This time, I think I’ll lead off with the fun I’ve been having with the human male. The electricals in the building he works in are the original ones–the main system hasn’t been changed since it was put in during the 1960s. Well, Slow, Silent, and Costly have been fixing this, swapping out something they call the “Switch Gear.” This has involved a series of planned power outages. The first was scheduled for a Sunday last December, and the human male had to go all over both halves of the building (which is sort of like a giant “U”) and make sure all computers were powered off, since when the power started up again, it could surge and fry things (I think that is funny; the human male does not.) Everyone else in the department just had to be logged off the server. Many of the faculty squawked, saying their work was Too Important to be interrupted and demanding backup generators.
Well, it started off all right—but about forty-five minutes into the outage, the backup generator–which SSC had supposedly checked and declared fit for duty–failed. Then, at the end of the outage, when all the servers were re-started, the department’s Web server failed to restart. Dead. Stone dead. He put a new drive into the array, but it wouldn’t format. He got home very late and very cranky and he and the human female missed their favorite annual Yule concert. He has been working since then on rebuilding and all of its files, but it is largely Error 404 Territory. Why not restore it from backups, you ask? Why indeed! That would certainly work—if I hadn’t corrupted the backups. The departmental Webmaster has had to recreate about a million files. The best part of this may turn out to be that the human female’s Lower Division Biology Image Library was a total loss as well. She’s got the spreadsheet that has all the data for the images. She has the images she has herself added. Buuuut all the other multiple thousand images are electronic toast. She can’t even recover things from internet archive sites, because they were all behind log-in passwords. I believe this is where mortals traditionally insert what they call “sad trombone noises.”
The human female has other woes, mostly as a result of a splendid new construct I have invented that is a cross between a shell game, a domino setup, a nuclear chain reaction, and trying to keep an unhappy octopus confined in a loose mesh sack. It all starts with the land-grab that Biology has wanted to make for years–the goal being the full or partial annexation of the second floor of the human female’s building. (Currently, only the third floor is their domain, plus one Anatomy and Physiology lab on the second. Remember that lab; it will figure into my tale shortly…) Well, at long last, this bids fair to happen. The Texas Transportation Institute will move to their new building on a satellite campus, then Kinesiology will move from the second floor of the human female’s building into the old, vacated TTI building, then the second floor will be remodeled, and Bio will get half of it. Hooray! Or, to be more precise, not hooray, because I suggested to TTI that their new building is insufficiently grand, so they have not moved. Because they have not budged, Kinesiology has not vacated, so the remodel has not commenced. Which would put everyone at least no worse off, BUT the Registrar was planning on the second floor being under construction this semester, so all the small lecture rooms on the first floor are vacant and unscheduled for the semester, since it was assumed that construction noise would be too much. Also, the Anatomy and Physiology labs from the second floor have been shoe-horned up onto the third floor, so the human female and her Prep Staff are short one room for the foreseeable future. A&P was given a room smack in the middle of the hallway, and only with great difficulty did the human female and her cohort get them swapped further down so they will not be in the middle of the Bio 111 rooms. It took even more finagling to get them changed in the online course listing–and it’s still not completely correct up there!
But that is only one loose thread in the Sweater of Horror I’ve been knitting. Usually in the spring, there are no Intro Bio labs on Mondays. It means Prep Staff has two days to set up all the labs (Friday and Monday) and that labs are not affected by the Monday holiday which honors one of Midgard’s triple-named heroes. Not this year! Because Intro Bio is short a classroom, there will be Monday labs, beginning at 8:00 a.m. As well, there will be three days of night labs and not just two, which plays merry Hel with staff scheduling.
To make matters worse, the triple-named-hero holiday is late this year. When it falls in the first week of the semester, no one minds, as there are no Monday labs and no labs in the first week anyway. This year, however, it falls in the second week of the semester, when there are labs, including on Monday. So the students in the Monday labs will have lab the first day of the semester, some of them before they have even been to lecture yet. The other days will not have labs. The second week, the Monday labs will be off, but all the other labs will meet. The human female had to order one measly jar of microbes for that first Monday and three more jars for a different delivery date for the other days the following week. Double the air freight, double the fun!
Because A&P is moving up, the human female and her staff have to get almost everything out of the room they are losing, and it all has to go somewhere. Thirty microscopes, six spectrophotometers, a skeleton, all the contents of the drawers, a computer, a waterbath, an incubator, an enormous terrarium, and a refrigerator! Some things can stay in the lab, if the human female can get locks installed on some of the cabinets in a hurry. Where the rest will end up is anyone’s guess. Actually, there is a good chance that some of it will be stored down in the A&P room on the second floor, because it is looking more and more like the remodeling is not going to happen any time soon! It’s entirely possible that I could string things out long enough that everything could have stayed right where it was for another whole semester.
This would all be merriment enough, but all the Intro Bio I labs are completely different now. Prep Staff hasn’t done them; the TAs haven’t done them. There’s no hard copy lab manual and the TAs won’t be giving an introduction– the students will be watching videos before coming to lab and jump right into the protocol, after they take a quiz over what they are about to do. Prep Staff is having to do new things–like growing and maintaining stock cultures of bacteria and breeding and growing hundreds of Arabadopsis plants. Everyone is nervous, and I’ve arranged it so that the professors whose brainchild the new labs are won’t actually be teaching the course.
This week, Prep Staff has to start the bacterial cultures, and they have to thrive–otherwise, several of the labs later on are ruined. They also have to make about thirty liters of something called “Bradford reagent” (don’t know; don’t care), and it has to be vacuum filtered. They’ve begged to be allowed to purchase a vacuum pump, but I think it will be more fun to watch them waste a pond’s worth of water using running water to create the vacuum. The medium for the bacterial cultures needs to be made with distilled water, except–remember: there is no distilled water in their labs. Ehehehehe–It will also need to be autoclaved.
And that’s another thing I’ve been having fun with. The autoclave for Intro Bio is twenty-plus years old. It is always needing fixing. Recently, I had the door stick shut. The repairman came and fixed it, but he found that one of the three computer boards in it was dead. He borrowed boards from someone else’s unit to swap around and figure which one it is. He is letting the human female keep the borrowed board, and he’ll come in to rebuild the steam manifold (again), but it’s very likely that a new one will need to be acquired sooner rather than later.
Thus, the bacterial medium is going to involve toting distilled water from another building and very possibly toting it back to said other building to autoclave. Oh, well, it will have to go on the incubating shaker table in another building anyway…
So you might say it was a stressful first week back from Yule for the humans. The female, having turned in just before Yule a large list of equipment needed to teach the new labs, had to, in three short days, deliver the bad and expensive news about the RO system, the small RO/still unit, the image library, and the autoclave. No one wants to open an email from her anymore!
There is more, much more, but my hands are cramping from typing so much. I’ll have to fill you in at a future date…
To Be Continued…