Mischief Update: Turning It Up to Eleven

Looking back over recent entries on this blog, I realize that it’s all been rather touchy-feely around here.  Family visits, art museums, wildflowers, and all manner of fluff. Don’t for a moment think, however, that I’ve turned over a new leaf or gone soft or wavered at all in my determination to make the human female’s life a maelstrom of chaos and despair.  Far from it!  I’ve just been too busy to jot all the mischief down.  Allow me to rectify the situation.

I’m still thwarting most of the human female’s attempts to do her job in an expeditious manner. She had to order some rubber stoppers for some large vessels.  Now, the stupid things come in various sizes and with and without holes.  Did she need something normal like a one-holed size eight? She did not! She needed size 13.5. Not 13, not 14. 13.5. With two holes. She couldn’t find them *anywhere.*  No one had them in stock. I finally let her locate some online from Rubber Stoppers ‘R’ Us or some such and she was pleased to put in an order–with postage totaling more than the price of the goods.  And mmmm. That all-pervasive aroma of rubber goods never fails to cling to hands and storage.

There are just so *many* ways that purchasing can go wrong.  A quick trip to the pet store to buy crickets for the tarantulas to eat can turn into a second trip to have a cashier refund and re-ring the transaction to remove the sales tax, which the original cashier had been instructed to delete, and for which the human female presented the appropriate documentation. (I convinced the poor lad that he should jam the long Tax Exempt number into the customer phone number field on his little computer). And yes, the University will quibble over 8.25% of $2.40.

Toluidine blue.Toluidine blue.” Mellifluous words that roll on the tongue like a fine wine.  The human female ordered some last fall as part of the elephantine order.  And it didn’t come.  And it didn’t come.  And it didn’t come.  The human female called the Vendor Who’s Responsible to enquire as to its whereabouts and was informed that it was Still Going to be a While.  It was that same old story–the warehouse to which the order was directed was out, and there was no ability within the system to transfer the order to a different fulfillment center.  So, after some snarling and growling, the human female ordered some from a different vendor.  So naturally, the original order showed up two days later.

I’ve got proof–the Vendor Who’s Responsible thinks of the human female as an inanimate object:customer is an it

A large part of what the human female does involves safety. She very carefully transcribed and collated a bunch of student Lab Safety Agreements (that paper they all sign saying they won’t do anything stupid in lab, a document that effectively cuts the SAR (Stupid Accident Rate) by a solid 3%) and, under my direction, even more carefully locked the filing cabinet.  That Prep Staff did not have a key for.  I suggested dynamite, which would have been Eventful and Exciting, if a little iffy for the continued legibility of said LSAs, but someone eventually found a key, drat it. Oh, well, there was a nice half hour of tizzy, so I’m counting it as a win.

I do love the unicellular members of the Archaeplastida. The human female and her staff had to grow up several liters of Chlamydomonas, a little, single-celled green alga for one of the labs this semester.  People call me high-maintenance, but Great Frigga’s Corset, those little goobers are finicky! They need just so much light, but not too much. Perfect media to grow in, with just the right amounts of certain solutes.  *This* much agitation while in the growth chamber, but no more.  Apparently that last is particularly important. The students got to find out the hard way that if you jostle the carboy full of goobers just a smidge too much, they shed all their flagella and sulk in the bottom of the container. And then when they’re put into the let’s-see-how-well-they-swim-without-the-ability-to-photosynthesize-or-respire exercise, the students get to take data on a whole bunch of nothing much happening.  Meanwhile, another goober, Scenedsmus (one I am quite fond of, since it has horns at either end of the colony and is inclined to contrariness), steadfastly refused to interact with the gel-making chemicals in order to form perfect little algae pearls for the other part of the photosynthesis lab. The supposed-to-be-cutting-edge curriculum had to resort to the old-fashioned protocol, which involves punching little circles out of spinach leaves.  I like to keep the humans  humble.

I really can’t help myself–- meddling with experiments is just so much fun! Another of the students’ labs involved running gel electrophoresis, a process which is just loaded with variables that an enterprising man such as myself can meddle with.  Prep Staff’s test gels just wouldn’t run.  Or rather, they would, but the results looked like a toddler’s first attempts at finger painting and not like a neat set of crisp, glowy bands.  I actually lost track of how many times they had to re-run it.  More agarose in the gel.  Less agarose in the gel.  More DNA in each lane. Less DNA in each lane.  More DNA stain. Less DNA stain.  Placement of the stain in the gel instead of the sample (this actually works better.) Different reference ladder. Cue multiple very expen$I’ve orders to Let Our Nuclear Zaniness Abound (AKA, the Purveyor of gel reagents, AKA the company that keeps sending other people’s invoices to the human female).

Then there’s maintenance, which is a very fertile garden in which to sow seeds of mischief and nurture them to weedy fruition.  Take the countertops and backsplash in room 306, for example.  They were made out of an inferior particle board covered with laminate, and years of moisture from the sink and the steam from the autoclave had fashioned them into a warped, bulgy, separating, landscape reminiscent of the rolling hills of someplace noted for its hills.  The human female and all concerned parties started trying to schedule replacement sometime last fall.  I delayed the project multiple times with the room being needed for actual work, with shortages of the epoxy replacement countertop materials, and with the ever-present question of available funding.  Prep Staff emptied the drawers and cabinets for what turned out be a false alarm and had to put everything back.  There was a planning meeting about the whole thing that no one saw fit to tell the human female about, and the person at Slow, Silent, and Costly who was in charge of the project quit and didn’t tell anyone, so various balls were dropped there as well.  Good times!  When the work was FINALLY done I decided to have a little more fun.  The next day, everyone on the floor started asking that dangerous question: “Do you smell gas?” A lot of sniffing about ensued, and the general consensus was yes, everyone smelled gas.  In room 306.  SSC was called again and two fellows came out –but only because they had left some tools behind on the previous day.  Those two were summarily pounced upon and made to do the sniff test.  After much nosing about, they were able to figure out that during the counter installation, someone had bumped one of the riser pipes that feed the wall-mounted gas nozzles.  Behold– leaking gas! But no one could find the actual leak.   More sniffing.  Soapy water was brought and squirted about, and leaks were found in a couple of places. A drill had to be fetched.  At one point, there were THREE workmen, the human female, the Bio Department’s building proctor, the Assistant Department Head, and some of prep staff all in the little room.  Attendant thereunto was the annual discussion about whether or not a new autoclave is in the offing.  It was the same old story.  If someone else gets a new one, the human female can have a secondhand one from that someone else.  Maybe.  In theory.  Eventually, the circus packed up its monkeys and the taint of mercaptan was dispelled.  The human female deeply regrets that she was not the one who got to fill out the cheery How Did We Do? satisfaction survey for that one.  Six months or so from work request to putting the last bits of stuff back in the drawers.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.

More recently, I did some mischief that didn’t discommode the humans, though it caused some departmental consternation.  It was discovered that there was a sizable pool of water under one of the buildings, mostly from rain.  Now, there are two pumps down there to keep the basements from flooding, which is a good thing–-as long as they’re operational.  One pump was broken and the backup was out of commission as well, along with the alarm system that’s supposed to tattle when a swimming pool develops. While workmen were sloshing about trying to fix things, they discovered that there was a leak or two or three coming down from floors above (Reverse Osmosis water, sprinkler system, etc.)  It took a week and change to drain the swamp, during which time the cats that like to hang out under the building had to find drier accommodations elsewhere.

Several of the rooms in the human female’s tiny domain must remain within a fairly narrow temperature range, for the comfort of various finned or chitinous residents.  Over Spring Break, when the human female was trying to enjoy the fleeting visit with her mother and sister, I suggested to Slow, Silent, and Costly that it would be a good time to do some maintenance on the air handling system.  With the A/C out, the temperature in those special rooms quickly rose, and the human female got to deal with her phone going off with a TEMPERATURE ALERT! every ten minutes for the better part of the day.  Of course, no one was advised of the impending work beforehand. That would be cheating.

Throwing rooms off temp is such fun that I did it some more.  I had one of the walk-in coolers running nice and hot.  I do this on a semi-annual basis. It’s one of my favorite tricks, because if it looks as if it’s going to be hot for a while, all the contents have to be shifted to the other cold room. The human female and her cohorts do spend a lot of time shuffling materials from one place to another. Exercise!  It didn’t get fixed and it didn’t get fixed and it didn’t get fixed.  When the human female called Slow, Silent, and Costly to ask sweetly what the Hel was going on, she was told to call the head HVAC fellow, who was completely surprised to find out that there was any problem at all on the floor. I do my best work as a silver-tongued intriguer, but my obfuscation skills are every bit as good.

But in mid-March the human female was informed that the heating issue in room 322 from last November was fixed–and would she like to take a satisfaction survey?  Nothing like timely feedback, eh?  How about this?

SSC-survey from last year

Many points awarded for having fixed the problem soon after it was reported; minus several thousand points for communication.

And then— No, you know what?  My hand is cramping from writing all of this down!  I’ve been so bad this spring that I shall do myself an injury trying to chronicle it all at once.  More mischief update anon–I need to go find an ice pack.

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Completing a Mischief-Birthday Sandwich: To B. E. or Not To B. E.?

I started the week with mischief and spent the middle looking at art.  I think I’ll complete the mischief-birthday sandwich by making a little annoying surprise for the human female.

She has received a box. This is not out of the ordinary.  The box is from a manufacturer she has ordered things from before, which is also not out of the ordinary.


There is only one problem with this box.

She has not ordered anything from this manufacturer recently.   Examining the box reveals that it is full of TSA petri plates.  The human female says TSA stands for “Tryptic Soy Agar, a goopy jelly which is used as a general growth medium for the isolation and cultivation of microorganisms.”

She is very, very sure she has not ordered TSA plates.  Ever.

But something about this mischief feels familiar.  Ehehehe!  Look at her!  I can practically see the gears turning in her tiny brain.  I can hear a tinny grinding noise and she’s screwing up her face.  Almost has it… Almost has it…

And now she remembers:  Last fall, I arranged for a box of plates just like these to show up unordered and unannounced.   After a lot of poking and calling and thinking, she figured out that that batch actually belonged to B. E., a colleague who works in an entirely different building.  The Vendor Who’s Responsible had simply pulled the human female’s name out of its hat as Someone in the Biology Department who often Orders Things and slapped it on the box.

A quick call to B. E. confirms that yes, ladies and gentlemen, at my behest, the Vendor Who’s Responsible has done it again.  Many of their products–such as this one–ship directly from the manufacturer, meaning that there’s one more step along the purchasing path where information can go astray.  The vendor, Hardly Diagnostic, is still laboring under the impression that the human female is the only person who ever orders from them.

So here comes B. E. now, to retrieve her parcel and reveal to the human female more details of my mischief.  First, since the wrong recipient was indicated on the box the last time B. E. made this order, this time she asked the Department’s purchasing officer to make the order for her, so that it would not look like a repeat order from B. E. and hopefully not go to the human female again.  Ha!  I have hexed the purchasing officer’s office as well, and Hardly Diagnostic just once again pulled a random Biology Department address from its collective bum and sent the box to the human female.

Because that worked so well last time. 

Second, the human female has noticed that the actual P.O. number is actually on the outside of the actual box.  B. E.  is telling the human female that she has ONE ongoing, open P. O. with the Vendor Who’s Responsible.  One. P.O.   As in “can just call them up and tell them to put any/everything on that one P.O. number.”

The human female is sitting here with her mouth hanging open, which, let me tell you, is NOT a good look for her.   She is imagining a future with just one lovely P.O. number for all her dealings with the Vendor Who’s Responsible, and now I am so torn.

On the one hand, I don’t want her to try to make the same arrangement with the V. W. R., because I really, really enjoy making her go through the whole process of getting a separate requisition number and P.O. number for every purchase.  But on the other hand, imagine all of the tangley mischief I could accomplish if I kept messing up her orders and every time she tried to straighten something out with the V. W. R., she had to refer to the same snafu’d, ever-more-convoluted mess of a mis-directed, mis-packed, mis-delivered, back-ordered, P.O. And all her scanned packing slips she sends to the bean counters would have the same P.O.  There’d be no way to match up invoices with orders, and she’d be a gibbering mess inside a fortnight…

Rats!  I hate it when I have two conflicting mischiefy ideas and can’t choose between them!

Oh, well.  I suppose I’ll let B. E. keep her one magic number and just keep having various vendors send all her stuff to the human female, and I’ll keep tinkering with the human female’s orders.

One doomed P.O. at a time.

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I Bet You Thought I Forgot! Part III: Turns Out There’s Other Stuff Here

Sigyn has finished looking at the (weird) majolica and the glass and  has joined me in looking at some of the artwork hanging on the walls. To say that it’s an eclectic collection would be an understatement the size of Tony Stark’s ego.

There’s a small portrait called “The Clockwinder.”


Sigyn likes the use of light and shadow, as well as all the detailing of the woman’s dress.  I think it’s a stupid outfit to do housework in, and a really dumb place to leave a cello.   I am also waiting for the woman to lose her balance and step right through the seat of that rush-bottomed chair.  Does no one think of these things but me?!

This next one is a lot less full of impending doom.  Lake, cabins, sailboats, someone running on a covered bridge.


See that fellow, Sigyn?  He’s rushing home because the people in the boats are friends he invited last week for lunch today, but he forgot he invited them, and now he has to come up with something to serve them that takes two minutes or less and that can be made with the contents of his larder and smokehouse.  I hope his guests like venison jerky and one shriveled up old onion.  Bachelors–they never have anything to eat on hand.

This next piece is actually embroidery and not paint.  That is some very fancy stitching!


The human female says that three-dimensional embroidery like this is called stumpwork.  What stumps me is how anyone has the patience to fiddle about with silk and gold wire and such or why they’d spend so much time on it.

Sigyn thinks the lion in the corner has a funny face.


I agree, Sigyn!  That’s one silly cat.  He has a Louis XIV hairdo and appears to be winking at someone outside the frame.  Naughty lion!  Who are you flirting with?  Or sizing up for dinner?  Better not be my sweetie!

Norns’ nighties!  There’s another embroidered lion over here!  We seem to be quite overrun with leones factus de sericum et aurum.

This one has a curly coat. The human female says that, when he was new, all those coils would have been bright, shiny, gold.


I think he looks worried.  Or maybe just uncomfortable.  He’s wearing a heavy, curly fur coat on a very warm day, maybe that’s it?

Or maybe…  Maybe the woman winding the clock is home alone in the cabin by the lake , and the man on the bridge knows this.  But he has seen two boats sailing towards the cabin, each one carrying a lion.  Even from a distance, he can tell that one of the lions is looking shifty and hungry, while the other one looks miserable.  Can he run fast enough to reach home before the lions do?  Will he make it in time to snatch up the cello, pick up the bow where he’s dropped it in the shadows somewhere, and play a soothing tune that will calm the amorous/carnivorous passions of the first lion and reassure the miserable lion?  Will they all live happily ever after in the house by the lake, dancing to cello tunes and listening to the clock strike the hours?  Will the worried lion look less fearful after he teaches the woman not to stand on unstable furniture?  

Will Sigyn finish looking at art and needlework and let me take her out to a birthday lunch?

We can only hope!

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I Bet You Thought I Forgot! Part II: In Which We Look at Some Actual Glass

Whew.  I don’t know about you, Sigyn, but I’m glad to be out of the room with the cockatoo pitcher and the fish pitcher!  Not to mention those dwarves and that egg!  Let’s look at something else, shall we?

And this is… something else.  Not quite sure what, but it is definitely something.


Augh!  More mutated majolica!  With an unsettling sanded texture.  WHY?  

And here’s another.  Bon bon dish?  Trinket basket.  Floral toe-shoe?

sanded basket

Oh, well.  Sigyn likes the forget-me-nots, which is what matters.

At last!  We have moved out of the majolica exhibit and into the part of the gallery that houses actual glass.

Sigyn is always fascinated by cameo glass.  We usually run into a piece or two here.  This one is very, very detailed.  How did the artist get two layers of glass to look like people, plants birds, fruit, and fabric?


I’ve offered to magic this beauty out of here and take it home with us as a birthday present, but Sigyn says needs to live here so it can make other people happy too.

We always finish up a glass trip with a look at the paperweight collection.  I think there must be hundreds of them, and they put them out on a rotation or something.  Sigyn likes the flowery ones best.


Such delicate work.  Simple.  Understated.  Classic.

This, on the other hand…


It’s an…urchin.  With bird.  And a feather.  And flowers.  Sorry, my love, but I do not see the point.  It’s your day, though, so look all you like—I’ll walk around and see what else is on offer that doesn’t make me want to gouge my eyeballs out…

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I Bet You Thought I Forgot! Part I: Perplexing Pottery

I bet some of you thought I forgot Sigyn’s birthday on the 12th.  Thor’s bitty ball-peen, people?  You’re dealing with one of the hugest, most formidable minds in the universe!  I most certainly did not forget.  I gave her a big bouquet  of birthday smooches, and today she is getting her present.

What did Sigyn want?  What she always wants!  We are visiting the ever-changing display of glass in one of the University’s museums.  I can take glass or leave it, but Sigyn loves it, and I love her, so here I am, looking at…

…what is it this time, dearest?  Majolica ware And that would be?  Oh, here’s a sign.  “Italian tin-glazed pottery dating from the Renaissance period.   It is decorated in colors on a white background.”  

Sigyn, it’s not glass.  But you still want to look?  By all means.

Hmm.  I think it started out in the Renaissance, but I think they must still be making it, because all of these pieces are much newer than that.  Some of them are pretty weird, though.


Giant egg?  Dwarves?  Straaaange doings on Nidavellir.

Sigyn likes this bird plate.


Great Frigga’s hairpins!  Apparently majolica-makers weren’t satisfied with putting birds ON the pottery, they had to make the pottery a bird!


I don’t think I’d want that psittacine pitcher psitting on the table and pstaring at me.  No, not even if it were full of Asgard’s finest mead, with little flakes of gold floating in it.

Apparently making majolica look like plants and animals is a “thing.”  Sure! Why not?  Let’s disguise all the crockery as vegetables.


I’ll admit, the pineapple jug is amusing, and Sigyn is quite taken with the cauliflower pitcher.

And I see that majolica is often self-referential.  Hence an asparagus dish that looks like…

asparagus dish

…asparagus.  Talk about a uni-tasker.  (Plus, I think that looks more like cigarettes than asparagus.)

Oh, wait, no–here’s the bizarrest piece in the display!  Behold!


The FISH PITCHER!   Guaranteed, by the power of suggestion, to make everything that comes out of it taste a little like cod.  Mmm.  Cod milk. Cod lemonade.  Cod smoothies… Urrrr.  Bleargh.

I was hoping to take Sigyn out for lunch after this, but now I’m not sure I want anything… Ever.

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And While I Am Down Here…

While I am down here in Room 303, showing you where I hid the human female’s ID card, I thought I’d do a little more mischief.

Room 303 is where most of the lab dishes get washed.  Test tubes, beakers, graduated cylinders–you name it, if it’s dirty, it comes here.

These tubs are full of spirometer parts.  Since people have breathed through them, they have to be soaked and disinfected to make sure no pestilence is spread.

gonna spit in the tub

In theory, this results in a sanitary experience for the next group of cardiopulmonary lab experimenters.

In practice, I always make it a point to spit in the spirometer-part-soaking-tubs, as part of my ongoing research into the effects of Jotun saliva on the cardiopulmonary health of university undergraduates.

I have reams of data to date.  Can publication be far behind?

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A Very Long Game of Hide and Seek

I may or may not have mentioned in one of my mischief updates that the gormless human female has lost not one but TWO University ID cards this semester.  I love when that happens, because a) going to get a new one is humiliating, since the card-giver-outers sit behind a tall bench on a raised dais and the card-seekers have to grovel below, peering up at them in abject supplication, and b) the human female feels like an idiot when she loses something.  I mean, she is an idiot, but it’s always fun to see her looking more than normally foolish.

So sometimes I “help” her “lose” things.

At any rate, one of her coworkers has discovered where I had hidden one of them.

found id

How did it end up here?  That is a very good question!

Back near the beginning of the semester, the human female was packing up plastic bags of cotton balls, one for each lab section.  When she was done, she gathered up all the remaining large bags (several thousand each) and replaced them in their cabinet down in room 303, the one full of cotton rolls, string, and such-like.

Guess she didn’t notice what else she’d picked up and stuffed away…

So congratulations, minion, you found missing card number one!  It only took four months.  The clock is still ticking on the second one…  Happy hunting!

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