June 2009

:: What’s the difference between Chemistry and cooking? In Chemistry, you should never lick the spoon.

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titration [(teye-tray-shuhn)]

– n.  The process, operation, or method of determining the concentration of a substance in solution by adding to it a standard reagent of known concentration in carefully measured amounts until a reaction of definite and known proportion is completed, as shown by a color change or by electrical measurement, and then calculating the unknown concentration

In chemstry, the determination of what materials are present in a sample by adding precise amounts of known chemicals and observing the chemical reaction.

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When I was in high school, I was first introduced to titrations in year 10. I must admit that chemistry and physics were two units I was quite good at, but never in my wildest dreams would I have imaged that I would ever have to use titrations in everyday life..! Fast forward 10 years later and here I am sitting at a table with  pipette in one hand, and test tube in the other. Why you ask?

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Well upon our arrival back from Australia, I finally succumbed to the urge to start up a new  salt water marine tank. I’ve always had a fascination with the deep sea world with all its unique corals and oddly shaped, colourful fish. I used to have quite a large marine tank in Australia and invested many and hour (and $$) into building up that tank into a beautiful little ecosystem filled with a variety of corals and exotic marine fish. The pricing of equipment, fish and corals are so much lower here in Canada in comparison to Australia. There is also much more variety when it comes to species that are available. One factor is that Canada is so close to Hawaii and also has less stringent customs restrictions when it comes to what can be brought into the country. Since space is a premium in our apartment, I decided to build a nano tank that is only 10 gallons. Saltwater tanks are a much more delicate ecosystem in comparison to freshwater tanks and there are many chemical levels that need to be in sync in order for your corals and fish to thrive and be happy. In a tank that size you would be able to put 30 freshwater guppy’s into it, but for a saltwater setup you could only get away with 2-3 small fish and some corals.

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So back to the titrations… Since there are so many things that need to be tested such as pH, Alkalinity, Salinity, Nitrates and Nitrites I bought a test kit. As I recorded the levels and compared them with what was considered “safe”, it dawned on me that I was actually doing titrations. Now, granted I wasn’t using precision laboratory equipment, nor was I wasn’t in sterile environment. None-the-less, the basic process was titrating!

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 So there you have it! When you are a 16 year old kid sitting in class wondering “why the heck am I learning this? When would I ever use this..?” you may just be surprised later on in life.

I’m sure that my old science teacher Dr. Dring would be proud of me… Hopefully this time round there won’t be any explosions… 

:: The Rumble Down Under

So for the past month we’ve been on the road visiting Australia, Indonesia, Bali and Hong Kong. Although it was a whirlwind trip it was great to catch up with all my family and friends. It all seems like such a blur now, so here’s a quick summary of what went down. Other than having the itinerary from hell, we spent almost 5 days of the month flying in the air or in transit…

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Our first destination was my home town of Perth. What can I say… not much has changed and the pace of life is definitely a few gears down. Still as beautiful as ever, other than a few renovations and couple of buildings not much has changed with the skyline. Well, other than the addition of the new Ferris wheel attempting to replicate the London Eye.

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The highlight of that trip for me was meeting my little niece for the first time. Little Ella-phant has got to be the cutest thing in the world, and I’m not being biased. It was great to spend a lot of quality time with her doing everything from feeding her to playing at Gymbaroo. I love her to bits and the hugs and kisses are never ending with her.

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Apart from trying to catch up with as many friends as we could we basically had a routine of meeting someone for breakfast, lunch and dinner! It was so tiring and we managed to recharge ourselves with a quick escape to the winery region about 3 hours away in Margaret River. I loved this place… the house we stayed in was at the top of the Hill overlooking the beach (which was walking distance away) and it was so good to be able to walk on a REAL beach with proper sand! For those of you who have been to Vancouver, you’ll know what I’m talking about…

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4 Days of indulging in wine, chocolates and cheese and it was time to entertain the young one so during the trip we revisited The Sunflower Farm. I’m not sure if that stop was for Ella or Natashia. When it comes to all thing furry that are great and small, Tash definitely is like a kid in a candy store. If she had it her way we would’ve not “wasted time” at the wineries and we would’ve spent the whole time at the farm.

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A trip down under wouldn’t be complete without having a Brethren reunion. What better way to have one by mixing hi octane, guns and alcohol and buckets of deep fried chicken… (not necessarily in that order). We took to the go kart tracks and burned rubber over a few lap. Jamie on the other hand didn’t as he picked the short straw and ended up with the slowest go kart on the track… After that we hit the shooting range and tried our hand at using a 0.9mm Glock, 45 calibre USP (that’s a monster hand gun) and finally the tame rifles. It was all fun and games until I realised that with all the flying that I was doing, I’m sure homeland security was going to have a field day with me. Other than being pulled up in general for “random security checks”, I was sure that all the gun powder residue all over my camera bag from the shooting range was going to set off every alarm. Lucky for me that wasn’t the case.

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Next stop was Tash’s home town, Surabaya – Indonesia. This is the second time that I’ve been there and it many ways it is quite similar to Sri Lanka as far as the roads and how the buildings look including the food vendors on the streets. Being a glutton for punishment we were on a flight the very next morning at 6am to Bali. This was the relaxing part of our trip where we got to vege out by the pool, eat exotic seafood meals on the beach and get much needed massages. I couldn’t believe how cheap the food was there! We had seafood and about 4 other dishes and to feed 4 people we spent less than $20!

The highlight would definitely be swimming with dolphins at the Dolphin Lodge. Tash has always wanted to do this only it’s always been so expensive in the other places we’ve visited like The Bahamas. It was such an amazing experience… definitely worthwhile! No matter how hard Tash tried, she couldn’t quite fit the dolphin into our luggage and I’m sure that it wouldn’t be able to fit into the bath tub in our apartment.

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Back to Surabaya and we were back on the family outing circuit. We met up with some of Tash’s old high school friends and it was good to hear all of the stories about how they used to get into trouble. For Tash it was a very nostalgic leg of the trip because certain smells, food and even sounds would bring her back to her childhood memories. With the squeak of a horn or the ring of a certain type of bell she was able to tell me what type of food that particular mobile vendor was selling while we sat in the lounge of the house she grew up in.

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Finally, we finished our trip in Hong Kong. We stayed in the Kowloon district and did a bit of sightseeing but the main attraction was the cheap shopping! The markets are a great place to pick up some cheap bargains or excellent quality bootleg designer bags or accessories. As fun as it was, the whole bargaining process is so tiring! By the end of it all we were just over having to spend 10 minutes going back and forth with pricing and then having to play hard to get by walking away just to force the seller to succumb to your price. At the end of the day it didn’t make much difference to us because when you converted it you’re still not paying any sort of premium prices, so either way we ended up with a great bargain. I really like Hong Kong. The food is great, the city limits are extremely clean albeit, densely populated with a lot of apartments. The public transportation (MTR) makes getting around so easy and I was so amazed that there was no graffiti or vandalism on the trains or the stations. In contrast the new railway line in Perth which is only a couple of years old looks like its 10 years old with all the vandalism on it! I’m definitely “for” capital punishment to maintain the quality of public transportation… ok maybe capital punishment is a bit harsh. Let’s settle for harsher penalties and better policing of it all…

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By the end of it all, I think I need a holiday to recover from my holiday! Is it a bad thing to be thinking about your next holiday less than a week from when you arrived back from your last holiday?

Hit the gallery for all the happy snaps…