Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: January, 2004

Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson – I suppose one could say this is an amusing read although I thought the biographer was putting on a too positive spin on the American icon who supposedly winks at us in humor. Sure Franklin was inquisitive and helped paved the way for electricity to be viewed as a science instead of something supernatural. Sure he was practical and rational in various pseudonymous guises like Poor Richard. And of course he was shrewd in various political dealings, all of which can be found in any comprehensive history textbook. But he was also a womanizer (there’s no proof that he actually had affairs aside from the one that produced his illegitimate son William, but he maintained many flirtatious relationships with young women) and emotionally cold toward his family (his letters to his wife and children were exceedingly practical, filled with advice and admonition). Perhaps most people with a superficial knowledge about Franklin would consider him a sage-like historical figure, but he was a complex character who often broke his own plain rules for living.

Dedicated or Workaholic?

There are some people who are always in lab, from seven in the morning to midnight, seven days a week, 365 days a year. It’s impressive that they can stay so focused without going mad. And it makes the rest of us look bad for wanting to take Christmas off.

In some ways, I feel like kicking myself because I’m not working as hard as they are, but I realize that I’m not a machine. Perhaps I would be accused of being a dabbler for not thinking about science all the time. But is it a weakness to go home during the weekend to think and do something else? At the very least shouldn’t people take time off to do household chores and call on some friends? Or maybe some people think being “normal” isn’t important.

A Morning Experiment

The other TAs and I decided to test a hypothesis. Normally, we sit in the back of the lecture hall and notice that all the seats around us are empty. Our theory was that the undergrads were avoiding us because we were TAs.

So today before lecture started, we sat in the middle of the room. If our hypothesis was correct, then we would be surrounded by empty seats as the undergrads tried to avoid us. We would be creating a zone of inhibition just as antibiotic spotted on a plate with a lawn of bacteria creates a clearing where the bacteria refuse to grow.

Our hypothesis wasn’t entirely correct. As the students trickled in to class, they first chose seats away from us. But when the lecture hall became more full and the students had to choose between a seat at the back or one more closer to the front and nearer to the TAs, they chose the seats around us.

I guess they made a wise decision because the prof’s microphone died in the middle of lecture.

A Conversation

TA #1: Hey, did you know he [the student] turned 21 yesterday?

Me: Wow that’s great!

Student: Yeah, well, it’s not that great. I feel old now.

Me: Wait a minute. You’re old? What does that make me?

Student: Over the hill.

* * *
Encyclopedia of Waxes. I stumbled onto this while trying to look for a definitive web source on molds. Google needs to shape up their algorithm!

Harmonia Macrocosmica. “Harmonia Macrocosmica, by Andreas Cellarius, is part of the Marriott Library’s Rare Book Collection. Printed in 1661, it is an atlas of the heavens as seen by the astronomers of the times: Copernicus, Ptolemy, Brahe, and Aratus.”

Amulet Archive. Actually, you can make an amulet out of anything, including your dirty socks.

Pyat’s Evil Fish Page. (via Pharyngula) Cool Lovecraftian fishies. I want one to hang next to my calendar.

Squeaky Clean? Not Even Close. They suggest using a microwave as an autoclave. Well, not exactly an autoclave, but you get the idea.

Thursday Threesome

Onesome- The happiest day: Tell us about the happiest day of your life.

I’m not that young, but I’m not that old either. If I already had a “happiest day in my life” I would have nothing to look forward to and you might as well kill me now.

Twosome- The happiest hour: What’s your favourite time of the day, and why?

Probably around 3 AM. That’s when I’m usually asleep and oblivious to the world. Unless I’m having a nightmare. Then I’ll have to say noon or whenever I’m having lunch. (It’s not that I don’t like the other hours, but what I do during those particular hours vary quite a lot.)

Threesome- Mine eyes shall see: What’s the one thing/place you would really like to see in your life?

The rest of the world as a not-so-stupid tourist.

Exam Disaster (Finale)

I guess I can talk about it now since the profs in charge of the course have informed all the students about the exam.

Apparently, the key to the exam instead of the exam itself got copied and handed out before anyone realized what happened. Some (or maybe most?) of the students looked at the first pages before the key was recalled. But of course, no one can control for such things and I’m positive at least one person smuggled out the key.

The students took the test anyway but the exam is not going to count toward their final grade. As one of the profs told me, “No one’s going to be penalized, but no one’s going to benefit either.” So the undergrads breathe a sigh of relief after a fiasco.

As for the TAs, well, we have to grade the dang thing anyway so the students will have feedback on how well they would have done and how we will grade it. Over 130 exams. And there are essay questions. I’m getting dizzy just thinking about it.

Exam Disaster

I wasn’t there to hand out the exam but from what I heard this morning, something horrible happened. I don’t think the honor code will be able to fix it and make the test “fair”. If anything, a new exam should be rescheduled. But what do I know, I’m just a TA.

Addendum: If you happen to be a student taking this course (and even if you’re not a student taking this course) and you’ve stumbled onto this website by accident, I can’t tell you anything else. Maybe after the term has ended. And if you’re a prof and you’re reading this, you can probably guess what happened.

Useless Calculation

So I was wondering how much time we spent in the bathroom all our lives. Well, assuming that on average, we’re in the bathroom 30 minutes each day and the average lifespan is 75 years…that’s over a year and a half spent in the bathroom.

* * *
Another Note

Don’t you notice that when someone unhinged comes along (or if someone among your usually level-headed acquaintences becomes unhinged) it throws a monkey wrench into your entire routine?

* * *

The Non-Expert: IKEA. I would totally play this (well, maybe play isn’t the right word, maybe laugh at) if it actually was made into an IF game.

Mouse Odometer. Cool toy, but to be honest, I wouldn’t want this on my computer in case someone looked over my shoulder and saw the numbers (which would be high). and (via Monkeyfilter) I find these things sort of creepy. I mean, the comments are fairly accurate (I looked up my high school and the university I did my undergrad at) but still…anyways, I also looked up my current college and the only professor listed that I recognized was the one I’m TA-ing for. Somebody had voted him as “hot” which I thought was a joke until it was pointed out to me that he bore an uncanny resemblance to one of those guys in the Yahoo! personal ads.


TA #1: “Oh, the poor dears.”

TA #2: “@#$%!”

TA #3: “Do you think we will be graded on this?”

Me: “Hey, I think I figured it out! Oh wait, never mind. This doesn’t make any sense.”

If the prof doesn’t change his questions, there’s going to be a huge curve on the first exam.

It would be nice if some people actually put something in the subject header of an e-mail instead of leaving it blank.

* * *

Look out! It’s a candidate. Dave Barry’s take on the hoopla in NH.

Ten Mistakes Writers Don’t See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do). I’ve heard of these rules before.

Brave New Babies. Actually now that I think about it, the concept isn’t exactly new. This technique only allows people with money to choose the sex of their offspring more easily. But people have been influencing the sex of their children for a long time–via abortion and infantcide.

World 66. Make your own map of where you’ve traveled.