Monday, February 23, 2015

What was my experience in graduate school?

Negativity says:
    getting used to being dressed down verbally, and letting hostility and spite roll off of me
    at 8:30am every Monday morning...

    being wrong all the time...

    having my idea rejected, then proposed to me later when it turned out to be better...

    having my confidence completely destroyed...

Neutrality says:
    being exposed to my flaws and weaknesses (but not being allowed to ever forget
    them. ever.)...

    developing maturity despite everything...

Positivity says:
    befriending beautiful, complicated and confusing people...

    exposure to cultures outside my ken...

    developing skills and expertise while learning about our world...

    extending human knowledge...

    the opportunity to advance my career and open doors...

    actually getting better at being an investigator...

I'd probably do it again.  I like who I am.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Boiler Primer 3: pH, alkalinity and conductivity

Understanding the environment that reactions take place in helps us to determine which are more likely.  Variables like pH and alkalinity do that, because they tell us what form a species is in.  For example carbonates, which are the components of alkalinity have two protonation states, since H2CO3 is diprotic.  It is an acid that is able to give up two protons.
H2CO3 <=> HCO3 + H+
Ka1 = 2.5×10−4;[1] pKa1 = 3.6 at 25 °C.
HCO3 <=> CO32− + H+
Ka2 = 4.69×10−11; pKa2 = 10.329 at 25 °C and ionic strength = 0.0 (data from wikipedia)
These two pKa values describe the extent to which one of the species is present at a certain pH.  See the speciation plot below for carbonic acid (source):
This means that at low pH, carbonic acid is primarily in its H2CO3 state.  Most of the carbonic acid molecules have given up their first proton by pH 6, and most of those have given up their second proton by pH 9.5 to become CO3.  Thus, above pH 10, CO3 exists as the dominant species.  It is a weak base.  This water is high in alkalinity therefore, but not corrosive.

We like to operate at this pH, because it dramatically reduces the corrosion from oxygen and other sources such as carbonic acid (source):
However, it means that we have a large cohort of CO3 present, which is amenable to reaction with calcium to form calcium carbonate.  Because this is a scale forming environment, we address this with dispersants and inhibitors that get to the calcium before it can form scale.

Conductivity then is a measure of the amount of dissolved solids in water.  This increases as more salts are available in solution to conduct electrons.  This is essentially one number that helps to boil down how full the water is of ions (alkalinity, treatment, hardness).  Water with higher conductivity tends to have more possible reactions as well, shifting equilibrium toward scale formation.  Conductivity is a measure that we use to manage how often blowdown occurs--how often we get rid of water that has many ions, and introduce makeup water with fewer ions, to reduce scale formation.

Boiler Primer 2: Treatment chemistry (low pressure)

Chemical reactions happen pretty quickly in a boiler because the temperature is so high, and reaction rate is generally dependent on temperature.  Some reactions that happen in a boiler are good, and some are bad.
Bad reactions:
Calcium scale formation on boiler tubes (solid deposits reduce heating efficiency)
Oxygen corrosion of steel (pitting and metal loss)

Good reactions:
Steel passivation (forms protective layer)
Calcium salt formation that remains soluble or in the bulk water (we can remove it with blowdown)
We combat bad reactions like calcium scale formation by adding chemicals that the calcium can react with to form small crystals in solution, instead of on the steel tubes in the boiler.  Combating oxygen corrosion involves the use of oxygen scavengers which react with the oxygen to form other compounds, and remove it from the water--what's not there can't do damage.  Nearly all of the following are formulated as sodium salts.  Sodium ions play nice, in general calcium do not.  Calcium often comes into the boiler through makeup water (replacement water for leaky valves or water lost to steam)--it is preferred to be removed with a water softener if possible, before being added to the boiler.

Corrosive Water Scale-forming Water
  • low pH
  • soft or with primarily noncarbonate hardness
  • low alkalinity
  • high pH
  • hard with primarily carbonate hardness
  • high alkalinity
The central dogma of boiler treatment currently is: mitigate corrosion almost completely through the use of an alkaline pH, and use chemistry to stymie unfavorable reactions.  There are some acidic treatments, but today most work is done at elevated pH (table source).

Hot loop chemistry:
Boilers that circulate hot water through a building are typically not blown down (removing water with a high level of dissolved salts).  Once properly treated, they can remain stable for months.  These systems are typically treated with nitrite (above), which passivates the steel by reacting to form a layer of magnetite (Fe3O4).  This is a less reactive oxide of iron that, unlike rust (Fe2O3), will not contribute to loss of boiler steel.  We like to see boiler water a little black (magnetite), rather than red (rust), because it means the steel has a protective layer on it.

Steam boiler chemistry:
Steam boilers present several problems that hot water boilers do not have.
The first difference is that these boilers are constantly losing water as steam, and need more water added as a result.  The steam that condenses has a relatively low pH (7 as opposed to boiler water, which is kept from 9-11).  This makes the water rather acidic and corrosive to the steel.  Combine that with carbon dioxide, which is dissolved in this water creating carbonic acid, and you get a nasty bit of acidic water.  To combat this, amines (cyclohexylamine, above) are added to the boiler water.  Amines vaporize within boiler operating temperatures and leave with the steam.  They also condense with the water and raise the pH (pKa similar to sodium hydroxide which is strongly basic).  This reduces the corrosion in the steel pipes that return the condensed water to the boiler.

Oxygen scavengers such as sulfite (above) and erythrobate are used to react with the oxygen that is dissolved in the feed water make up to the boiler.
Phosphates (above) are added to bind the calcium in small insoluble crystals that are unlikely to cause scale on the boiler tubes.  These eventually leave with the water that is blown out of the boiler periodically.

The above classes of chemical are the most common course of treatment for boilers, though there are others.
These are important considerations for low pressure boilers.  Boiler drums found in higher pressure systems such as power plants have different chemistries and considerations.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Boiler Primer 1: Introduction

What is a boiler?
A boiler is used to either heat water, or to heat water with the purpose of making steam.

Boilers do this by contacting water with a hot surface.  There are two general types, fire-tube (left) and water-tube boilers (right).  Water-tube boilers have water running through tubes, and the outside of those tubes are heated by burning natural gas, to heat the water running through them.  More commonly seen are fire-tube boilers.  These involve burning natural gas within the tubes and radiating the heat out to water that surrounds them.

Hot-water boilers are used to heat water which is sent in a loop throughout a building typically, or through a process in general.  These are often used to heat buildings by blowing air over the tubes through air handlers.  This system can be thought to function similarly to how an old radiator does--the kind that tend to bang, and are found in old homes, schools or offices.

Steam boilers create pressurized steam by heating water.  The steam leaves the boiler through a header pipe and is passed to a process or wherever it is needed.  This steam that leaves is precious though, because it is mostly pure.  When water turns into steam, it leaves salts and most other chemical treatment behind in the boiler.  What happens after the steam deposits its heat of vaporization to a process, is that it condenses back into water because it lost the energy to be steam.  The condensed water is then very pure, because the steam was pure.  The condensate is then collected when possible, and fed back into the boiler.  Some boilers cannot do this because the steam is not part of a closed loop and goes elsewhere, but wherever possible, the pure water is collected and recycled, replacing the water that leaves as steam.
As you can see from the above diagram, there is an enormous amount of energy carried in steam.  This is the energy in steam that is applied to a process when the steam is allowed to condense.  That energy isn't free though, it comes from the combusted natural gas, but it allows us a more convenient way to pass energy along, using water/steam as a medium.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

the funky Abstract

[lyrics are linked to the songs they come from...most are NSFW lyrically; image credit]

I want to drink melody and splash harmony around in my mouth.
I want my breath to stink of a lyrical meal--just enough to hint at how I digested it.

Work it when you're spittin'; Imma sit with the Phoenicians digging on musicians.  Let me hear your stomping, ripping and romping.  You got the air soul kicks and crushed velvet hatsPick up all the pieces and make an island!

People tend to bug cos the beats are hard but gentleYou shake it on, rocking on and on, break of dawn.  Get on my level.

Made possible by Missy Elliott,  E40, Digable Planets, A Tribe Called Quest, Jimi Hendrix and Wiz Khalifa.

Vignette: Echinacea

Image not modified using software; Taken 8/23/14 at 11:28AM EST
F-stop: f/7.1
Exposure time: 1/200 seconds
ISO: 200
Auto white balance
with Nikon D7000 body and Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens

Robin was in town this summer, and I headed with Brian and Scott to do a little tenting in Mackinaw City.  We stayed at TeePee and ventured to the island for a day of fog shrouded hiking.

These Echinacea flowers were from a residential neighborhood near the sports park and high school fields on the island.  The coloring on the petals was vibrant and they had clearly seen some fauna love, evidenced by the state of the edges.

Use of f/7.1 gives the photograph some depth and strata, with petals and stamen in focus.  The light was pretty diffuse because it was so cloudy and foggy.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Vignette: Manistee Galaxies

Image not modified using software; Taken 9/25/14 at 10:03PM EST
F-stop: f/1.8
Exposure time: 8 seconds
ISO: 1600
Auto white balance
with Nikon D7000 body and Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens

The field of stars here is another image from my professors' 80 acres in Manistee, MI.  This was taken from my campsite.  After taking some photographs at the lake I headed back to gaze in my chair before bed, away from the droves of mosquitoes.

Earlier in the summer in Mackinaw City at a Dark Sky event, I was shown where to find the Andromeda Galaxy, M31.  I dutifully returned to find it in this pristine bit of dark sky.  Not only was I rewarded with a sighting of Andromeda (bright smudge high and left of center), but I discovered later at my computer that I had also captured the Triangulum Galaxy, M33, by accident (dim smudge center, near bottom).  See if you can find it.

This image uses the same settings as my Lake Olga Milky Way photograph.  You can see some stars beginning to trail in the corners, upper left in particular.  Some of the brighter stars in the center make up the constellation of AndromedaOne can use these as signposts to find the location of the galaxies.

Vignette: Mackinac Island Harbor Blues

Image converted from RAW to jpeg in ViewNX 2; Taken 9/18/14 at 10:42AM EST
F-stop: f/8
Exposure time: 1/250 seconds
ISO: 100
Auto white balance
with Nikon D7000 body and Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens

This fall I camped with my parents and friend Cam in Mackinaw City.  It was my first vacation after graduate school, and our first time fall camping on the Straits.  Chilly and delightful.

We found the B&B that a friend of my father was staying at with his wife and this was a view of some docks off the back of it.  It was such a cool, clear day and the moors were so, so empty.  The contrast with summertime bustle struck me right away.

Most striking though were the hues of blue that plastered themselves on any surface they could.  The dock paint contrasted with the water, contrasted with the sky and clouds, contrasted with dock paint.

Vignette: Drizzly Lake Cadillac

Image not modified using software; Taken 12/27/14 at 1:56PM EST
F-stop: f/11
Exposure time: 1/4000 seconds
ISO: 6400
Auto white balance
with Nikon D7000 body and Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens

My family and I went to do some XC skiing in Cadillac this Christmas break, but ended up geocaching in the rain instead.  We were driving along the channel between Lake Cadillac and Lake Mitchell when I stopped for this photo.

It was soggy, wet, cold and windy.  Alas, I was the only one who wanted to stand outside.  I wouldn't necessarily recommend these settings, but I wanted to boost the contrast between the open water on the lake and the ice that the crazy fishermen were risking their lives on.  The graininess is an effect from the high ISO setting combined with short exposure time.

I like how the photograph ended up being somewhat old timey and how the patterns in the ice were accentuated.

Vignette: Lake Olga Milky Way

Image not modified using software; Taken 9/25/14 at 9:19PM EST
F-stop: f/1.8
Exposure time: 8 seconds
ISO: 1600
Auto white balance
with Nikon D7000 body and Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens

I made this image while tenting for a couple nights in Manistee, MI on 80 acres that a professor of mine at Calvin owns.

Conditions were nearly perfect: the moon was new, Lake Olga is in the middle of private and federal forest land away from cities, and the humidity was fairly low that day.  This photograph was taken well after dark.

Though invisible to my eye, an 8 second exposure was still enough to pick up some lingering rays from the setting sun, below the horizon.  This allowed for some color in the sky and clouds, yet was dark enough to expose the Milky Way in the southwestern sky.

Exposing for longer than 8 seconds with my 35mm lens would start to cause star trailing, so I kept it to a minimum.  As your focal length increases, you will need to decrease your exposure time in order to avoid the trailing effect.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Local/global missions

"Famine, affluence, and morality" (2008 post, UMD summary) has informed my thought process on the necessity of philanthropy and aid. We are bound by morality to care for those that need. I would further stipulate that Christians have a greater call not based in morality, but grace. Echos of a divine gift. Given the myriad need, painfully evident, how do we balance global and local efforts?

Is that a question worth asking? Each community has its own needs and its own resources. Some have more than others. This wealth/poverty gradient tends to guide giving. If everyone carried out the conclusion that Singer comes to, we wouldn't need to have this decidedly capitalist conversation. Be that as it may, missions organizations must consider opportunity costs.

And suddenly we are met with a value question. Who is most worth it?

Placing effort and resources in developing nations seems like it would be the obvious choice because of the larger gap in standard of living. But how effective and efficient is this? Do foreign organizations properly understand the needs at the local level? How important is it to be part of the community being served?
On the other hand, we know much more about the needs in our communities we live in, but the cause may not seem as mighty or desperate.

In striking a balance there really can't be a right answer.  I think local and global missions serve different purposes.

Global (or efforts outside of one's own community) mission tends to have a huge impact on the folks who leave their environment to enter into another community to give.  It leaves a mark.  People change after these experiences.  Whatever value they may impart to the new community in service is dwarfed by the person they become after seeing realities that are raw, broken or harsh.  It gives perspective.  Many come back and explain it this way: "they blessed me more than I blessed them."  Cliche phrases aside, perspectives shift.

Local mission on the other hand is done in one's own community, a known place.  It might not be sexy, you probably won't fly thousands of miles to face culture shock.  One doesn't need to go far to find people that need Jesus.  No matter how far you go though, mission validates another human being--it assures that something isn't right in that place.  Proximity is powerful.  How valuable is an assurance from a neighbor?  Very, I think.

I don't think balance is something to worry about.  Local and global mission drive each other and reinforce both efforts--something I've observed and been involved in directly.  In fact, David Mathis at describes it as a seamless garment.

The garment is worth it.

What's your perspective?  Is there a balance to be struck?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Lyrics and singing in worship

Singing loudly and sincerely in worship is one of my favorite things.  I developed the love during LOFT on Sunday nights as a student at Calvin and never looked back.  Singing is a very emotional experience--the voices of those all around you fill the space with melody and harmony.  The sound washes over you.  In fact, it's easy to get caught up while singing in worship.  And it can be both good and bad.

To be caught up in worship of the Creator is a beautiful thing.  To be caught up in singing the words to a catchy, well written song is an entirely different thing.  It is the latter that I struggle with.

It's important to think about the lyrics--even to go as far as to periodically stop singing, to listen and evaluate.  Do I mean every word that is displayed on the screen?  Is this my honest prayer?

Most of the time I mean the things I say.  So I find myself stopping, listening.  I consider the words coming out of my mouth--do they track?  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  If I sang every word I ever saw on the screen during every service I attended, I would be a liar.  And I have been a liar...a well meaning liar.  Perhaps you have too.'s hard to feel an emotional connection while thinking about intention and meaning.  Emotion is part of worship because we are emotional beings.  There is value to it.  Striking the balance between intention and emotion in worship may be difficult, but I think it is important if we hope to bring glory to and find delight in God through our worship.

Monday, February 09, 2015

8 ways lists enrich our lives

This is a poorly conceived "meta analysis" of "list 'culture'" on the "internet" "cir"ca 2014/2015.  Navigate the following list-about-how-awesome-lists-are at your own peril.
  1. Lists give us a reason to use ordinal numbers in a way that disrespects rank because it's rendered meaningless.
  2. The fine folks at buzzfeed keep their jobs, and unemployment numbers stay down.
  3. We validate ourselves and determine what kind of people we are based on another person's conception of group characteristics, despite a total lack of expertise in the list maker.
  4. Lists allow us to make "No true Scotsman" judgments of others.
  5. We can learn exciting new things about ourselves, such as which Disney Princess best represents the condition of our liver/kidneys/spleen.
  6. Lists free us from reading long prose by breaking text up into bitesized portions, contributing to our soundbyte-ridden-culture-of-noise that promotes smaller attention spans.
  7. We are able to avoid human contact in public places and transit by staying glued to our scintillating phones, pretending to be in conversation or communication, though conveniently engaging ourselves in short bursts via list format.
  8. Because I love them.
In conclusion, lists are bae and I need them to navigate the confusing place that the 21 century is becoming, and the way the world has been since 1989.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Blind faith

An upsetting observation I've made in Christianity today has to do with the concept of blind faith.  Specifically, I take issue with the value placed in blind faith--the idea that true faith must be blind.  This is touted both by fundamentalist Christians and by members of the new-atheism movement.

The opposite seems more likely.  Faith that results from curiosity and questions and dissatisfaction has been tested and proven.  It has dimension and reason and conflict.  Faith borne of struggle has been places and is dynamic.  Faith with a history is compelling--it has a narrative and a song that it sings.  In many cases, it has almost died.

Is trust more profound if it proceeds from a refusal to engage or approach?  That's never the case.

Does it mean that we don't believe God, or that we're suspicious?  It can.  But maybe it means that we honestly just don't understand all that God is, and that through questions and doubt, we can wrap a little bit of our brains around her/his attributes.

I don't want the church to be satisfied with letting others do our thinking for us.  The pastors I know welcome questions.  They love conversations about tough doctrine.  Pastors are probably ok if you don't take their word for it.  Because they study the Bible, they probably want you to as well.

The FaithFacts article is superb, and I like what they have to say:
God has not told us everything there is to know, but He has told us enough with which to navigate existence.
I'll leave off with an interesting metaphor from Stand to Reason:
The good news about faith is that God honors even the smallest amount. When I fly around the country, I see both seasoned travelers and first-time fliers. The businessmen are relaxed, almost bored, at the thought of flying 500 mph at nearly 40,000 feet above the earth. The grandma on her first flight, however, grips her armrest like her life depends on it. Although the seasoned traveler has more trust (faith) in the airplane, both passengers safely arrive at the destination and at the same time. Their outcome is the same, regardless of how large or little their faith in flying.

Got Questions?         |         Summit         |         FaithFacts         |         Stand to Reason

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Faith, confidence and criticism

What does it mean to be confident in your faith?  Confidence in faith sounds like an oxymoron.

Faith is a trust.  It means you are at an information disadvantage and someone has claimed an idea that you cannot personally verify.  And you give them your credence.

I have faith in God.  God is an untestable hypothesis.

What gives me confidence in a concept such as God then?  See Hebrews 11.

1. Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see.
2. For by it the people of old received God’s commendation.
3. By faith we understand that the worlds were set in order at God’s command, so that the visible has its origin in the invisible.

I don't like the idea of being convinced of something that I have no evidence for.  But, I still follow Jesus.  What it comes down to, is that I accept the Bible and the God that is written about in it.

The Bible is a weird book, and I kind of like that about it--full of disaster, calamity, betrayal and love, it doesn't hide much.  My trust is that the God presented in the Bible is real, invisible yes, and honest in his interactions with humanity.

I trust that the story in it about God and her/his followers is true.  I believe that God called a group of Israelites to follow him and that he calls us too.  I like reading about the way the people of old explained who and what God is, and I think that we still try to do that, with our own paltry metaphors.

Faith shouldn't stop us from struggling though.  There is space to be critical of the Bible and of God.  In fact Jacob wrestled with God and then received the name Israel, becoming in essence the first ruler as the father of the twelve tribes.  Kind of an odd turn of events after a struggle with God.

Struggling and questioning only makes having faith harder--depending on your questions, nigh on impossible.  But to me that gives it added dimension and so much more meaning.  So, have confidence, have faith, have questions and have doubts.  You're still welcome at the table.