This blog is my attempt to reconnect with the world of chemistry. I have a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry and make a living doing research for a large company in Michigan. As times have changed, that company has changed its focus and I no longer have as much chance to do the basic, fundamental research which I most enjoy. Through this blog, I am hoping to recapture the magic which I felt during my graduate (and undergraduate) days in college. Expect topics on chemistry and alchemy along with some non-chemistry related items which I think might be interesting.

"The chymists are a strange class of mortals, impelled by an almost insane impulse to seek their pleasure among smoke and vapour, soot and flame, poisons and poverty; yet among all these evils I seem to live so sweetly that may I die if I would change places with the Persian King."

Johann Joachim Becher (phlogistonist)
Acta Laboratorii Chymica Monacensis, seu Physica Subterranea, (1669).

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Power Returnth!

Finally! As of 7:20pm, on Saturday the 14th, electrons are once again running through every corner of our house. Not the artificial kind created by our generator, but honest to goodness real electrons, captured in the wild by Detroit Energy (DTE) and sent to our house. I would like to thank DTE for getting us back online, but I will temper my thanks with the following two caveats. First, I realize that we were placed at the end of the queue due to the complexity of the repair job and the fact that only 25 houses were affected in our area, but I did not appreciate being pushed back in the queue in order to work on houses which lost their power two days later during a second storm. Let them wait their turn. Second, when the repair crew did finally show up, we were not at all impressed by the arrival of six trucks when only two were needed. Watching 10 DTE guys sitting around doing nothing for 3-4 hours while the 2 tree guys cut down a branch (eventually one of the DTE guys did spend about 10 minutes fixing the line itself) pretty much explained why it had taken DTE 6 days to fix our area. Hint: actually keep track of your crews and explain to them that it is possible to work on different jobs simultaneously. Audiences are not required.

Here is an accounting of our costs associated with the power outage:
Item: Several gallons of lemonade consumed. Cost: $10
Item: Eating out at restaurants. Cost: $47
Item: 36 gallons of gasoline for generator. Cost: $148
Item: Hearing the power come back on, turning on the air conditioning to its lowest possible temperature, sitting back, and watching icicles form on the window. Cost: Priceless.

In more important news, Venezuelan researchers have identified another chemical pathway which causes beer to lose some of it flavor during storage. They have even managed to inhibit this reaction (which generates phenylacetaldehyde, by the way) by blocking the pathway with diaminobenzene. Unfortunately, diaminobenzene is toxic, so the current solution would probably not be considered optimal. After all, if beer drinkers start keeling over, then it’s just going to take longer to go through the world’s supply of beer and thus lead to longer beer storage times and additional flavor loss. Fortunately, they are continuing to work on the problem.


Ψ*Ψ said...

Electricity! Awesome!
The longest we were ever without power was a span of about five hours, during an ice storm that left most of the city without electrons for about a week. A neighborhood transformer was in our backyard--when it was out, a fair chunk of the city lost power, so we were always a priority. Heh.

markmier said...

You're lucky, here near Seattle during our yearly [1] windstorms. Also, you're lucky to have a generator [2]. And the same effect is in... effect... in that the smaller-affected areas are treated last.

Also, I am a homebrewer, and storage of corny kegs (5-gal stainless pressure vessels) in the garage or, preferably, a temp-controlled location results in fairly minor deterioration of beer quality, depending on style and temperature.

[1] Yes, at least yearly... after the summer growth season, the autumn/winter windstorm is sure to knock down some power lines.

[2] I've lived in Florida (in the past) during hurricane seasons [2.1] for about 10 years, putting up with at least 3 hurricanes. [2.1]

[2.1] Ψ*Ψ FTW! Surely hurricanes count? [2.1.1]

[2.1.1] I love footnotes, especially nested ones. []

[] Like this one, gratuitous though it may be.

Chemist Ken said...

Well we were lucky enough to have bought a generator because power outages aren't all that uncommon on our block. We've never had to use it for 6 days straight before, however.

Ψ*Ψ said...

six days IS an awfully long time. were you able to keep the refrigerator mostly OK, or did you have to throw everything out?

markmier: i like your nested footnote system.[1]

[1] it's easy to follow.[1.1]
[1.1] i'm stealing it. HA!

Chemist Ken said...

ψ*ψ (Ha! I finally figured out how to spell your name correctly), we didn't lose anything in the refrigerator or freezer. We ran the generator about 20-21 hours a day and always kept those 2 items plugged in. That helped offset some of the cost of the gasoline. Any food we weren't sure about we just gave to the cats. (Just kidding, we gave it to the kids!)