kareina: (BSE garnet)
Years ago, while I was still in Italy, my then boss encouraged me to consider the result of my experiments in terms of the assemblages present rather than looking at how each individual mineral phase changed from one pressure and/or temperature to the next. The problem with this suggestion was that, at the time, I simply wasn't seeing any pattern--which phases were with which other phases in any given experimental run just looked random.

Today I finally had time to sit down with the comments he sent me (last week) on the last draft of the paper (which I had sent him some months back). In those comments he, once again, reiterated his advice on thinking of assemblages rather than individual phases, but this time he included a couple of examples and included a +/- symbol to show what other phases might or might not also be present. . Now, I have always known that we geologists will often group things together in lists that name a handful of minerals that are always present, plus a few others which may or may not be there, but, somehow, I never took that detail into account when looking for patterns in my experimental results before.

Today, looking at the same data I have gazed at so many times since doing those experiments years ago, I suddenly saw patterns in which minerals appear with which other minerals. Finally, at long last, I am able to approach the organization of this paper in the way he suggested I do in the first place. What a relief. After some hours of work I now have a new, vastly improved, figure showing my results, with little circles showing which assemblage groups occur at which pressures and temperatures, and I have new paragraphs of text explaining each one. These have been emailed off to Italy for comment. With much luck he will have time to look at them very soon, and will get back to me straight away--it would be so nice to get the paper from that project done and submitted...

In other news, our houseguest, L, arrived yesterday for the holidays. She and I took a break at lunch to go for a walk in the forest, but we spent most of the day working on our research (she is a theoretical physicist, so she was doing calculations). However, she reached a breaking point in her work quite a bit ago, and she and [livejournal.com profile] lord_kjar are in the other room chatting. I think it is time to put down the computer and join them...
kareina: (me)
I was happily at work in my office. I woke up this morning thinking that my boss might wander through, and I was correct. We've solved all of the problems we were having with the chloritoid analyses and it was time to face the question about why the talc in the metagreywackes is so much lower in its ratio of Mg/Fe than is the talc in the metapelites. In playing with graphs looking at their composition we noticed that not only are the metagreywacks low Mg/Fe, they also contain a noticeable contamination of Ca and K, neither of which should be present in a talc. Plotting different elements againsts one another made it clear that there were two distinct populations, one which is present only in the metagrewackes, save for a single analysis in one of the metapelites (and which I'd previously asked him about since it was so different from the other talc in that sample, both in how it looks, and its composition), the other of which is present only in metagreywackes. Conclusion at the end of the day--we don't actually have talc in the metagreywackes at all, it is something else. One guess is anthophyllite, an amphibole mineral I'd never had anything to do with before today, but which my boss tells me was shown by experiments in the 1960's to me a metastable product of talc breakdown. This is actually comforting news, because we'd been wondering why we were getting both biotite and talc in some of the lower pressure experiments, but it turns out that bitote is only present with this new phase, not talc at all.

Of course this all means that additional microprobe time is required, to double check all of these experiments with talc and the not-talc, see if any others actually contain both phases besides the one high-P run (and see if we can get more analyses of the not-talc in that sample). He consulted the calender, and my birthday present this year is microprobe time! I get to use the probe on my birthday, and then again the week before Christmas. Then I have till the end of the year to process all of the data, incorporate it with my other results, interpret it all, and get a write up ready to submit for publication. Oh, and pack and be out of my apartment, too. It is, perhaps, a good thing I never developed a local social life!

In other news, I failed to read my 1000 words of geologic literature last night. The past several nights I've been reading it before yoga (instead of after yoga in bed like I had been doing), but when I got home last night I decided that I'd better finish attaching the new improved lacing to my bliaut that I will be wearing this weekend, and I recall thinking as I sat down to sew, around 22:45, that I would do my 1000 either after sewing or after yoga, depending on how I felt. I completed the lacing, and then, realizing that I am heading to Stockholm this weekend, and might want to actually button my coat (which has been in progress for well over a year, but has been more or less wearable for a full year now). Therefore I also took the time to add button holes for the top three buttons (6 of the 11 or 12 buttons the coat will have were attached to the coat a month or more ago). By the time I was done it was well after midnight, so I did my yoga, some meditation, and then crawled into bed, picked up a good book and read fiction for about 30 minutes, and then turned off the light and went to sleep, without ever thinking about reading 1000.

Darn! Prior to yesterday I'd remembered for 321 days in a row, and was highly motivated to keep it up. I'd been wondering if I wanted to bring a text book or a print out of some papers with me on the Stockholm trip, since I am not planning on bringing the computer. However, now that I've messed up the run, I now have the temptation to bring nothing at all (thus cutting down on the weight, since I'm flying carry-on-only), and start my new count later. Perhaps even after year-end. Funny how easy it is to contemplate tossing out a good habit which has proven its worth time and time again. I'll report back later if I chose to keep the habit, or to take the vacation.

I ran into a frustrating computer moment tonight )Then I gave up, returned to my office, and in much less time than I'd wasted trying to print, used pen and paper to get enough of a map to find where I'm going tomorrow.

In just five and a half hours I have to depart for my trip to the airport. I should probably take a nap before I do. I wonder if I will? I am not bringing my computer, so I don't expect to be back on line till after I'm back in Milan on Sunday afternoon.
kareina: (BSE garnet)
(Alas, LJ wasn't working when I typed this, so it is being posted the next morning instead…)

I wound up staying up kind of late on Monday; I went home at a reasonable hour, but then did a nice long yoga session, followed by going out jogging in the rain (only around a largish block, but still, I got out and did something!) followed by some stitching on my underdress in progress, all of which combined meant that I didn't get to bed till after 02:00. Since sleep is one of the things I keep high on my priority list, I, of course, slept in till nearly 11:00 (have I mentioned recently how much I love being able to set my own schedule?)

However, this translated into a late start to the work day as it was necessary to first catch up on reading LJ etc. and then head to the bank. I have been running low on cash in my Alaska bank account, since that is where my student loan payments come from. At my current rate of loan repayment the money there would have run out as of the January payment. Since it can take up to a month for a transfer from my Italian bank to Alaska to actually finish processing I decided that it was time to actually do the transfer. When I arrived at the bank and went to the desks in back where complicated transactions occur the lady who offered to help me said "yes" when I asked "Parla inglese?", but the expression that crossed her face when she said it looked very pained—like she was foreseeing an unpleasant experience trying to actually communicate details on whatever transaction brought me to this part of the building. When I said (slowly and clearly) that I needed to do a transfer to the US, here is the paperwork from last time (and handed her the paperwork) the look of relief that crossed her face was amazing. She happily went and got the correct paperwork (which form, oddly, looks different now than when last I did this months ago), and the transaction was complete in record time. Now I wait for the money to actually show up there, and try not to worry about it going astray in the meanwhile.

Despite the morning distractions, I actually did settle into doing uni work by about 14:40, and was happily entering data from the geologic literature into spread sheets to be compared with my experimental data later, when my boss came in to speak with me. He had a question about one of the phases in one of the experiments, which plotted in an unexpected location on the AFM diagrams (page down) I'd sent him last week.

It turns out that the sample in question had exactly *one* chloritoid analysis that hadn't been rejected due to problems (and 15 which had been)—this sample's chloritoid grains are really small—the microprobe can be focused to a beam size of 1 micron, so any grains that are smaller than that (or thinner than that) the analysis will be partly that grain, and partially whatever is adjacent to it. For this sample the long axis of the grains is normally about 1 micron, and as a result I had problems getting even the one "good" analysis. But was it good?

He suggested plotting all of the bad data for the chloritoid for this sample to see if they fall on a trend line connecting an ideal chloritoid and one of the other mineral phases present. Since my experiments make use of a simplified composition (only the elements Ca-K-Fe-Mg-Al-Si-H2O are present in the starting powder), I was able to get away with only a page worth of diagrams plotting CaO, K2O, FeO, and MgO against SiO2 and Al2O3. As it turns out there are two distinct trends—some of these analyses fall nicely between chloritoid and kyanite, and the rest fall nicely between chloritoid and muscovite. In addition, the one "good" chloritoid plots in the group that is mixed kyanite and chloritoid, and needs to be rejected after all. That nicely solves the problem of it plotting in an odd place on the AFM diagram, but, alas, we now have no data at all for that sample's chloritoid. In the short term I can extrapolate what it might be (same as I did for two other samples which also have chloritoid too small to analyse and use those numbers in the graphs with a huge footnote that they are based on a guess, and why). However, I am now more keen than ever to re-run this particular experiment. He says we can do one more run starting later this week, and I think that this particular P-T conditions get my vote in hopes of getting better results next time (this is one of the experiments I blogged about ages ago that had poor textures due to a failure to seal them properly). I am confident that the capsules waiting to be run are properly sealed, so it is reasonable to hope for a better texture if I run them at the same conditions again.

Much to my surprise, when I had finally finished the last of the graphs and sent the e-mail to my boss about them it was midnight! 9.5 hours work did nice things to my graph of average number of hours worked per week for this month. However, after working there were still things to be accomplished with my night (like telling Quicken about the bank transfer and checking mail), so it will be another late night, given that it is pushing 03:00 and I still need to do my yoga. (Fortunately, my 1000 is done for the day). Time to head home, and hope that I can actually post this tomorrow.
kareina: (Default)
While the computer was running a virus scan today I went to the lab, and this time I succeed in welding shut the second capsule, so I can run the next experiment. However, I then checked the oven, and the extra salt cylinders that I made when last I made some have been used in the mean time, so I'll have to make another of those before I can run the next experiment. I can probably do that tomorrow, but don't know if my boss will have time on Monday to help me start the experiment (given some of the issues the piston cylinder apparatus has been having, he doesn't want anyone starting experiments if he's not available), and I fly to Scotland for a week on Monday evening.

I'm looking forward to getting a new computer while I'm there--I am quite tired of having a computer that shuts down when there is lightening or if someone plugs something into an outlet, or if a light switch is flipped too fast. But I am *not* looking forward to learning the subtle (or not so?) differences of a new operating system (this computer is old enough it runs on Windows XP), installing programs, copying over data, etc... I'm also not looking forward to the differences between a UK and US keyboard, though being able to type currency symbols without using "insert symbol" function in Word or Excel will be nice.

I'm also looking forward to seeing friends and going to the SCA gathering at a castle on the weekend.

This morning I went for a short skate on my rollerblades, and was reminded how much I like it. Why do I let myself not "bother" to go to the effort of actually putting them and the helmet, knee, elbow, & wrist protection on? It doesn't take that long to put on the gear, and it is worth it.
kareina: (BSE garnet)
Some time back my boss scheduled me for microprobe time Thursday and Friday of this week, since that would give me enough time from my last experiment finishing to get the capsules mounted into epoxy and polished and ready to go. However, it didn't work out that way. When I downloaded the experiment and freed the capsules from their nest and took them down the hall I discovered that the lapidary lab was closed. Since it was sort of near lunch hour, it could have been closed because the guy who works there was out to lunch. However, it is August in Milan, so it could mean that he's away on Holiday. As I started walking up the stairs to my office I encountered two of my colleagues, and stopped to chat with them, letting them know that the lab was closed, and wondering which it was. They told me about the vacation list posted in the lift, and we went to check. Yup, on holiday till the end of the month. However, one of my colleagues says that he's cleared to do the epoxy stuff (my boss told me that the lapidary guy doesn't want anyone else messing with the epoxy, though we are welcome to polish our own samples--apparently not everyone cleaned the mixing containers properly, and so he set up the policy). So I made an appointment to meet him to tack care of that step, but when we went in we discovered that the ingredients are not where he expected them to be. There were, however, a variety of locked cabinets and no sign of a key. So I e-mailed my boss with the story, and let him know that I still had plenty of questions I wanted to answer about the previous experiments, if he doesn't know where the ingredients are stored. He replied that he didn't, but hoped I could profit from the probe session anyway.

Accordingly, I went through the list of samples I've got (both mine and the ones a predecessor did a decade ago that no one ever did anything with the data) and made note of which ones had only 1 to 3 analyses of one (or more) of the phases present (more is good, since we do calculations to determine typical composition of the phase, and it takes more data to figure out what is typical) and which ones have phases wherein the "typical" results have large error bars (more data can help that problem, too). That gave me a list of about a dozen samples to look at. The sample holder takes six at a time, and I was scheduled for two days. Perfect.

Thursday I arrived at the scheduled time of 09:00, gave my samples to the probe operator, who put them in, checked to be certain I remembered how to do the sample selection and analysis, and he wandered away, leaving me on my own. I worked till mid-day, took an hour off to run home for some lunch (I had some bread dough in the oven, so was able to have fresh baked rolls in addition to left over rice& veg) and returned to work. Mid afternoon, as I was getting kind of tired, I encountered a phase in one of the decade-old samples that looked different from the others. I checked its composition and realized that it is talc, but the records for this sample from back then said there isn't any.

To understand the importance of this, you must understand that the whole goal of this project is to determine at which temperatures and pressures talc is stable for these particular rock compositions. We have two different compositions, which are run in each experiment, one in each of two capsules. To date, in the nine experiments which have been both run and analyzed only three of them had talc at all, and of those three only one, we thought, had talc in both compositions--the other two had it in only one (but the same one). Now I know that talc is present in both samples in two of the three runs that have it. This is useful information! Howe did they miss it a decade ago? Well, apparently this is a much better microprobe than they had back then. At least that is what my boss told me when he first suggested that I re-analyze the old data.

As a result of finding the talc, my energy levels increased, and I wound up working happily at the microprobe till 9pm on Thursday, and then returned and worked again today from 9 to 5. Alas, I haven't yet had a chance to actually process my new data--after leaving today I needed to pack my bags for two weeks away and tidy up the apartment afterwards so that I will be happy to return to it. (and I'll have to go back there again before leaving, to get the tomatoes and plums out of the fridge before I go--they will not survive in their a full fortnight). It is now nearly 03:00. In an hour I need to walk to the train station to catch my bus to the airport.

I have no idea what kind of internet access (if any) is provided by the conference in Budapest this coming week, but hopefully I'll be on line regularly. I'll go from Budapest to Salzburg the weekend after the conference, to tour a <href="http://www.salzwelten.at/salz_en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5&itemid=21">salt mine that I went to as a small child with my dad, and loved every minute of it. I treasured the box of salt rocks (in various quality types) that he got me for many years afterwards.

The following week in Vienna I will only have internet in the evenings since I'll be in class during the day. Then I actually get to sleep in my own bed for a night or two before heading to the Alps for the textile forum, where I am very unlikely to have internet access. From there I head to one final conference (three days that time), so I won't truly be home again till the 16th of September, which gives me just over one week to recover before my mother arrives for a month. She wants to go visit my cousin in Cairo with me while she's here, but right now the list of travel looks daunting enough without another weekend adventure. Granted, if I know me, the thought of an adventure will probably sound more appealing when the time actually comes.
kareina: (BSE garnet)
Some time back my boss scheduled me for microprobe time Thursday and Friday of this week, since that would give me enough time from my last experiment finishing to get the capsules mounted into epoxy and polished and ready to go. However, it didn't work out that way. When I downloaded the experiment and freed the capsules from their nest and took them down the hall I discovered that the lapidary lab was closed. Since it was sort of near lunch hour, it could have been closed because the guy who works there was out to lunch. However, it is August in Milan, so it could mean that he's away on Holiday. As I started walking up the stairs to my office I encountered two of my colleagues, and stopped to chat with them, letting them know that the lab was closed, and wondering which it was. They told me about the vacation list posted in the lift, and we went to check. Yup, on holiday till the end of the month. However, one of my colleagues says that he's cleared to do the epoxy stuff (my boss told me that the lapidary guy doesn't want anyone else messing with the epoxy, though we are welcome to polish our own samples--apparently not everyone cleaned the mixing containers properly, and so he set up the policy). So I made an appointment to meet him to tack care of that step, but when we went in we discovered that the ingredients are not where he expected them to be. There were, however, a variety of locked cabinets and no sign of a key. So I e-mailed my boss with the story, and let him know that I still had plenty of questions I wanted to answer about the previous experiments, if he doesn't know where the ingredients are stored. He replied that he didn't, but hoped I could profit from the probe session anyway.

Accordingly, I went through the list of samples I've got (both mine and the ones a predecessor did a decade ago that no one ever did anything with the data) and made note of which ones had only 1 to 3 analyses of one (or more) of the phases present (more is good, since we do calculations to determine typical composition of the phase, and it takes more data to figure out what is typical) and which ones have phases wherein the "typical" results have large error bars (more data can help that problem, too). That gave me a list of about a dozen samples to look at. The sample holder takes six at a time, and I was scheduled for two days. Perfect.

Thursday I arrived at the scheduled time of 09:00, gave my samples to the probe operator, who put them in, checked to be certain I remembered how to do the sample selection and analysis, and he wandered away, leaving me on my own. I worked till mid-day, took an hour off to run home for some lunch (I had some bread dough in the oven, so was able to have fresh baked rolls in addition to left over rice& veg) and returned to work. Mid afternoon, as I was getting kind of tired, I encountered a phase in one of the decade-old samples that looked different from the others. I checked its composition and realized that it is talc, but the records for this sample from back then said there isn't any.

To understand the importance of this, you must understand that the whole goal of this project is to determine at which temperatures and pressures talc is stable for these particular rock compositions. We have two different compositions, which are run in each experiment, one in each of two capsules. To date, in the nine experiments which have been both run and analyzed only three of them had talc at all, and of those three only one, we thought, had talc in both compositions--the other two had it in only one (but the same one). Now I know that talc is present in both samples in two of the three runs that have it. This is useful information! Howe did they miss it a decade ago? Well, apparently this is a much better microprobe than they had back then. At least that is what my boss told me when he first suggested that I re-analyze the old data.

As a result of finding the talc, my energy levels increased, and I wound up working happily at the microprobe till 9pm on Thursday, and then returned and worked again today from 9 to 5. Alas, I haven't yet had a chance to actually process my new data--after leaving today I needed to pack my bags for two weeks away and tidy up the apartment afterwards so that I will be happy to return to it. (and I'll have to go back there again before leaving, to get the tomatoes and plums out of the fridge before I go--they will not survive in their a full fortnight). It is now nearly 03:00. In an hour I need to walk to the train station to catch my bus to the airport.

I have no idea what kind of internet access (if any) is provided by the conference in Budapest this coming week, but hopefully I'll be on line regularly. I'll go from Budapest to Salzburg the weekend after the conference, to tour a <href="http://www.salzwelten.at/salz_en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5&itemid=21">salt mine that I went to as a small child with my dad, and loved every minute of it. I treasured the box of salt rocks (in various quality types) that he got me for many years afterwards.

The following week in Vienna I will only have internet in the evenings since I'll be in class during the day. Then I actually get to sleep in my own bed for a night or two before heading to the Alps for the textile forum, where I am very unlikely to have internet access. From there I head to one final conference (three days that time), so I won't truly be home again till the 16th of September, which gives me just over one week to recover before my mother arrives for a month. She wants to go visit my cousin in Cairo with me while she's here, but right now the list of travel looks daunting enough without another weekend adventure. Granted, if I know me, the thought of an adventure will probably sound more appealing when the time actually comes.

uploaded!

Apr. 26th, 2010 04:44 pm
kareina: (BSE garnet)
I managed to upload my next experiment today--nearly all by my self. It wasn't till the very last step--telling the ancient notebook computer with a dos-based program what temperature I wanted the experiment to be that I actually had to call in help. Ok, so I did have one question for an earlier step, but the did it on my own once I was told that yes, there was a way around that problem. Now I wait for a couple of weeks and we can download it. ("upload" and "download" because we are inflicting these samples with lots of pressure (2.65 GPa) and lots of heat (650 C))

This is the first time I've done the physical set up without someone overseeing what I was doing, and it felt good that between my notes and my memory I managed to get it all done, and correctly done.

uploaded!

Apr. 26th, 2010 04:44 pm
kareina: (BSE garnet)
I managed to upload my next experiment today--nearly all by my self. It wasn't till the very last step--telling the ancient notebook computer with a dos-based program what temperature I wanted the experiment to be that I actually had to call in help. Ok, so I did have one question for an earlier step, but the did it on my own once I was told that yes, there was a way around that problem. Now I wait for a couple of weeks and we can download it. ("upload" and "download" because we are inflicting these samples with lots of pressure (2.65 GPa) and lots of heat (650 C))

This is the first time I've done the physical set up without someone overseeing what I was doing, and it felt good that between my notes and my memory I managed to get it all done, and correctly done.
kareina: (BSE garnet)
I just finished making another couple of salt cylinders and am now completely ready to run my next experiment. I really enjoy the process of making these things--everything from measuring the salt to pressing it into shape to sanding them down to make them fit. I think I just like making stuff.

I did, however, opt to only make two this time. When he taught me to make them my boss suggested that I make 5 to 10 at a time, so that I wouldn't have to do them again. Last time I did three of them. Of those three I used one, a colleague of mine used one, and the third one broke. This time I just made the one I need and a spare. Still, an hour's work on a Saturday will help keep my average number of hours worked for the month in a reasonable range...

Now I should go home and get some sleep.
kareina: (BSE garnet)
I just finished making another couple of salt cylinders and am now completely ready to run my next experiment. I really enjoy the process of making these things--everything from measuring the salt to pressing it into shape to sanding them down to make them fit. I think I just like making stuff.

I did, however, opt to only make two this time. When he taught me to make them my boss suggested that I make 5 to 10 at a time, so that I wouldn't have to do them again. Last time I did three of them. Of those three I used one, a colleague of mine used one, and the third one broke. This time I just made the one I need and a spare. Still, an hour's work on a Saturday will help keep my average number of hours worked for the month in a reasonable range...

Now I should go home and get some sleep.
kareina: (Default)
Today I finally had time on the microprobe again--first time in weeks. As a result I had two different experiments to analyze, two capsules each. The other experiments I've done have sometimes had a bad run where one of the two capsules didn't grow minerals large enough to analyze, but the other did. This time all four failed to grow decent minerals. Sigh. One of the capsules was broken open when I took it out. Given that it doesn't have decent sized minerals I'm guessing that it must have broken early in the run and lost all of its water (which really helps the mineral-growing reactions). No idea why the others didn't work. So instead of wasting time trying to analyze things which aren't there my boss suggested that we go back to another of the old experiments from years before I started this job. Looking at the list of what they found back in the day he suggested that I analyze B16, and we found one in the drawer of "B" experiments with a faded "16" written upon it. Put it into the probe, told it to create element maps and went to lunch. When we returned and looked at the compositions of what is present we realized that we couldn't have the B16 that we meant to have, so my boss looked again, and found another one with a faded "16A" written on it. This one appears to be a better match to what they claimed all those years ago was here.

Today's news is discouraging because I've got only two weeks till I do a talk at a confrence, and I still don't have enough data to answer the question we are trying to answer. Each experiment takes 200 to 400 hours to run (longer is better), and we don't know till it is done and we open it up and look if it worked or not.

In other news I've started a project I've been thinking I should start for ages. I'm creating a cloth spice cabinet which will hang on the outside of the kitchen cupboard--one pocket per spice jar. This will free up some much needed shelf-space in my pantry. Previously I've made wooden cabinets for my jars of spices, but this apartment is so very small there is literally no place I could put such a thing. A cloth one, I hope, will be light enough to hang from the cupboard door without damaging the hinges.
kareina: (Default)
Today I finally had time on the microprobe again--first time in weeks. As a result I had two different experiments to analyze, two capsules each. The other experiments I've done have sometimes had a bad run where one of the two capsules didn't grow minerals large enough to analyze, but the other did. This time all four failed to grow decent minerals. Sigh. One of the capsules was broken open when I took it out. Given that it doesn't have decent sized minerals I'm guessing that it must have broken early in the run and lost all of its water (which really helps the mineral-growing reactions). No idea why the others didn't work. So instead of wasting time trying to analyze things which aren't there my boss suggested that we go back to another of the old experiments from years before I started this job. Looking at the list of what they found back in the day he suggested that I analyze B16, and we found one in the drawer of "B" experiments with a faded "16" written upon it. Put it into the probe, told it to create element maps and went to lunch. When we returned and looked at the compositions of what is present we realized that we couldn't have the B16 that we meant to have, so my boss looked again, and found another one with a faded "16A" written on it. This one appears to be a better match to what they claimed all those years ago was here.

Today's news is discouraging because I've got only two weeks till I do a talk at a confrence, and I still don't have enough data to answer the question we are trying to answer. Each experiment takes 200 to 400 hours to run (longer is better), and we don't know till it is done and we open it up and look if it worked or not.

In other news I've started a project I've been thinking I should start for ages. I'm creating a cloth spice cabinet which will hang on the outside of the kitchen cupboard--one pocket per spice jar. This will free up some much needed shelf-space in my pantry. Previously I've made wooden cabinets for my jars of spices, but this apartment is so very small there is literally no place I could put such a thing. A cloth one, I hope, will be light enough to hang from the cupboard door without damaging the hinges.
kareina: (me)
Today I finally purchased my train tickets for next week's trip to Zürich for the writing workshop. While there I determined that yes, it would make more sense to purchase plane tickets for the confrence in Vienna in May than to take the train--the train is a 12 hour trip for about twice the cost of a flight. Now I just need to find the energy to wrestle with airline web pages.

While I was at the train station I decided to head to the fabric store that is just across the street. This was the first time I'd been in there, and I was quite impressed with the quantity of natural fibres they have available--silk, linen, and wool. I managed to talk myself out of getting anything on the rolls of fabric, even though the prices were on par with what I've seen in Berkely, San Franscisco, and Sydney in the past year, but the bins of remanants were a bit too tempting. They have them sorted by fibre type (yay!) and I found several nice, Medieval looking wools, in the bin labeled "1.55 €". When I went to pay, it turns out that the remnants are priced by mass, not length (which makes it easy on them, just dump it on the scale. So the roughly 7 or 8 meters of 150 cm wide wool (three different colours/patterns) came to only 36 € total. I'm looking forward to measuring it later and working out exactly what I did pay per meter...

Today's big scare was opening up the collection of salt/graphite/MgO in which my little gold capsules were nested for the experiment and not finding the capsules. I broke it into very small pieces and ruffled through the pile several times, to no avail. I looked at the pile and decided there was less MgO than I thought there should be (that is the part which is in direct contact with the capsules), so I went and checked the little padded chamber under the piston-driven machine with which we push the nest out of the large metal "bomb" in which it gets subjected to pressure during the experimental run. Nope, nothing got left there. Checked the trash can nearest that machine, on the off chance that something had been left there and someone else tossed it. Nope, nothing. Checked the pile of graphite/salt/MgO debris on the piece of paper again. Still no little gold capsules (recall that by "little" I mean a pre-deformed size of 2 mm diameter, and not more than 6 mm long). Checked the padded catching box under the piston machine again. Nope. Checked the trash can again. Nothing. Checked the pile of debris on the paper again. Nope. Checked the floor in that area. Nothing. Gave up, carefully folded the debris into the paper and put it into a box in my drawer of experiments and went looking for a co-worker. Couldn't find him either. E-mailed said co-worker a worried note asking him to please check with me when next he is in--that I'd like nothing better than for someone to say "Are you blind? They are right here".

Shortly thereafter [livejournal.com profile] clovis_t came in to uni, and I told him of my plight, and persuaded him to come be a second set of eyes. Showed him the machine (still nothing), and got out the paper, carefully unfolded it, and demonstrated how most of the bits are chunks of compressed salt, and too small to hide the capsules, even if they'd been in contact with them, whcih they weren't. Then, as I pushed aside a really small bit of MgO, pointing out that it was too small to hide the capsules, I suddenly spotted a small hard white thing (the MgO is whiter than is the salt), poked at it, and realized that it was one of my elusive gold capsules. Poked around a bit more and found the second. Yay, [livejournal.com profile] clovis_t to the rescue--the darn things weren't there before, I swear it, but they came back when he came to look for them...

Other good news for the day includes receiving the check from the Tasmanian shipping company to pay for the repair of my trike tire. This makes me very happy. Other than the one damaged item I was pretty pleased with their service, and wouldn't have liked it if they'd tried to get out of making that good.

Other work progress includes creating another slide for my talk for the April confrence in France. Yes, one. When one wishes to add a scale bar to the photos, and wants the photos to all be in the same scale these things take longer than when one only wants the slide to be pretty.

It is only 18:30, and I think I'm going to be different and head home and enjoy some non-uni time with the rest of the day. I'm currently averaging 36.7 hours/week of uni work (not counting any breaks to check mail or heat up food or any run to the toilet), so I think I can afford the break.
kareina: (me)
Today I finally purchased my train tickets for next week's trip to Zürich for the writing workshop. While there I determined that yes, it would make more sense to purchase plane tickets for the confrence in Vienna in May than to take the train--the train is a 12 hour trip for about twice the cost of a flight. Now I just need to find the energy to wrestle with airline web pages.

While I was at the train station I decided to head to the fabric store that is just across the street. This was the first time I'd been in there, and I was quite impressed with the quantity of natural fibres they have available--silk, linen, and wool. I managed to talk myself out of getting anything on the rolls of fabric, even though the prices were on par with what I've seen in Berkely, San Franscisco, and Sydney in the past year, but the bins of remanants were a bit too tempting. They have them sorted by fibre type (yay!) and I found several nice, Medieval looking wools, in the bin labeled "1.55 €". When I went to pay, it turns out that the remnants are priced by mass, not length (which makes it easy on them, just dump it on the scale. So the roughly 7 or 8 meters of 150 cm wide wool (three different colours/patterns) came to only 36 € total. I'm looking forward to measuring it later and working out exactly what I did pay per meter...

Today's big scare was opening up the collection of salt/graphite/MgO in which my little gold capsules were nested for the experiment and not finding the capsules. I broke it into very small pieces and ruffled through the pile several times, to no avail. I looked at the pile and decided there was less MgO than I thought there should be (that is the part which is in direct contact with the capsules), so I went and checked the little padded chamber under the piston-driven machine with which we push the nest out of the large metal "bomb" in which it gets subjected to pressure during the experimental run. Nope, nothing got left there. Checked the trash can nearest that machine, on the off chance that something had been left there and someone else tossed it. Nope, nothing. Checked the pile of graphite/salt/MgO debris on the piece of paper again. Still no little gold capsules (recall that by "little" I mean a pre-deformed size of 2 mm diameter, and not more than 6 mm long). Checked the padded catching box under the piston machine again. Nope. Checked the trash can again. Nothing. Checked the pile of debris on the paper again. Nope. Checked the floor in that area. Nothing. Gave up, carefully folded the debris into the paper and put it into a box in my drawer of experiments and went looking for a co-worker. Couldn't find him either. E-mailed said co-worker a worried note asking him to please check with me when next he is in--that I'd like nothing better than for someone to say "Are you blind? They are right here".

Shortly thereafter [livejournal.com profile] clovis_t came in to uni, and I told him of my plight, and persuaded him to come be a second set of eyes. Showed him the machine (still nothing), and got out the paper, carefully unfolded it, and demonstrated how most of the bits are chunks of compressed salt, and too small to hide the capsules, even if they'd been in contact with them, whcih they weren't. Then, as I pushed aside a really small bit of MgO, pointing out that it was too small to hide the capsules, I suddenly spotted a small hard white thing (the MgO is whiter than is the salt), poked at it, and realized that it was one of my elusive gold capsules. Poked around a bit more and found the second. Yay, [livejournal.com profile] clovis_t to the rescue--the darn things weren't there before, I swear it, but they came back when he came to look for them...

Other good news for the day includes receiving the check from the Tasmanian shipping company to pay for the repair of my trike tire. This makes me very happy. Other than the one damaged item I was pretty pleased with their service, and wouldn't have liked it if they'd tried to get out of making that good.

Other work progress includes creating another slide for my talk for the April confrence in France. Yes, one. When one wishes to add a scale bar to the photos, and wants the photos to all be in the same scale these things take longer than when one only wants the slide to be pretty.

It is only 18:30, and I think I'm going to be different and head home and enjoy some non-uni time with the rest of the day. I'm currently averaging 36.7 hours/week of uni work (not counting any breaks to check mail or heat up food or any run to the toilet), so I think I can afford the break.
kareina: (BSE garnet)
I welded it! I welded it! That capsule is SHUT! Totally air tight, and there is no shadow of doubt about it whatsoever! I've been struggling with this skill for a while now. Step one in setting up my experiments has become routine--take a piece of gold tubing 2mm in diameter and cut off a 7 mm length of it, pinch one end shut into a triple-junction, and weld that shut. But the next part, which involves adding a measured amount of water (and putting the holder + capsule + water onto the scale and making note of the combined mass), then adding the powder (again making note of the combined mass) such that the water is 5% of the total, then adding a sliver of graphite (again taking note of the mass) and then carefully cleaning the end of the gold tube so that not one speck of the powder nor any other contaminant remains, and then pinching it shut and welding it has been a problem.

In part because this second weld needs to be done with the capsule "cooled" during the process. This means that we set a small beaker full of water under it, and carefully arrange wet tissue paper fore and aft, in contact with the full part of the capsule, so that the welding process doesn't cause the internal water to boil out before it is sealed shut. In part because I've had problems getting the voltage exactly the correct setting on our old, jury-rigged, welding system, and in part because the bad welds I'd been doing have required carefully trimming of the end of the capsule, and trying again, which, if all isn't well, can cause the part I'm welding to be low enough in the capsule that some of the powder is caught between the pinched parts of the area I'm trying to seal, causing the melting to get down to that level, and the whole thing to open up to reveal the now molten powder. This happened again tonight, on my first attempt.

But I resolved to try once more, and pulled out a second ready to fill capsule. I added the water. Check. Added the powder. Check. Not quite enough powder, add a bit more. Check. Added the graphite. Check. Thought about it, and after very, very careful packing down of the powder and cleaning of the top portion of the capsule I moved the pliers lower than I had been, so that a millimeter or two stuck out above the width of the pliers. Then I carefully pinched the tube shut, confidant that the powder is located at least the full width of the pliers away from the end of the tube. Then I took the capsule to the large clamp and very carefully placed only the outermost bit of the pinched end of the tube into it and cranked it shut. This is called a cold-weld, and some labs stop here, not caring if their capsule is truly sealed. But we care here. So then I very carefully trimmed the very end of it off, making an even tighter, narrower end to weld. Then I applied the welder. I still don't have the hand-eye coordination to do the whole length of the weld at once (I think I'm still jumping back away from it when the flash of light and noise of the welding happens), but the first pass sealed one end with a beautiful bead. Try again from the other end. Another beautiful bead. But the middle is still un-melted. Oops, they recommend always working from the end towards the middle. Oh well, one last try, and it worked! The whole end of the capsule is a beautiful bead, totally smooth and looking exactly like it should! I was so pleased that I literally broke into song, making up a tune to the words "It's shut! I welded it", and variations thereof. Now I'm going to celebrate by heading home early (it is only 8pm!), and in the morning I'm off to the Alps for a gentle hike with some new friends.
kareina: (BSE garnet)
I welded it! I welded it! That capsule is SHUT! Totally air tight, and there is no shadow of doubt about it whatsoever! I've been struggling with this skill for a while now. Step one in setting up my experiments has become routine--take a piece of gold tubing 2mm in diameter and cut off a 7 mm length of it, pinch one end shut into a triple-junction, and weld that shut. But the next part, which involves adding a measured amount of water (and putting the holder + capsule + water onto the scale and making note of the combined mass), then adding the powder (again making note of the combined mass) such that the water is 5% of the total, then adding a sliver of graphite (again taking note of the mass) and then carefully cleaning the end of the gold tube so that not one speck of the powder nor any other contaminant remains, and then pinching it shut and welding it has been a problem.

In part because this second weld needs to be done with the capsule "cooled" during the process. This means that we set a small beaker full of water under it, and carefully arrange wet tissue paper fore and aft, in contact with the full part of the capsule, so that the welding process doesn't cause the internal water to boil out before it is sealed shut. In part because I've had problems getting the voltage exactly the correct setting on our old, jury-rigged, welding system, and in part because the bad welds I'd been doing have required carefully trimming of the end of the capsule, and trying again, which, if all isn't well, can cause the part I'm welding to be low enough in the capsule that some of the powder is caught between the pinched parts of the area I'm trying to seal, causing the melting to get down to that level, and the whole thing to open up to reveal the now molten powder. This happened again tonight, on my first attempt.

But I resolved to try once more, and pulled out a second ready to fill capsule. I added the water. Check. Added the powder. Check. Not quite enough powder, add a bit more. Check. Added the graphite. Check. Thought about it, and after very, very careful packing down of the powder and cleaning of the top portion of the capsule I moved the pliers lower than I had been, so that a millimeter or two stuck out above the width of the pliers. Then I carefully pinched the tube shut, confidant that the powder is located at least the full width of the pliers away from the end of the tube. Then I took the capsule to the large clamp and very carefully placed only the outermost bit of the pinched end of the tube into it and cranked it shut. This is called a cold-weld, and some labs stop here, not caring if their capsule is truly sealed. But we care here. So then I very carefully trimmed the very end of it off, making an even tighter, narrower end to weld. Then I applied the welder. I still don't have the hand-eye coordination to do the whole length of the weld at once (I think I'm still jumping back away from it when the flash of light and noise of the welding happens), but the first pass sealed one end with a beautiful bead. Try again from the other end. Another beautiful bead. But the middle is still un-melted. Oops, they recommend always working from the end towards the middle. Oh well, one last try, and it worked! The whole end of the capsule is a beautiful bead, totally smooth and looking exactly like it should! I was so pleased that I literally broke into song, making up a tune to the words "It's shut! I welded it", and variations thereof. Now I'm going to celebrate by heading home early (it is only 8pm!), and in the morning I'm off to the Alps for a gentle hike with some new friends.
kareina: (BSE garnet)
...with tiny steps. Today, after joining my colleagues for lunch, I went to the lab and we assigned me a drawer in which to keep the various tools and components with which I will be setting up my experiments. Then one of them demonstrated how to prepare a thermocouple--first one carefully straightens the end of the wire, else it won't be possible to insert it later (I'll learn exactly what we insert it into later). Then one snips of the very end of the wire and first files it flat, then, using a microscope so as to see what one is doing, carefully removes the white powder from between the ends of the two internal wires and pries the external metal casing away from the internal wires so that when one welds the internal wires together they not only stick to one another, they do not stick to the external casing. After letting me look at the magnified wire end at various points in this process she welded the internal wires together, let me look again at the change, and then demonstrated how to test it--by plugging it into the big machine against the wall and watching the display. When nothing is plugged in, or the thermocouple which is plugged in wasn't welded correctly, the temperature display jumps around between a variety of really high numbers off the top end of the temperature scale, but when the thermocouple has been correctly welded the temperature display reads a reasonable number (in today's case, room temperature, since we weren't heating anything, but simply checking to see that it will work when we need it). (Oh--and have I mentioned yet that "room temperature" is actually reasonable now? It is! September has brought wonderful, cool, rainy weather to Milan, and one can dress in normal clothes, instead of suffering from the heat whilst wearing shorts and a tank-top.)

Tomorrow, or more likely Thursday, we will create the capsules for my first experiment. Once we start the process of filling the gold capsule with the powder and water it is important to finish the process and weld it shut, or some of the water will evaporate, and the amount we carefully measured will be different than the amount actually sealed within. Since I have an appointment to look at an apartment for rent across the street at 11:00, that might not leave enough time in the day to get the first capsule properly loaded and ready to go. However, I have more than enough uni work to do to keep me busy if the experiment gets put off another day.

In other news, I've finally posted the field trip summary for the second stop of the pre-conference field trip I went on a couple of weeks back. This leaves one more field trip I still need to describe. There are more photos from this trip already posted to Facebook, but I haven't yet uploaded the post-conference field trip photos. Stay tuned.

Oh--I almost forgot to share some interesting happenings on my return trip. I spent much of the flight from Eindhoven to Italy working on a nalbinding project; early on the lady seated next to me asked about it--she'd seen knitting done with two needles, but never a fabric assembled from a single needle before. Then she returned to reading her book. When she put it down as we were coming in for a landing I asked her about the buildings tattooed upon her forearm, and she explained that they were from the city of Bergamo, where the plane was about to land--her home. She pointed out that she doesn't understand why the airlines claims to be landing in Milan, when the airport is in Bergamo. We discussed the topic a bit further, and she offered me a lift to the Bergamo train station so that I could get back to Milan. Since the flight attendant had just announced that they would sell us bus tickets to Milan for 8.50 Euros, I accepted her offer, trains being more comfortable than buses. As it turned out, the train cost only 4.50 Euros for the trip to the Milan Central station, which is only a 35 minute walk from my apartment. I had been a bit sceptical about flying into Bergamo, given its distance from the city, but now that I've been through it, I think I need to go back. The view of the Alps from the airport, and from the town is wonderful. They appear to be about as far from the peaks as mid-town Anchorage is from theirs, or, at least, the mountains here form a similar sized back-drop for that town as the one I grew up with. Their city center/old town is very pretty they way it clings to a smaller hill which is separated from the main mountain range. I'll have to look up the geology before I return, and allow enough time to really look around the area when I do.

That nice bit of random human interaction helped brighten up a long day of travel (or rather, a long time waiting at an airport with respect to the amount of time spent in the air), and it was followed up by a flattering random incident in the city. I got of the train and commenced my walk home, dragging my suitcase and carry on luggage (both on wheels) behind me, pausing now and again to switch which one was in which hand, as the suitcase was just enough the heavier of the two as to cause some discomfort in my elbow. As I approached a busy intersection and waited with the crowd of people to cross the street a man looked at me, glanced at my luggage (reading the tag which indicated that I'd flown in to the city), and then asked me (in English) if I could recommend a good Indian Restaurant in the area. When I replied that I'd not yet eaten in any of the local restaurants he suggested that we could go try one together. I replied that I'd had a long day of travel and just wanted to get home, and he chatted briefly with me a bit more as we walked along with the crowd before falling back behind me (perhaps to try again with another potential dinner partner?). This was the first time in my life that a random stranger has asked me out, and coming at the end of a long day, when I had been feeling a bit tired and listless from my journey it really made me feel good. I may have said "no thanks", but it still brightened my day to have been asked, and in a manner which came across as friendly and respectable, rather than slimy as happens in the movies.
kareina: (BSE garnet)
...with tiny steps. Today, after joining my colleagues for lunch, I went to the lab and we assigned me a drawer in which to keep the various tools and components with which I will be setting up my experiments. Then one of them demonstrated how to prepare a thermocouple--first one carefully straightens the end of the wire, else it won't be possible to insert it later (I'll learn exactly what we insert it into later). Then one snips of the very end of the wire and first files it flat, then, using a microscope so as to see what one is doing, carefully removes the white powder from between the ends of the two internal wires and pries the external metal casing away from the internal wires so that when one welds the internal wires together they not only stick to one another, they do not stick to the external casing. After letting me look at the magnified wire end at various points in this process she welded the internal wires together, let me look again at the change, and then demonstrated how to test it--by plugging it into the big machine against the wall and watching the display. When nothing is plugged in, or the thermocouple which is plugged in wasn't welded correctly, the temperature display jumps around between a variety of really high numbers off the top end of the temperature scale, but when the thermocouple has been correctly welded the temperature display reads a reasonable number (in today's case, room temperature, since we weren't heating anything, but simply checking to see that it will work when we need it). (Oh--and have I mentioned yet that "room temperature" is actually reasonable now? It is! September has brought wonderful, cool, rainy weather to Milan, and one can dress in normal clothes, instead of suffering from the heat whilst wearing shorts and a tank-top.)

Tomorrow, or more likely Thursday, we will create the capsules for my first experiment. Once we start the process of filling the gold capsule with the powder and water it is important to finish the process and weld it shut, or some of the water will evaporate, and the amount we carefully measured will be different than the amount actually sealed within. Since I have an appointment to look at an apartment for rent across the street at 11:00, that might not leave enough time in the day to get the first capsule properly loaded and ready to go. However, I have more than enough uni work to do to keep me busy if the experiment gets put off another day.

In other news, I've finally posted the field trip summary for the second stop of the pre-conference field trip I went on a couple of weeks back. This leaves one more field trip I still need to describe. There are more photos from this trip already posted to Facebook, but I haven't yet uploaded the post-conference field trip photos. Stay tuned.

Oh--I almost forgot to share some interesting happenings on my return trip. I spent much of the flight from Eindhoven to Italy working on a nalbinding project; early on the lady seated next to me asked about it--she'd seen knitting done with two needles, but never a fabric assembled from a single needle before. Then she returned to reading her book. When she put it down as we were coming in for a landing I asked her about the buildings tattooed upon her forearm, and she explained that they were from the city of Bergamo, where the plane was about to land--her home. She pointed out that she doesn't understand why the airlines claims to be landing in Milan, when the airport is in Bergamo. We discussed the topic a bit further, and she offered me a lift to the Bergamo train station so that I could get back to Milan. Since the flight attendant had just announced that they would sell us bus tickets to Milan for 8.50 Euros, I accepted her offer, trains being more comfortable than buses. As it turned out, the train cost only 4.50 Euros for the trip to the Milan Central station, which is only a 35 minute walk from my apartment. I had been a bit sceptical about flying into Bergamo, given its distance from the city, but now that I've been through it, I think I need to go back. The view of the Alps from the airport, and from the town is wonderful. They appear to be about as far from the peaks as mid-town Anchorage is from theirs, or, at least, the mountains here form a similar sized back-drop for that town as the one I grew up with. Their city center/old town is very pretty they way it clings to a smaller hill which is separated from the main mountain range. I'll have to look up the geology before I return, and allow enough time to really look around the area when I do.

That nice bit of random human interaction helped brighten up a long day of travel (or rather, a long time waiting at an airport with respect to the amount of time spent in the air), and it was followed up by a flattering random incident in the city. I got of the train and commenced my walk home, dragging my suitcase and carry on luggage (both on wheels) behind me, pausing now and again to switch which one was in which hand, as the suitcase was just enough the heavier of the two as to cause some discomfort in my elbow. As I approached a busy intersection and waited with the crowd of people to cross the street a man looked at me, glanced at my luggage (reading the tag which indicated that I'd flown in to the city), and then asked me (in English) if I could recommend a good Indian Restaurant in the area. When I replied that I'd not yet eaten in any of the local restaurants he suggested that we could go try one together. I replied that I'd had a long day of travel and just wanted to get home, and he chatted briefly with me a bit more as we walked along with the crowd before falling back behind me (perhaps to try again with another potential dinner partner?). This was the first time in my life that a random stranger has asked me out, and coming at the end of a long day, when I had been feeling a bit tired and listless from my journey it really made me feel good. I may have said "no thanks", but it still brightened my day to have been asked, and in a manner which came across as friendly and respectable, rather than slimy as happens in the movies.
kareina: (BSE garnet)
Stayed up far too late last night. Spent the first part of the evening playing in the kitchen. First I kept [livejournal.com profile] clovis_t company (and assisted occasionally) as he made a meat/pasta/tomato/cheese dish for his evening meal, then I cooked up some of the veg I'd obtained at the market that morning for my lunch today )

After we'd gotten the kitchen cleaned back up again I did a bit more uni work before yoga, and then stayed up even later chatting. Finally went to bed some time after 01:00, which might have been fine, but about 05:30 some passing car/truck/whatever made an unusual noise that happened to wake me, and I didn't fall straight back to sleep, so I got up and did more uni reading. Got sleepy again about 7:00 and went back to bed for a "nap", and didn't wake again till 10:00. Despite having cooked lunch the night before, it still took a full hour to do my morning situps/pushups/etc., get showered, dressed, pack lunch, pack the computer, and actually walk the couple of blocks to uni, where I spent the morning feeling sleepy and not accomplishing as much as I would have liked. [livejournal.com profile] clovis_t wandered into town to do touristy things (feeling much better rested than, having actually slept uninterrupted from 01:00 to 10:00).

I was still feeling tired at lunch, which I have with my colleagues on my research team each day, but after lunch my boss turned me lose in the lab, where he taught me what I needed to know to do my first practice welds. Playing with the toys woke me right up!

What am I welding? Gold! The experiments we do here involve encasing powder of known composition into sealed capsules and then subjecting them to elevated temperature and pressure for long enough to grow minerals. The largest diameter capsules we use are 3 mm wide. This is the size I was practising on today, using scraps from other people's work, since I wasn't making a real capsule, yet. The technique involves using a pair of pliers to first crimp the end of the tube of metal shut, one third at a time, such that the three crimped bits meet in the middle. Then one carefully trims the edges of the three crimped bits so that both sides of the metal are not only in contact, but at the same height. Then one takes a bit of sharpened graphite, which has been inserted into a rod attached by wires to a large box that controls the voltage (after first checking to see that the voltage has been set to an appropriate level, whcih, for the gold capsules of this size is just over 30 volts). One then carefully (while wearing protective glasses) pushes the button on the rod and moves the point of the graphite along the three lines at the top of the capsule. When done correctly the gold melts and the end of the capsule is fused shut with no air holes remaining. When done incorrectly the metal goes past molten to ugly and scared. If one happens to pick up one of the smaller diameter (1 mm?) platinum tubes instead it will take more hand-strength to crimp the edges, and 30 volts will be way too much energy to use, as I discovered when the metal melted the entire end and left a hole in the tube itself. But these things happen when one is left alone to practice and find things out for oneself...
kareina: (BSE garnet)
Stayed up far too late last night. Spent the first part of the evening playing in the kitchen. First I kept [livejournal.com profile] clovis_t company (and assisted occasionally) as he made a meat/pasta/tomato/cheese dish for his evening meal, then I cooked up some of the veg I'd obtained at the market that morning for my lunch today )

After we'd gotten the kitchen cleaned back up again I did a bit more uni work before yoga, and then stayed up even later chatting. Finally went to bed some time after 01:00, which might have been fine, but about 05:30 some passing car/truck/whatever made an unusual noise that happened to wake me, and I didn't fall straight back to sleep, so I got up and did more uni reading. Got sleepy again about 7:00 and went back to bed for a "nap", and didn't wake again till 10:00. Despite having cooked lunch the night before, it still took a full hour to do my morning situps/pushups/etc., get showered, dressed, pack lunch, pack the computer, and actually walk the couple of blocks to uni, where I spent the morning feeling sleepy and not accomplishing as much as I would have liked. [livejournal.com profile] clovis_t wandered into town to do touristy things (feeling much better rested than, having actually slept uninterrupted from 01:00 to 10:00).

I was still feeling tired at lunch, which I have with my colleagues on my research team each day, but after lunch my boss turned me lose in the lab, where he taught me what I needed to know to do my first practice welds. Playing with the toys woke me right up!

What am I welding? Gold! The experiments we do here involve encasing powder of known composition into sealed capsules and then subjecting them to elevated temperature and pressure for long enough to grow minerals. The largest diameter capsules we use are 3 mm wide. This is the size I was practising on today, using scraps from other people's work, since I wasn't making a real capsule, yet. The technique involves using a pair of pliers to first crimp the end of the tube of metal shut, one third at a time, such that the three crimped bits meet in the middle. Then one carefully trims the edges of the three crimped bits so that both sides of the metal are not only in contact, but at the same height. Then one takes a bit of sharpened graphite, which has been inserted into a rod attached by wires to a large box that controls the voltage (after first checking to see that the voltage has been set to an appropriate level, whcih, for the gold capsules of this size is just over 30 volts). One then carefully (while wearing protective glasses) pushes the button on the rod and moves the point of the graphite along the three lines at the top of the capsule. When done correctly the gold melts and the end of the capsule is fused shut with no air holes remaining. When done incorrectly the metal goes past molten to ugly and scared. If one happens to pick up one of the smaller diameter (1 mm?) platinum tubes instead it will take more hand-strength to crimp the edges, and 30 volts will be way too much energy to use, as I discovered when the metal melted the entire end and left a hole in the tube itself. But these things happen when one is left alone to practice and find things out for oneself...

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