Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The 10 Rules of Cash Flow 101

Cash flow is the lifeblood of all businesses. Learn the Cash Flow 101 Rules to free yourself from money worries. Use the basic rules of to help you take control of your cash flow so you can create the business you have always dreamed of.

1. Never Run Out of Cash. Running out of cash is the definition of failure in business. Make the commitment to do what it takes so it doesn't happen to you.

2. Cash Is King. It's important to recognize that the basics of cash flow 101 are what keeps your business alive. Manage it with the care and attention it deserves. It's very unforgiving if you don't. Remember, cash is king, because no cash means no business.

3. Know the Cash Balance Now. What is your cash balance right now? It's absolutely critical that you know exactly what your cash balance is. Even the most experienced person will fail if they are making business decisions using inaccurate or incomplete cash balances. This is fundamental cash flow 101. That's the reason why business failures are not limited to amateurs or people new to the business world.

4. Do Today's Work Today. The key to keeping an accurate cash balance in your accounting system is to do today's work today. When you do this, you will have the numbers you need - when you need them.

5. Do the Work or Get Someone Else. Here is a simple rule to follow to make sure you have an accurate cash balance on your books. You do the work or have someone else do it.

6. Don't Manage From the Bank Balance. The bank balance and the cash balance are two different forms of cash. Rarely will the two ever be the same. Don't make the mistake of confusing them.

It's futile and frustrating to attempt to manage your cash flow using the bank balance. It's a prescription for failure. You reconcile your bank balance. You don't manage from it.

7. Know Your Six Months Cash Balance. What do you expect your cash balance to be six months from now? This one question will transform the way you manage your business and help you pass cash flow 101.

This question really gets to the heart of whether you are managing your business or whether your business is managing you.

8. Cash Flow Problems Don't Just Happen. You would be amazed at the number of small businesses that fail because the owner did not see a cash flow problem in time to do something about it. The key is to always be able to answer the question - what do I expect my cash balance to be six months from now?

9. Have Cash Flow Projections. Cash flow projections are the key to making wise and profitable business decisions. They give you the answer to the all-important question from Rule # 7. It's impossible to run your business properly without them.

10. Take Care of Customers. Eliminate your cash flow worries so you are free to do what you do best-taking care of clients and making more money. Use these cash flow 101 rules to free yourself from cash flow worries. That way you can focus all your time and talents where you can make the most difference in your business.

No more wasted time worrying about what's going on with your cash flow. Instead, you can focus your unique talents and abilities each day on ways to grow your business and make more income each year. That is a recipe for success and wealth creation.

Water Chemistry

I just read Dr Helmenstine's article on water hardness/softness. She obviously understands the subject, so perhaps I've finally found a forum that can answer my question! Spa care forums have been of no help so far.

My house is in Southern Maryland, St Mary's County, and we have our own well. When we moved from PA 13 years ago, one of the first things we noticed is the "slimy water" syndrome, which I eventually learned is due to the water being too soft. We can live with the slimy water, but there are two other problems it brings.

First (a minor inconvenience) is that I CANNOT properly cook spaghetti! As it boils, it seems to abruptly go from uncooked to mush. So we buy bottled spring water from the store, adding a couple of dollars to the cost of our meal.

The big problem is our hot tub. We've gone through hell trying to learn how to balance the water, but we've learned a thing or two in the process - and raised even more questions. The most obvious thing is that the pH is quite high, so we have to dump large amounts of pH-Down into the tub. But then we find that the "calcium hardness" is extremely low, near zero. So we have to dump in calcium, which has to be counter-acted with even more pH-Down.

Now, I'm puzzled how the pH can be so high when there's virtually no calcium in the water. No tests we've done or had done indicate what chemical makes the water so alkaline. A more comprehensive test is very expensive, so we haven't done it. Can anyone make a guess as to what it might be? And, is it possible to remove it?

Another problem is that my spa's pump shaft seals don't last very long. I notice that there is either some erosion of the graphite ring, or it may be a buildup that makes a bumpy surface - it's hard to tell. We've been using Baqua sanitizer, which some people claim is hard on seals, but I have to wonder if it's only my strange water.

Btw, I found that pool filling services around here get their water from the same aquifer as ours! So unless there's some sort of filter or coagulator out there that could fix the water, the only solution would be distillation, which I'm sure would be very expensive.

Is There Really a Chemistry of Love?

Question: Is There Really a Chemistry of Love?

Answer: I don't think there are any magic love potions that you can use to make someone fall in love, but chemistry does play an important role in how a relationship progresses. First, there's attraction. Nonverbal communication plays a big part in initial attraction and some of this communication may involve pheromones, a form of chemical communication. Did you know that raw lust is characterized by high levels of testosterone? The sweaty palms and pounding heart of infatuation are caused by higher than normal levels of norepinepherine. Meanwhile, the 'high' of being in love is due to a rush of phenylethylamine and dopamine. All is not lost once the honeymoon is over. Lasting love confers chemical benefits in the form of stabilized production of serotonin and oxytocin. Can infidelity be blamed on chemistry? Perhaps in part. Researchers have found that suppression of vasopressin can cause males (voles, anyway) to abandon their love nest and seek new mates. Hey, you gotta have chemistry!

Hot Ice or Sodium Acetate

Make Hot Ice or Sodium Acetate from Vinegar and Baking Soda

Sodium acetate or hot ice is an amazing chemical you can prepare yourself from baking soda and vinegar. You can cool a solution of sodium acetate below its melting point and then cause the liquid to crystallize. The crystallization is an exothermic process, so the resulting ice is hot. Solidification occurs so quickly you can form sculptures as you pour the hot ice.
Sodium Acetate or Hot Ice Materials
1 liter clear vinegar (weak acetic acid)
4 tablespoons baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
Prepare the Sodium Acetate or Hot Ice
In a saucepan or large beaker, add baking soda to the vinegar, a little at a time and stirring between additions. The baking soda and vinegar react to form sodium acetate and carbon dioxide gas. If you don't add the baking soda slowly, you'll essentially get a baking soda and vinegar volcano, which would overflow your container. You've made the sodium acetate, but it is too dilute to be very useful, so you need to remove most of the water.
Here is the reaction between the baking soda and vinegar to produce the sodium acetate:

Na+[HCO3]– + CH3–COOH → CH3–COO– Na+ + H2O + CO2

Boil the solution to concentrate the sodium acetate. You could just remove the solution from heat once you have 100-150 ml of solution remaining, but the easiest way to get good results is to simply boil the solution until a crystal skin or film starts to form on the surface. This took me about an hour on the stove over medium heat. If you use lower heat you are less likely to get yellow or brown liguid, but it will take longer. If discoloration occurs, it's okay.

Once you remove the sodium acetate solution from heat, immediately cover it to prevent any further evaporation. I poured my solution into a separate container and covered it with plastic wrap. You should not have any crystals in your solution. If you do have crystals, stir a very small amount of water or vinegar into the solution, just sufficient to dissolve the crystals.

Place the covered container of sodium acetate solution in the refrigerator to chill.
Activities Involving Hot Ice
The sodium acetate in the solution in the refrigerator is an example of a supercooled liquid. That is, the sodium acetate exists in liquid form below its usual melting point. You can initiate crystallization by adding a small crystal of sodium acetate or possibly even by touching the surface of the sodium acetate solution with a spoon or finger. The crystallization is an example of an exothermic process. Heat is released as the 'ice' forms. To demonstrate supercooling, crystallization, and heat release you could:
Drop a crystal into the container of cooled sodium acetate solution. The sodium acetate will crystallize within seconds, working outward from where you added the crystal. The crystal acts as a nucleation site or seed for rapid crystal growth. Although the solution just came out of the refrigerator, if you touch the container you will find it is now warm or hot.

Pour the solution onto a shallow dish. If the hot ice does not spontaneously begin crystallization, you can touch it with a crystal of sodium acetate (you can usually scrape a small amount of sodium acetate from the side of the container you used earlier). The crystallization will progress from the dish up toward where you are pouring the liquid. You can construct towers of hot ice. The towers will be warm to the touch.

You can re-melt sodium acetate and re-use it for demonstrations.
Hot Ice Safety
As you would expect, sodium acetate is a safe chemical for use in demonstrations. It is used as a food additive to enhance flavor and is the active chemical in many hot packs. The heat generated by the crystallization of a refrigerated sodium acetate solution should not present a burn hazard.
Hot Ice Help
Answers to common questions about hot ice are available that should help solve any problems you may encounter with this project. There is also a video tutorial showing how to make hot ice

Potassium Nitrate Recipe

Make Potassium Nitrate from Lite Salt and a Cold Pack

Make potassium nitrate (saltpeter) from common household ingredients. Potassium chloride from lite salt and ammonium nitrate from a cold pack are reacted to yield potassium nitrate and ammonium chloride. This is an easy way to make your own potassium chloride if you can't find it in a store or just want to try a fun chemistry experiment.
Potassium Nitrate Ingredients
40 g ammonium nitrate (from an instant cold pack which has ammonium nitrate listed as its ingredient)

37 g potassium chloride (sold as a salt substitute, with potassium chloride listed as the ingredient)

100 ml water
The Chemical Reaction
Aqueous solutions of ammonium nitrate and potassium chloride are reacted to exchange the ions and form potassium nitrate and ammonium chloride. The ammonium chloride is much more soluble in water than the potassium nitrate, so you will get potassium nitrate crystals, which can be separated from the ammonium chloride solution.
NH4NO3 + KCl → KNO3 + NH4Cl

Make Potassium Nitrate
Dissolve 40 g of ammonium nitrate into 100 ml of water.

Filter the solution through a coffee filter to remove any undissolved material.

Heat the solution with 37 g potassium chloride to dissolve the lite salt. Do not boil the solution.

Filter the solution and either set it in the freezer to chill or else put it in an ice bath so you can observe the crystallization of the potassium nitrate.

Pour off the ammonium chloride solution, leaving the potassium nitrate crystals. You can recover the ammonium chloride, too, if you like.

Once the potassium nitrate crystals are dry, you can use them for chemistry experiments. The resulting potassium nitrate does contain impurities, but it will work fine for pyrotechnics projects and other experiments described on this site.

Copper Sulfate Preparation

How to Make Copper Sulfate or Copper Sulphate

Copper sulfate crystals are among the most beautiful crystals you can grow, but you might not have access to a chemistry lab or want to order the copper sulfate from a chemical supply company. That's okay, because you can make copper sulfate yourself using readily-available materials.
Materials for Making Copper Sulfate

There are actually a few different ways you can make copper sulfate yourself. This method relies on a little electrochemistry to get the job done. You will need:

copper wire - which is high purity copper
sulfuric acid - H2SO4 - battery acid
6-volt battery
Make Copper Sulfate
Fill a jar or beaker with 5 ml concentrated sulfuric acid and 30 ml of water. If your sulfuric acid solution is already diluted, add less water.

Set two copper wires into the solution so that they are not touching each other.

Connect the wires to a 6-volt battery.

The solution will turn blue as copper sulfate is produced.
When you run electricity through copper electrodes which are separated from each other in a dilute sulfuric acid bath the negative electrode will evolve bubbles of hydrogen gas while the positive electrode will be dissolved into the sulfuric acid and oxidized by the current. Some of the copper from the positive electrode will make its way to the anode where it will be reduced. This cuts into your copper sulfate yield, but you can minimize the loss by taking some care with your set-up. Coil the wire for the positive electrode and set it at the bottom of your beaker or jar. Slip a piece of plastic tubing (e.g., a small length of aquarium hose) over the wire where it extends up from the coil to keep it from reacting with the solution near the anode. (If you had to strip your wire, just leave the insulating coating on the part that runs down into the liquid). Suspend the negative copper electrode (anode) over the cathode coil, leaving a good amount of space. When you connect the battery, you should get bubbles from the anode, but not the cathode. If you get bubbling at both electrodes, try increasing the distance between the electrodes. Most of the copper sulfate will be at the bottom of the container, separated from the anode.
Collect Your Copper Sulfate

You can boil the copper sulfate solution to recover your copper sulfate. Because the solution contains sulfuric acid, you won't be able to boil the liquid off completely (and you need to take care not to touch the liquid, which will become concentrated acid). The copper sulfate will precipitate out as a blue powder. Pour off the sulfuric acid and reuse it to make more copper sulfate!

If you would prefer to have copper sulfate crystals, you can grow them directly from the blue solution that you prepared. Just allow the solution to evaporate. Again, use care in recovering your crystals because the solution is very acidic.

Obama wants record $708b for wars in Iraq, Afghanistan

AP, Washington

President Barack Obama will ask Congress for an additional $33 billion to fight unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on top of a record $708 billion for the Defense Department next year, The Associated Press has learned - a request that could be an especially hard sell to some of the administration's Democratic allies.

The extra $33 billion in 2010 would mostly go toward the expansion of the war in Afghanistan. Obama ordered an extra 30,000 troops for that war as part of an overhaul of the war strategy late last year.

Military officials have suggested that the 2011 request would top $700 billion for the first time, but the precise figure has not been made public.

The administration also plans to tell Congress next month that its central military objectives for the next four years will include winning the current wars while preventing new ones and that its core missions will include both counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations.

The administration's Quadrennial Defense Review, the main articulation of U.S. military doctrine, is due to Congress on Feb. 1. Top military commanders were briefed on the document at the Pentagon on Monday and Tuesday. They also received a preview of the administration's budget plans through 2015.

The four-year review outlines six key mission areas and spells out capabilities and goals the Pentagon wants to develop. The pilotless drones used for surveillance and attack missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan are a priority, with the goals of speeding up the purchase of new Reaper drones and expanding Predator and Reaper drone flights through 2013.

U.S. officials outlined the coming requests on condition of anonymity because the budget request will not be sent to Congress until later this month.

Obama's request for more war spending is likely to receive support on Capitol Hill, where Republicans will join moderate Democrats to pass the bill.

But the budget debate is also likely to expose a widening rift between Obama's administration and Democratic leaders, who have watched public opinion turn against the military campaign.

"The president's going to have to make his case," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters last month at her year-end briefing.

The 2010 budget contains about $128 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That figure would rise to $159 billion next year under the proposals prepared for Congress.

This Day in Science History - January 13 - Paul Niggli

January 13th marks the passing of Paul Niggli. Niggli was a Swiss mineralogist who was a pioneer of x-ray crystallography. He developed the mathematical system of space groups that defined 230 different atom arrangements based on x-ray diffraction patterns. X-ray crystallography works by shining x-ray radiation through a crystal structure and detecting the interference pattern generated by the gaps between individual atoms. This information can tell you the position of atoms in a crystal, the width of atomic bonds, and even the size of the atoms themselves. All this information can give detailed help in determining the structure of a molecule. All that is really needed is a pure sample that can be crystallized.

Litmus Paper

Litmus paper is a type of pH paper that is used to test the acidity of water-based liquids.

David Gould, Getty Images

Charles's Law Illustration

This animation illustrates the relationship between temperature and volume when mass and pressure are held constant, which is Charles's Law.

NASA's Glenn Research Center

Boyle's Law Illustration

Boyle's Law describes the relationship between pressure and volume of a gas when mass and temperature are held constant.

NASA's Glenn Research Center

Phase Diagram

This is a phase diagram, which includes the critical point and triple point.

Booyabazooka, Wikipedia Commons

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Write a Love Letter/Send a Valentine's Day Card

Many a lover has been seduced by a sincere and beautifully illustrated letter of affection. If the perfect words elude you at the moment, but your heart's in the right place, find help and inspiration below.

How To Write a Love Letter

Learning how to write a love letter isn't difficult. Once you gather your thoughts and follow these simple steps to express the way you feel in a love letter you'll know how to do it.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: 1 hour
Here's How:
Clear your desk and your mind of distractions. If you love someone enough to craft this letter, he or she deserves your full attention.
Place a picture of the one you love in front of you.
Put on your favorite music.
Take out your best letter writing stationery and pen.
On another sheet of letter paper, make two lists: a) the unique qualities you love about him/her; b) your hopes for the future together.
Personalize the love letter salutation. "Dear ___ ," or "To my darling _____," are both fine.
In the body of the love letter, begin by telling him/her what you think makes him/her so special. List at least three different qualities of the one you love in the letter, ideally emotional, physical, and spiritual ones.
In the following paragraph of your love letter, share your hopes and dreams for the future you can have together.

Personalize the closing of the letter. "I will love you always," "Loving you forever," "My heart is yours," are all good possibilities.
Don't forget to sign your love letter!
Spray the love letter with a light fragrance.
Address, seal, and stamp the love letter.
Wait a day before you send your love letter; you may change your mind.
Drop the love letter in the mail, and look forward to the response.

Don't mention anyone else but yourself and the addressee in the love letter.
Make sure you only send a love letter to someone who will appreciate it.
Pick out a special stamp for your love letter at the post office.

Science Date Ideas

Love has a lot to do with chemistry, so if you're looking to connect Valentine's Day with chemistry, you've come to the right place. Take a look at these chemistry projects and topics that relate to Valentine's Day.

Chemistry of Love
Sweaty palms and a pounding heart don't just happen! It takes complex biochemistry to give you the symptoms of being in love. And lust. And security. Chemistry may even play a role in falling out-of-love. Get some of the details here, with links for further study.

Electrical Tree

This Lichtenberg figure or 'electrical tree' was formed inside a 1.5" cube of polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) using a 3 MeV electron accelerator.

Bert Hickman, Stoneridge Engineering

Lichtenberg Figure

This Lichtenberg figure was formed inside a block of plexiglas as a result of dielectric breakdown caused by a high voltage discharge into the plastic.

Bert Hickman

Solar Spectrum

This is a high resolution spectrum of the Sun. It was compiled from data obtained from the Fourier Transform Spectrometer at the McMath-Pierce Solar Facility at Kitt Peak National Observatory.

Kitt Peak National Observatory

Uranium Ore

Photograph of the metal uranium.
U.S. Geological Survey

Electrolytic Cell

Diagram of an electrolytic cell.
Todd Helmenstine