Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: April, 2009

Soak Your Credit Cards in 10% Bleach

Today, somebody had posted signs in the restroom for washing hands etc. which really went well with the OMG-PANIC-PANIC-PANIC e-mail the university sent out earlier on the swine flu. Personally, I’m not especially worried, even if I am following the CDC’s twitter feed. If you already practice sanitary habits, then there really isn’t much else you can do.

Of course, there was the librarian who coughed on my library card before handing it back to me…

Cutting the Cheese

In an attempt to find places that sell certain reagents for an experiment, I found myself googling cheese making sites and surfing cheese making forums. The blabbering about cheese in the speech I made at my high school graduation takes on a whole new meaning.

* * *
Overheard, a little later:

Prof #1: Hey, you’re smiling!

Prof #2: Don’t read too much into it. It’s just gas.

Descent Into Boring

Sometimes, I think I have a chronic case of wanderlust. Maybe this was subconsciously imprinted into me when my parents took me all over Europe and southeast Asia before I could even form conscious memories. At some level, I am always itching to go somewhere; when I hear about people who never leave the town that they were born in because they like it there and have no inclination to see something else, I’m almost incredulous. I love collecting travel books from book sales, watching travel documentaries, looking up remote islands on the Internet. Whenever I’ve been faced with the necessity of moving, it was always to an unexpected place that I’ve never been to before.

Lately, I’ve been feeling restless. Wanderlust might be part of it, but there’s something more, too, in the sort of way that if I don’t do something soon, I’d be too old to do anything. True, this is silly thinking since age really isn’t a barrier. But still: it is a kind of horror to be cognizant that on some level, I’m wasting my life. I could easily fall into the trap of being complacent, comfortable, uninteresting even to myself.

It’s As If the Local Grocery Only Sold Cheetos

I’ve been bumbling around editors’ blogs recently and came across this observation:

“One surprise to me was that in months where there’s a huge release—a Harry Potter or a Stephanie Meyer—accounts are less willing to take big orders on other books because they’ve got so much cash tied up in the mega-bestseller.”

The nearest bookstore, I’ve noticed, has an entire shelf–around twelve feet wide and eight feet tall–crammed to capacity with a certain text of young adult sparkly vampire fiction. Maybe this is the reason why I went through every book selling establishment in three towns and two states the past couple of days just to find one book. (Of course, I could have bought it online, but I only do that as a last resort.)

I Am No One’s Secretary

I think it has finally sunk into people’s heads that I hate answering the phone if it’s for a Certain Post-Doc in the lab next door. Our lab and that lab share a phone line–I have yet to pry the reason why from anybody–and it always seems that 90% of the calls are for him. But he never answers the phone.

This week, other people have been rushing to answer the phone even though the confounded contraption is sitting right there on my desk. Callers, once recognizing me on the other side, have stated outright that they were not looking for this Certain Post-Doc. Still, I do not think it is the other people’s responsibility either. This Certain Post-Doc just needs to get his own cell phone like everyone else (heck, even I have one even though I hardly use it) and let his contacts know his new number.

Well, Since You Bring It Up…

Euphemism alert. Ha. I just came back from a seminar where the speaker was using the terms “anus” and “rectum” rather frequently (because the bacteria he works on likes to live there). An undergraduate noticeably cringed whenever the speaker said these words. The professor sitting next to the undergrad exclaimed afterwards, “I can’t believe he doesn’t like the word ‘anus’. We’re all biologists. It’s not supposed to mean anything special.”

I’d agree with that–if as biologists, we get all titillated whenever we mentioned an anatomically correct term in the context of scientific inquiry, we’d never get any work done. Then again everyone has their own little psychoses. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to ignore them.

Typical Geek Conversations

Undergrad #1: (hyperactively) Hey, tell me what you learned today!

Grad student: Um. I can’t really think of anything.

Undergrad #1: Oh come on. You must have learned something.

Grad student: Er…

Undergrad #1: You know what I learned today? I learned that cuttlefish are colorblind! Hey [Sya], did you learn anything today?

Me: Yeah. Icefish have clear blood.

(cut approximately 10-15 minutes where we try to one-up each other on how much “useless” trivia on marine biology we know)

Undergrad #1: So K*, are you sure you didn’t learn anything today? Or even yesterday?

Grad student: Er…

Undergrad #1: Didn’t you go to class today?

Grad student: Yeah…

Undergrad #1: What did you learn there?

Grad student: Um…TNF-alpha?

Undergrad #1: What’s TNF-alpha?

Grad student: …

Undergrad #1: Hey B*, what did you learn today?

Support scientist: You know what? I was looking up glutathione the past couple of hours because my brother called wanting to know about this drug that this guy was promoting. It’s supposed to give you more energy. I looked him up. He’s touted as being bigger than Jonas Salk, but he only has three publications on PubMed

(approximately 10-15 minutes of ranting about figure-head “scientists” who are all talk and no action)

Undergrad #2: (cutting in) You know what I learned? That I’m stupid. I keep doing these assays and I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere!!!


Grad student: TNF-alpha is tumor necrosis factor alpha. It can activate immune cells and cause apoptosis.

Undergrad #1: Thank you. That was exactly what I wanted to know.

*Not a real name. Or even a real initial.

Grow, My Pretties: Magnetic Poetry Ouija (A Haiku)

shake and incubate
use the apparatus there
for our tiny friends

Want to read more bad haiku? See here.

Yeesh, Did You Think I Wouldn’t Notice?

Apparently, I couldn’t register for the next semester because I “owed three thousand dollars for being an out-of-state student”. WTF, indeed. The people at the payroll office explained it away as a system glitch. I suppose I just should be glad that I managed to straighten everything out today.

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A fascinating bit of information I found out today: the university has to pay taxes that amounts to more than what they would pay an ordinary instructor if a tenure-track or tenured professor does not teach the “core” courses. However, if a professor teaches the core course rather than the instructor, the professor gets paid his going rate (i.e. more than the instructor), but then the university has to find someone else to teach the non-core class the prof would have taught if he didn’t have to teach the core course. And regardless of who teaches the non-core course, they get paid the same rate.

Also: all undergraduates are required to take the core courses. The students with high SAT and/or ACT scores are highly dissatisfied with those courses. The students with lower scores love them and find them valuable. Everyone (no surprise) thinks there’s too much homework.

The Microbe Takeover

A quote from A Chemical Sabbatical:

Microorganisms are better at making new and novel organic compounds than grad students. Soon, the only reason why faculty members will continue to hire grad students instead of microorganisms will be because grad students are usually paid less than what microorganisms would accept.

Damn. My chemist friends are going to be pissed.