Nice, But Haven’t the Horses Already Left the Barn?

Long-time minions may recall that the human female has a thing about losing gloves.  It was therefore no surprise when yet another pair arrived in the mail today.


Ah.  I see.


Cut-Resistant Gloves.  Where were these two weeks ago?  Before the Great Slicing of 2018?

Hmm.  It seems they are not 100% invoilable…  It says you should not cut them just to test them.


And yet, with my trusty dagger, that is just what I am going to do.


What’s this?  Not proof against velociraptors?


Then what the Hel good are they???

>|: [


Take a Tip From Me

I do some of my best work with little pieces of plastic.  I’ve been amusing myself and making the human female’s life more interesting by messing with her ability to do something as mundane as order pipette tips.

You remember pipettes, yes?  Fantastically useful things, but without the single-use, disposable tips, they’re just very expensive, very precise squirt guns.  Tips come in two sizes–yellow for the two smallest size of pipettors and blue for the larger one.

The human female and her Prep Staff already have a lot of tips.  I mean A LOT, a lot.

tip cabinet

And that’s not even all of them.

The tips get “stuffed,” 96 at a time, into color-coordinated tip boxes, of which there are also bunches upon tons of manys.

stuffed tip boxes

The stripey tape is a bit of nifty science.  It starts out plain, and once exposed to the high heat and pressure of an autoclave, it grows stripes.  Any box you see here that has an undisturbed bit of stripey tape contains sterile tips.

Unless it’s one of the boxes upon which I have switched around raw and striped tape, in which case, all bets are off.

Let us examine one of the boxes more closely.


Odin’s eyepatch!  That really is a lot of tips.


Heretofore (love that word), the mortals have been hand-stuffing the tips into the boxes, the sort of mindless,  necessary busy-work that could probably be left to trained raccoons.  (They have such clever little paws!  The raccoons, not the humans.)

rocket tips

Now, the new lab exercises for the Bio 111 students call for approximately eleven million times more pipette uses than the old ones, meaning approximately eleven million more tips.  No one has time to stuff that many tips, and there aren’t enough sardines and marshmallows on the planet to convince a raccoon to do it.

Some researchers just buy boxes with the tips already stuffed in  (this is called “racked”) which is convenient but very expensive and mind-bogglingly wasteful.  The other alternative is to buy the racked tips once and thereafter refill the boxes with pre-placed cards of 96 tips each.  Since soooo many tips will be needed, that’s what the human female and her staff have decided to do.

BUT–and here’s the part that makes my evil little heart go pitty-pat—not all tip boxes are created equal.  Each major pipettor brand and several major labware vendors has its own sort of box, and the refill inserts fit only their own boxes.

So what is the human female to do?  All the old, yucky tip boxes she has are one kind, but no one knows which (possibly Fisher?)  All the fancy new pipettors came with one box of yellow tips and one box of blue tips per per set, and those are made by Rainin.  She’s got to pick a supplier and make a commitment for the long haul.  It’s like choosing a mail-order  bride, except more expensive!

Rainin is out, as their refills cost about twice what my helmet did.  Fisher is out, as she hears the box latches don’t hold up.  There are lots of other options, but she has finally narrowed it down two, a smaller vendor “A” and the Vendor Who’s Responsible.

Ehehehe!  Look at her try to do math!  If she needs to order 30,000 yellow tips and 43,000 blue tips and each comes 96 per card, and the cards come eight to a pack, and five packs are in each case, how many cases does she need to order?  And, wait!   The blue tip boxes and cards are bigger, so there are fewer packs per case, so that’s a different multiplier.  Or is it divisor?  She’s getting confused.

Oh, clever human!  She’s asked for quotes from the two vendors and has them bidding against one another.  They’re falling all over themselves, trying to undercut each other and offering all sorts of inducements!  She has offer, counter-offer, counter-counter-offer, counter-counter-counter-offer, and counter-counter-counter-offer plus offer of free goods.  Which all means more math—what is the total price now versus the ongoing cost of refills?  One is cheaper now; one in the long run, but only a little. One is offering to give her free empty boxes and sell her all the tips at refill prices.   Don’t answer yet!  Don’t forget two very important considerations for the math!  The blue tips come fewer pack to a case since they’re larger, so that’s a separate set of calculations.  And one vendor has half the number of packs per case, so their quote has to be doubled for comparison.  And that 43,000 yellow tips means ordering a partial case, and can she get a quote for just part of a case?  Yes?  More math!  It’s so exciting!  Who is going to get the bid??  It would be easier to just add them to the huge order of everything else from the VWR.  But would that be better?  Oh, the quandary!!  Time is running out–the order has to go in today.  

Come on, mortal, decide already!  Just know that whichever vendor you don’t choose is going to send you hurt and aggrieved emails for weeks afterwards.

What’s that?  The VWR has thrown in two free cases of tips?  That tips the scales.  Order going in to them and a polite decline to the other vendor.

And right on cue:  Message from the other vendor.  “I wish you’d told me.  I could have done something else.  What changed in the last ten minutes?”  The human female got to enjoy her thrifty decision for all of twenty seconds before the guilt trips started arriving in her mailbox.  I love it!

Oh, well.  What’s done is done.  It’s not as if there aren’t a million more things that need doing, so no time to dwell.


And I think I’ll just randomly remove tips from boxes.  Here. This one has 95 now, and I spit a little in two or three of them..

>|: [


Bet You Thought We Forgot, Part II: Here’s Where All The Color Is

I had such fun turning the fine but boringly colored glass green that I have decided to color ALL the objects in the exhibit!   What colors should I make them, Sigyn?  Besides red,  that is.  Red is a given.

Rats!  Someone has beaten me to it.  The other rooms of the museum are full of colored pieces.

There are swirly pastel ones.


Great Frigga’s Corset!  Sigyn, look at these–swirly AND pastel AND pushed into flower shapes:


Sigyn likes the red bowl with the crimpy mouth and the…

…the mutant daisies.  Whatever they are, she likes them.

Beloved, did you see the case full of iridescent—–

Sigyn?  Sigyn!  Siiiiigyyyyyyyn…….


Sleipnir’s fetlocks!! 

Completely mesmerized by that glorious, beetle-wing iridescent finish!  I don’t blame her.  It’s gorgeous stuff.  I mean,  the cameo glass is well-done, but look at how the blue-green pieces just glow.


Time to play our favorite game.  Sigyn, if you had to pick just one piece, which would it be?


Just as I thought–Sigyn likes the red, beflowered, flat, round vessel that’s so silly it’s actually sort of cute.   Me, I’d be happy with one of the magnificent blue-green vases or else the green cut-glass vase I made yesterday.

Ah, who am I kidding?  I’ll sneak back in here tonight and help myself to five or six pretty trinkets.

Happy Yule, dearest!

>|: [

Bet You Thought We Forgot, Part I: Sparklies!

It has been a Yule tradition for Sigyn and me to take a break from all the chaos of cleaning and cooking and gifting and sneak away to look at pretty things in a museum.  It’s our Yule gift to each other.  Usually, the pretty things are glass.  Sigyn loves glass.

We’re sticking with our tradition this year—We’ve just both been a little busy.  But today we are going!

We’re here.

Sigyn, come look at this big bowl!  It is very, very sparkly!


More sparklies over this way.  I’m sensing a theme here.  Instead of all the colored glass usually on display, this time it’s all cut glass and crystal.


Sigyn likes the scallopy edge on that big footed bowl up there.

More scallops:


I’ve been reading the cards and the wall posters.  Apparently every little cut is made individually by a craftsman with a grinding wheel and a steady hand and no hiccups.

The cards tell a little about what the patterns are called.


“Hobstar…”  Hobstar…  Sounds like a heavenly body and not a motif in glass.  “All aboard the rocket!  All aboard!  Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, I’m Captain Scorpio Betelgeuse and this is my pilot, the lovely Cassiopeia Jones.  This flight to the Hobstar is going to take about fifty Terran years, so I hope you brought snacks.”


What a lot of work!  This all looks like ice.  Bet with my Frost Giant magic, I could make pieces as beautiful as this.


Though what I’d do with this taco-shaped basket I have no clue.


And I think I would soon grow tired of all this colorless vitreosity.  I’m sure the pieces would be just as nice in color.  Let me magic up a sample.


Of course it’s green, Sweetie.  What did you expect??

>|: [



Mischief Update: Off To A Great Start

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…

>|: [

There’s Water And Then There’s *Water*

Remember the chunky goop in the reverse osmosis water system that has been plaguing the human female and her Prep Staff?  Well, the nice fellow from Slow, Silent, and Costly was back again today to take another look at things.  Apparently there is a plan to treat the whole building’s RO system with some chemical that will kill all the little microbes.   What they need now is an accurate count of how many RO taps there are and where they all are.

Well, there’s this one here in one of the prep rooms.

303-di-RO water

And the one in the plant and animal room that now has all the filters.  That’s this floor.  I’ve seen to it that the fellow from SSC has been unable to catch up with the building proctor to find out about the other floors.  So we’re still not sure how many there are.

While he’s here, he’s looking at the distilled water taps too.  There’s one in every teaching lab and one in each prep room.  He’s got a little gizmo that measures the ions and whatnot dissolved in the water.  He says distilled water should read 0 to 5; RO water comes in around 20 to 25.  Twenty-five what, I don’t know.  It’s all gibberish as far as I’m concerned.

Uh, oh!  The distilled water is reading 24 in this tap.


All the faucets that look like this are supposed to be distilled, but this one sure isn’t.


Ehehehehe!  He has now checked several “Distilled” taps and they’re all reading at RO levels.

The fellow says that now he remembers:  there used to be a still in the basement.  It died years ago and all the distilled water lines were all just tied into the RO system.  There is  no distilled water in the building.  The human female’s life has been a lie!  And the poor folks at SSC have waaaaay more taps to test, lock people out of, treat, flush, and re-test.  Scheduling all of this will be a feat in itself.  I doubt it can be done before the semester starts.

Well, that is a fine bit of mischief.  Wish I’d thought of it!

Might as well check the stand-alone RO unit in the prep room.  Maybe that’s functional?


It’s a behemoth.


Great Frigga’s Hairpins!  Look at the maintenance log!


No one has done any maintenance for eight and a half years?!  Yikes.  That explains why this one is putting out inferior water as well.  And now the fellow has started the tap and the pump is making noises like its motor is going out.

This whole endeavor has been like pulling on a loose thread—and things are unraveling magnificently!   I should be able to string this out until May, at least.

Good times!

>|: [



Sometimes The Packaging Is The Most Fun

The game the human male had yesterday is really quite complex.  It has cards and tokens and meeples and Frigga knows what-all.  Keeping all of the pieces neat and organized is a nightmare.  That’s why the human male ordered the wooden dividers to keep it all tidy.  They came as sheets of laser-cut plywood.  All he had to do was punch them out and assemble them.

The leftovers are funny looking.


Look at all of it, Sigyn!  Want to go play?


The human female says these waste bits are called,“sprue.”


There are pieces big enough to climb on and pieces small  enough to carry.

Look Sigyn!  I made a little gangplank!  We can go and explore.


Careful!  You don’t want to fall–or get splinters.


Oooh!  Look at this bit !  It’s all pointy.  Just a bit of sharpening…


…and it would make a very nice shiv.

>|: [