Daggers

You there? December just called. It wanted its gimmick back.

It said, October, what the (expletive deleted)?! You have Halloween! You freaking have falling leaves and back-to-schools! You even have your own rains! Why are you stealing my thunder!?

October could just sit there coolly and not care less.

Coolly might be an understatement though. October’s defying all patterns known to and loved by psychologists and meteorologists.

The leaves and still here, and half of them are still green. The temperatures change every day, but this has taken the cake:

7462350A-A002-4F4E-BE75-B6B41531F0E2

The first snow showers, in October. It was admittedly more like a few chunks of ice, but you see the one piece that doesn’t belong here, don’t you? It’s only still October! My sister back home is sweltering in the plus thirties, and here, there are ice daggers falling from the skies. It’s ridiculous. It’s October.

And all the chemistry they taught me was a lie. Water doesn’t freeze at zero degrees. It froze at four (to be fair, ice does melt beyond four, but). All those benzene rings, for nothing. All that hyperconjugation and moles of pain for nothing. All those wasted chemistry puns.

Fuck you, high school chemistry, and no deleted expletives.

If you want me, I’ll be in the corner crying in denial and writing more chemistry poetry.

For real though, it’s my first time in the snow, so you’ll probably find me out at four in the coldest hour of the morning hunting for ice shards with a ridiculous determination on my face (it was only 9 PM, but that’s exactly the state my friend found me in, so it’s no exaggeration!)

I dunno, should I say happy fall, like I usually do? It’s more like ‘kiss your expectations goodbye’ now…

So happy curveballs, y’all!

Just for the record, that tree is losing leaves like I’m losing steam.

FD759E73-39BD-4E7D-8BB0-3EADDAE493F2
It doesn’t look all that bad from one angle…
A6927E38-248E-4A57-A9B4-BBDAC02DBAE3
But just wait till you get to know its other side. 

Quite like a certain someone I can think of.

Complex Lullabies

Looking back on school makes you wonder how many of the things they’d told you  about it were really true. It seems to me like a lot of times, myths seem to get away with their trashtalk just because in between hearing them and living your school life out, you don’t really get much time to think about them. (No, the time you spent whining about them doesn’t count.) You hear them, get busy living a completely different life, and then realise one day well past graduation that certain high school stereotypes were, well, unproven myths.

Heck, either that, or I was just a science student. That’s my one label to hide behind and blame for everything including something as trivial and unsuspecting as “My tea tastes poisoned” (long story for a day you’re up for some physics).

I digress here, but chemistry is all about the exceptions. Us failed chemical sugar bombs are no exception [or wait… would that then be ‘we are exceptions’?  Aargh, language conventions! Don’t tell my English teacher. I bribe you with a picture of the structure of meth.

Image result for structure of Methamphetamine
C10H15N

Us science kids were sort of exceptions to the high school stereotype. You thought the nerds, the jocks, the queens and the means were what you’d find in a typical grade 12 classroom? You’re wrong—we only have zombie versions of these.

 

The only stereotype that did fit us well was the absentee one. On the plus side, an empty class is a quiet one (well, relatively). On the flip side, it kind of defeated the purpose of school and had me carrying a 300-page Iron Man survey notebook for nothing… but apart from the last bit, those were teachers’ opinions, what zombie am I to judge?
PS: We didn’t have absentees though. Only zombie-absentees. We’ll let them loose on the city this Halloween… by which time, the first semester of college would have kicked in and they’ll be powerful zombies in the truest sense. Get out your cameras, filmmakers! The Rise And Pillowfall Of The Zombies will be premiering live (how ironic) this fall. Coming to a school near you. Mwahahahahahahaa!
Spoiler: This is the climax of the movie.

But yep, one high school legend that’s a truth is that high school will turn you into a sleepwalking insomniac. (Yes, that is a thing.)
I don’t know if it’s possible to catch up on four years’ worth of sleep, but my little sister, only just beginning high school, is already showing insomniac tendencies. It’s going to be a long four years.
[In other news, I am absolutely shattered that insomniacal is not a word. What happened to building a varied and diverse dictionary? They really are squeezing multiple meanings (as a noun and as an adjective) out of a single word… it’s ‘1984’ all over again!]

Anyway, I was talking to her about her math last night. She’d spent a few hours on some last-minute English homework she’d remembered. No one remembers English homework until it’s real late. It’s 1 AM. She’s due up at 6. But she’s a school-zombie. Not a very graduated one, I’ll grant her that; 3 AM was my timezone, and 2 AM was thermodynamics’, but she’s owning 1 too. On a random whim, I tell her what math lies in store for her. Circles, proofs, volumes, ‘angles in semicircles are always right’ (by which I meant 90° of course, not correct. But if you’d rather try that reasoning in your proof, I won’t stop you. It’s your bragging rights.), complex numbers, the redefinition of the ‘imaginary’.

“Mmmhm.”

I began to tell her about the trigonometry that followed up in two years, a personal favourite of every emotionally shattered high school kid… second only to calculus.  I started talking about the fifty or so formulae you’d be buffeted by in nothing but your underwear. There also really are fifty, I kid you not.

The next scene is straight out of the Saturday morning cartoons, but I hear a snot-filled snore. Our neo-high school zombie-borderline insomniac is asleep in a record five minutes.

Hey, it could be the English homework or the weird human thing you date for all your student life called ‘exhaustion’, but I’m selfish, so I’ll pawn off all the credit.

Following that, out of sheer perverse habit like the true student-zombie I’ve become, I sat in torchlight and drafted this post till 2.

Up In Smoke

There was an idea, a seemingly foolproof plan, that had lurked in my head for a while. During the last few months of school, I’d been thinking of trying to study in the hours that no one was around to disturb me– early morning and late at night. At least so far, there’s no construction at 3 AM!
The only reason my foolproof plan kept failing was that I couldn’t sleep in the day.

Regardless though, I’d been taking to the night. Four years ago, I couldn’t have possibly stayed up past one. But I think, when I look back on my high school years, I may just associate 2 AM with thermodynamics. Go figure.
Unless I am super distracted, in which case I give up at 2 and go to sleep, at least the studying at night part of the plan still doesn’t fail me. (One minute… I’ve done nearly zero studying since school ended, this statement has no evidence backing it up.)

But as always, there’s an exception to the rule, and I’m not even talking chemistry.
Mum sometimes checks up on me if she momentarily wakes up at night. Sometimes she gets me a water bottle or yells at me to go to sleep (“it’s already 3 AM!”) or comes with the dreaded question: “Did you/Will you have your milk?”
This one particular night though, she decided, after checking up on me, to make something to eat, possibly for my sister’s tiffin the next morning.
She wouldn’t tell me. Maybe it was one of the protein powders she’s trying out on my sister. I’d know if I heard her scream the next day.
I was sitting with some chemistry, only half awake. I’m scribbling down reactions of burning salts, high ignition temperatures and product gases when I smell smoke.
I realise it’s probably too late in the night. So I glance at the clock for permission to leave, and it laughs back in my face.
It’s only 12:30 AM. What?
So I get up and go outside to grab a bottle of water.

There’s actually smoke, I can’t hallucinate a smell and cough! I frown.
My turn to check up on mum.
Mum says, don’t open the kitchen door.
I say, someone outside’s burning something?
Mum says, I was cooking…
I realise something.
You burned something? I ask.
“If you need a water bottle, take it from outside.”
“What were you cooking?” I ask.
Mum doesn’t answer that.
“I thought it was late, I’ll do it tomorrow.”
“But what could you possibly have burnt this late at night?” But she won’t say.
I begin to laugh. This could end up worse than mystery meat! In that moment, I forgive my sister for everything.
Smoke on the water
A fire in the sky

Man, mum makes it possible!

The laughing soon turned to coughing though, and I had to open every window in the house. Diffusion of gases. Middle school chemistry.

I did eventually return to my (new and improved) high school chemistry, only to find that it was 1 AM. Half an hour? My foolproof plan nosedived out the window.
I remember sitting down with a sigh, thinking, ‘spoke too soon’.

The Next Day…
The Burnt Magic Potion had revealed itself.
It was a mixture, just as I’d suspected. Like mystery meat though, I don’t know what it is. I can’t know the ingredients, that’s just the way it is. Of course, I only came to know from the scream.

As I sat with a chemistry text book, I heard coughs and screams. By the time I rushed out to see who needed a paramedic though, no one was there. My sister, the lab rat, was in the bathroom, possibly puking. What she’d left behind was a sight to behold.

It looked like a scene straight out of Trainspotting.
There was disarray at the table, some spilt liquid (water), overturned glasses, oh, and powder. A lot of powder, sprinkled over the table like someone had recently had a hurried session. All I needed to do to complete the scene was draw the curtains and darken the room.
I didn’t stick around and sniff though, but headed back to my chemistry books. [Fun fact for geeks and junkies: this chemistry text book of mine almost teaches you how to prepare herion, codeine and morphine. Almost. I know the structures. It’s under a section called “Everyday-life Chemistry. Come talk to me. 😉 ]
I did later hear something about puking up breakfast. The Magic Potion’s done it’s job, I’d say!

Sherlock’s In A White Lab Coat

They blindfold you and hand you a substance.
Then they start a time bomb and set it for three hours.
The countdown begins, the clock’s ticking, your life depends on it, any moment, your beaker might explode.
You have got to find out what they gave you.

You’ve been framed, and you know it. All the evidence stands against you.
There is only one way you can prove yourself: take the interrogation.
They’ll try to trick you, they’ll try to break you, it’s up to you to stand by your word and worth.
They have all the records.
But you might have the answer… Or a doughnut.
You’ve one chance to win… Can you acquit yourself?

Alright, so they maay not blindfold you. But apart from that, I’ve described our chemistry practicals.

We have a test where, like I mentioned above, you’re given a beaker full of mystery liquid, and you must find out what’s in it.
Sherlock’s got work to do.
Sniff it, (don’t) taste it, run tests on either it, or your buddy. But solve the mystery.

One of the possible organic compounds we could be given is an alcohol.

Yes, no one talks about it, but most of us are under-18.
Can’t tell them that, though.
Besides, phenols are kinda banned too.
Not in our lab, though―anything’s possible if you just try!

So, back to the alcohol.
We’re on a mission to identify the alcohol.
It’s a project I call Alcohols Anonymous.

But this is the prelude.
The real symphony is to be played tomorrow.
The apparatus is set.
There’s a look in the glint on the beakers and test tubes’ glass that says, See you there. The final chemistry practicals begin.

Tomorrow’s the big day.

Tomorrow, Sherlock will smoke a pipette in a white lab coat, and alarm bells may ring.

The game has begun!

When Alarm Bells Ring

I’ve pretty much been leaving myself Post-It’s all over the house. I swear, if I expanded base to the whole city, we’d practically be living  in a Paper Town.

Our walls are practically caking with paper now. Once when we were out of space, I grabbed a permanent marker and left myself a note on the glass to conduct a survey. Of course, when it was done, I ethanoled it off. Deodorant’s honestly more handy this way!
Hey, science student here.
Not surprisingly (and I mean that), I learnt this neat trick from a lifeskill teacher.

It has happened on more than one occasion in school that I’ve drawn or written a preparation reaction for a bomb without knowing. IUPAC’s doing a good job, replacing all well known names with less dangerous-sounding ones!
Some are more obvious, of course.
2,4,6-trinitromethylbenzene, anyone?
(It’s TNT, just for the record.)

There was this once when we were in the chemistry lab at school, doing salt analyses.
My lab partner and I have a penchant for, well… living up to the crazy-haired dudes-in-white image: being a bit excited.
Now, we don’t really screw around or try dangerous reactions as such, but we’ve broken a test tube or two and set off the smoke alarms a few times in the lab.

Not in the recent past though, half owing to the fact that we’ve pretty much had exams going on ALL of last month; I had a printed calander of the month of November, and guess what, it was my test schedule. Another reason why there have been no sirens was because the last time we entered, last week, the alarms are in our chemistry teacher’s head. We had one of the most confusion-filled, messed up practicals, and they were our mocks, prelude to the real deal… It’s a story for another day. It was tragic, but hilarious.

Basically, my mother is probably glad that an unmonitored kid at a college far away has not picked chemistry as her major.

So it was a salt analysis that we were doing that day, and my partner and I were trying to live up to our reputation without being kicked out of the lab. (hasn’t happened yet, but I have a hunch that the day it does, the smoke alarms will be more than the more the culprit the us…)

It was a salt that was confirmed with the 2,4-DNP test, it gave either a colour change or a precipitate, and I think it was orange… I need to do that again, don’t tell my chem teacher. All of chemistry in about 15 days, and chemistry isn’t all I study, no no no. To add to that, I’ve recently gotten addicted to James Veitch’s scam email-reply gigs, and at 3 minutes a vid, they’re the perfect length and are perfectly hilarious.
In short, no Christmas for me.
[I think I’d written this before Christmas. This is what happens when I pencil stuff down. It can take ages to put it up!]

So we were doing the DNP test, and the very existence of the DNP in our lab intrigued me. See, I’d done some research when I was bored studying chemistry.
DNPB, or the 2,4-dinitrophenyl group has been around for a while. The Germans use it as gunpowder—combustable and explosive. It fell out of use after that, though, until America rediscovered it in the 80s.
The key word here is combustion.
DNP would raise the temperatures, and an America grappling with obesity woes saw promise in that.

Soon, DNP pills had the market floored, and guess what, they did work, after all, it was only the application of a principle.
DNP caused combustion and raised metabolic rates, and so people began running through their bodily reserves much faster. DNP became the wonder pill the country had searched for for decades.
And then the overheating came to light.
Risks of death were turning out to be pretty high for DNP takers. Of course, it isn’t until you try it out for a few that results and effects actually show. So most people only say the fat-fighting wonders of the pill and made a frenzy for the pharmacist’s. The risk stats came later. One person was believed to have literally cooked to death: his body hit a whopping 43 degrees Celsius, he roasted.

Sure enough, the substance was banned. And here it was, in our chem lab.
Never mind the hot, concentrated hydrochloric acid and sulphuric acids (that we use on a regular basis and have a few lab coat holes because of), there was an explosive in our lab!

(About the HCl, don’t ask how many times people have accidentally swallowed it (in its dilute form, thankfully) while pipetting it out for titrations.
’Adventures In the Chemistry Lab’ ought to be a multi-seasonal television series in its own right. Maybe I’ll do it someday.
Season 1, Episode 1: We Are Bot Responsible For Your Death! (Though We Will Attend The Funeral). [True story. Grade 11, pracs session 1]
Episode 2: No, a Jacket Will Not Substitute For Your Lab Coat!
Episode 3: Brrring, Bbriiinng, Briiinngg… [smoke alarms]
Episode 4: Please Pass the Salt

Episode 10: …Briinng, bringg, brinnggg… No One Cares Anymore.
Season Finale: Can This Batch Pass the Prelims?

Season 2 Premier: A New Batch Arrives!
(Liner notes: Thank god, the last batch made it out… we need more salt!))

So I went around the lab educating people with droppers filled with DNP solution, of the explosive potential of DNP.
At the rate I’d hyped DNP up, I had almost expected something to happen when one drop of DNP fell into my test tube…
But it only just turned orange.
Not even a smoke alarm went off that day.

Speaking of which, our final Board practicals begin next week, complete with an external examiner; that’s when the smoke alarms will really ring!

A+, A-Rated

So I gave a Chemistry paper today.

I know. I overuse the word, don’t I?

“Chemistry” is one of the first words in my suggestions bar.

But such is life… chemistry papers have been overusing me!

But I did give a paper today, and I’m here and alive.
Hooray.

But the interesting thing is what I noticed today. We had two sets of papers, just like we will in the finals.
Set A and Set B.
We were asked to indicate our question paper’s set next to the subject blank.
So it looked like this:

“Subject: Chemistry (A)”

Now, if you ask me, that looks more like a movie name with the rating indicated in brackets.

So chemistry would be an A-rated movie.
And sitting there with interlocking benzenes on my desk, I thought to myself, how true is that?

I mean, it’s got everything, it’s got figures, it’s got “mild character(istic) violence” (have you been in a chemistry lab? Dropped a reactive metal in acid?), it has action, some foul language (picture: trying to talk after a mouthful of hydrogen sulphide. Rotten eggs. Ever accidentally swallowed concentrated hydrochloric acid?), it’s got nudity (ask a horrified chemistry lab teacher after half her batch left their lab coats at home); it’s a perfect fit. Lock and key. Like an enzyme- and I got carried away. Apologies.

So I chuckled a little about it, and then got to work. And got screwed, but made it out from inky hell alive.

Fun day, huh. But in the end, when the massive reactions get you down, it’s the small things that keep you going. And that’s what this was all about.

This Is All I Have Left To Say

paranitrotoluene.jpg

(Masterpiece, eh?)

I was doing chemistry.

By the way, I am studying. Don’t take this for slacking. Unless I have something pretty massive to say, I’ll try to keep a low profile… just for two weeks!

It’s that time of the year again.

PS, happy new year! I know I’m the worst person to ask the date to at the moment, it took me two days to realise we’ve crossed 2017. I’m not ready for 2018. Not yet!

Yaletide

Christmas has come and gone

And I never knew what was going on

Until the next day’s dawn

When I looked up to see a purple sky

Then realised Christmas passed me by

Chemistry textbook kept me warm and dry

Before me lay a blank sheet

With an exclamation point that said incomplete

Forget Yuletide, I had a deadline to meet

Forget Yuletide in favour of Yaletide

Essay screen be your bride until those eyes have cried

With the old year my last reserved of sleep too may have died

But that’s alright

For there’s a friend in the still, slick black they call the night

Although the clock wouldn’t agree quite; what a sight

Officer, I hope this essay keeps you warm at night

… And an old, abandoned Chemistry textbook squeals with all its might…

Never mind

Life on rewind

Except rewind may bring back all the sleep we’ve left behind—

Coffee on my mind–

Coffee for two:

For one, with some sugar and a little hot

For the other, a charger plugged into a slot

For which the payment is a thought

… In the corner, an old, abandoned Chemistry textbook is left to rot…

But it will have its day (tomorrow)

Have the last say

And the last word will be chemistry’s

Specifically, on page five seventy three

And you may pick the best flowers for me…

But tomorrow.

For today, drown in the season’s greetings all around

Be happy, truly experience the consequence of sound

The click of laptop-typing ought to provide a lovely background

And if I don’t make it, we’ll say I tried

But till then, greetings for Yaletide.

(And an old abandoned Chemistry textbook slowly cries… andante.)

Chemocalypse

Have I reached Ground Zero?

Every time I say the words “I mean”, I hear “amine”.
Now, it’s one thing to mishear someone else talking. But when something that I’ve said sounds like something completely else to my own ears, I believe alarm bells go off.

The weird fact is that I am currently studying physics (and writing essays, but that’s English. And blogging… and I don’t know what that ought to be categorised as at this critical point in time.)

The only correlation I can find is the electrons. So I’m a nitro-powered highly charged mess.

Know what amine?

 

 

[Note: If you’ve been reading here for a while, my new ‘short’ posts might come as a bit of a surprise. Wasn’t I the one who kept rambling on and on? Well see, it’s the chemistry. It’s most compelling, in the electronegative sense. It has ulterior electro-motives. And I must surrender to its (-)I effect  will.

Once this nucleophilic tango reaches its crescendo and dies, I’ll be back and up to ds/dt (… apologies, I meant speed. Either my brain’s not working, or it’s overworking).

Till then, it’ll most likely be short rants. Or maybe a legit post?

As always, my excuse is that I’m underground. Something good ought to come out of this!]