeed, a shirt-defect and not a wishful thought.  But when I communicated my vision of an enormous discount, I was told I had it backwards:  I would get at most a 10% discount, not pay only 10%.  No matter.  By this time I had come to my senses, ad-libbed that I would never be permitted to purchase a defective shirt, and importuned Sam to look for a substitute, preferably one with a sensible price.  Five minutes later I had achieved the remainder of my mission, and was about to leave with my merchandise.
R:  "Please sir, may I have a discount?"
S:  "Only if you sign up for an account."
R:  "Please sir, may I have a discount without signing up for an account, which I shall surely cancel as soon as I've paid for my merchandise?"
S:  (In effect.)  "No."
A bit more of this and I signed up for an account.  At which point I found out that since I now had an account, there was a sale commencing tomorrow on the goods that I bought today (and which I needed tonight).  But not to worry!  I could wear the clothes tonight, return and then repurchase them tomorrow, and get the discount then.  Which is exactly what I did.  I ended up with two more shirts, essentially free.  Blue and sort of purple. 
"Retail," I muttered.

CFLs on DC

A little known fact, at least for the compact fluorescent lamps I purchased this past week at an incredibly low price:  They work on DC of either polarity in addition to normal AC line voltage.  I feel an experiment coming on. 

"Steve's Song"
The Blues Project




Ray Kurzweil gets to live forever, and all I get is this lousy T-shirt.  And one touting a competitive product, yet!

Kurzweil Variable Architecture Synthesis Technology T-shirt
Richard Factor

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