bean counters

Deranging the Strange Arrangement With Grainger–Now With Bonus BAMN!

A box has arrived for the human female.

grainger1

Well, I don’t know if I’d call her “one who gets things done,” but I certainly am.

You see, this box represents several weeks’ worth of first-class mischief.

Humans are clumsy by nature, always dropping things and breaking them.  Last semester, the students broke a number of the glass graduated cylinders used in the urinalysis experiment.  Terrible things, students.  Can’t be trusted.

At any rate, the decision was made to order a bunch of plastic cylinders that the feckless little darlings couldn’t break.  So the female ordered 24 of one size and 6 of another, so as to fit the hydrometers on hand.

And she waited.  And waited.  Finally, exasperated, she called the vendor and was dismayed to learn that they had never received the PO at all.  So she jumped through all the hoops and asked the Bean Counters to re-send it.

And they did.

So she waited some more, and still no box of plastic piss-jars.  She called the vendor again, who told her yet again that no such PO had ever been received.  At this point, the human female recalled that it had been long and long since she had ordered from this vendor, and it occurred to her that, back in the glory days of BAMN, the program administrators wanted all POs to be emailed to a person, rather that to a helpful or useful address not tied to a transient and mortal meat-sack.  She asked the person on the other end of the phone what address would actually reach the orders department.

Armed with this little nugget of information, she contacted the Bean Counters and asked them to transmit the PO one more time.

You can see by the presence of the package and all of this boring wrapping paper that a shipment eventually resulted, so how did it come about?

grainger2

Not long after the PO was transmitted to the vendor for a third time, the human female had a missed telephone call, and then an email, from chipper customer service rep saying that if the human female would call them, they’d be more than happy to set up an account and process the order.

Account?

Everything involves an account these days, so the human female called and proceeded to try to navigate the vendor’s byzantine account setup.  The Helpful Person on the other end of the line (trained by me, of course) tried to walk her through the whole process but the human female could never quite get her to understand that the University is a rather large place and the Biology Department only a small part of it–and the human female smaller still.  The Helpful Person wanted to create an account for the whole of the Department and make the human female the contact person for it—or perhaps the person in the stockroom, since that is the delivery address.  Or maybe whoever is in charge of Departmental Billing…

After about twenty minutes of internal zip codes, building abbreviations, and increasing frustration on the part of all parties, the human female had finally had enough.  Abandoning the idea of an account (for which she did not wish to be Responsible), the human female asked if they could just abandon the notion of an account and process the order some other way.

Why, yes!  Yes, they could!  Relieved, the human female launched into placing a guest order with the credit card.  Everything went swimmingly right up to the point where the Helpful Person read out the total.

Including tax.

Rule One of purchasing:  The University never pays tax.  Ever.  Slight snag, yes?

No worries, the Helpful Person told the human female!  All she had to do was make the purchase, request the tax refund form, fill it out, provide a copy of the University’s tax exempt paperwork, and sit back and wait for the tax to be refunded to the card.

At this point, if the human female had been listening instead of grinding her teeth, she’d have heard me giggling in the background.  It’s a known fact that initiating a tax refund stunt like that would make the Bean Counters purple in the face and bring on a spitting apoplexy.

Followed by a stern reprimand and a lecture about Rule One of purchasing:  The University never pays tax.  Ever.

It was at this point that the human female reached her limit.  She thanked the Helpful Person for their help  time and rang off.

Next, she contacted the Chief Bean Counters and asked them to cancel the PO entirely.

Now, obviously, here are the cylinders.

grainger3

So how did she get them?  She remembered, belatedly, that this particular vendor has a punch-out right at the front of the purchasing software site, one that takes the user straight to the catalog where they can load up a cart and check out easy-peasy.  Once the PO was cancelled, she logged in, went through the punch-out, put in the order, hit a button, and took delivery about 48 hours later.   No problems, no tax, and no escaping that it was her own incompetence that led her down the garden path in the first place.

Well, I may have helped a little.

So now there is a full set of plastic cylinders for the urinalysis experiment.  The Prep Staff are always quick to point out that it isn’t really real urine, just something they whip up out of water, food coloring, and chemicals.

Theoretically.  No one has yet connected the strange results they keep getting with my capacity to quaff and process ale…

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Behold the Slide

Remember, O reader, the order of  microscope slides for which the invoice went to the University’s campus in Qatar Not once but twice?  The order that was partially back-ordered, with each part of the shipment being billed to the fine folks in the Persian Gulf?  The order for which the human female spent many hours on the phone and with email, trying to straighten out the billing so that she could pay for her thrice-damned microscope slides?

I thought you might want to see what all the fuss has been about.

schistosome slide

Behold Schistosoma japonicum.  Three of these slides formed the back-ordered portion of the order.  You see, it take a while to prepare them, since each features not one but two parasitic beasts–a tiny male surrounded by a more massive female.  Yes.  You read that right.  Schistosoma japonicum in flagrante delicto.

These slides arrived last year.  Last week the human female received yet another tender note from her colleagues in Qatar, a note which enclosed a note from the Vendor Who’s Responsible helpfully pointing out that the account is now 120 days in arrears. 

Cue wailing and gnashing of teeth.  The human female remonstrated yet again with the Vendor Who’s Responsible, begging them to do as the original PO says and submit the invoice to the proper email address.

All good fun comes to an end, I suppose, because the invoice was finally correctly submitted to the Bean Counters here on the main campus.

Who refused to pay it.

For you see, in my quest to make the human female’s life as frustrating as possible, I had the Vendor Who’s Responsible engulf the entity now known as the Vendor Who Was Swallowed Up By The Vendor Who’s Responsible, in much the same way that the large female schistosome surrounds and dwarfs the much smaller male.  The original order was made to the smaller company, but the invoice was sent by the Vendor Who’s Responsible.  The invoice could not be paid because the vendor names do not match.

The human female pleaded, and tried to explain the situation, outlining how the two entities were fundamentally the same, and would they pleeeeeeese pay the invoice?

What is that delightful Midgardian expression?  “No dice.”  Is that right?  The Bean-counters cancelled the invoice and demanded that the Vendor Who’s Responsible issue a new one with the name of the VWRSbVWR instead.

Which they won’t do.

So now, the Vendor Who’s Responsible, sick unto death of trying to sort this out, has given up in defeat and cancelled that line item of the original PO, saying, “Forget it, pretend you never ordered those amorous schistos, and let us never speak of this again.”

You would think that this would bring an end to the human female’s misery, and that six months is a good enough run for a bit of mischief.

But you’d be wrong.

The latest email from the Bean Counters on campus to the Customer Service Rep at the Vendor Who’s Responsible is short, sweet, and promises more fun to come:

“Per your email below, I have cancelled PO line item 4 on the PO.  What about the other PO lines?  I do not see where we have been invoiced for them.”

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The Saga of Reginald the Recalcitrant

Friends, let me introduce you to Reginald.

autoclave1Reginald may look like a standard oven, but Reggie is something much more special.

autoclave2

He is an autoclave, an indispensable part of the human female’s Lab Prep team, and 110% my devoted minion.

Reginald gets pressed into service on a regular basis, sterilizing media, pipette tips, and glassware, and rendering biohazardous materials somewhat less noxious.

For him to operate properly, the steam has to be working, all the moving parts need to be working, and his little computer brain has to be firing on all circuits.  Otherwise, the human female and her staff aren’t treated to the sweet, sweet aroma of baking agar.

So recently, Reggie and I launched a campaign to turn the human female into a gibbering mess.  First, I had him clench up his door so that it wouldn’t open.  The repairman was called, and he manged to get the machine to unclench.

Next, Reggie went on strike and wouldn’t work at all.  The repairman came back out and determined that it was most likely one of the three computer boards that constitute Reggie’s brain. Because We Are All Scientists Around Here, he put this notion to the test by purloining the control boards from an autoclave in a lab in a different building and trying them one by one.  Lo and behold!  When new main board was swapped out, Reggie woke up and grudgingly started working.

Did I mention that Reggie is a 1997 unit?  This is lateish middle age in autoclave years.  Finding a new controller board to replace the bad one is going to take some time.  In order to inconvenience even more people, the repairman has decided that the lab from which he stole the replacement controller board is just going to have to make do with only the two new autoclaves they have.  The human female gets to keep the trial board, and he will look for a new card for the unit from which it was pilfered.

While this was going on, I arranged that Reggie’s steam manifold should clog and need to be rebuilt.  (It’s the local water–it’s full of badness.)  Also that the little printer that logs sterilization cycles should be printing on the back of the paper roll, so that the whole roll has to be removed before anything can be read.

More tinkering.  Finally, finally, the human female and her staff had a working autoclave again.

For the time being.  Because, let’s face it, it’s only a matter of time before Reggie blows a gasket–literally–and finally shuffles off his mortal coil.  Or his main steam valve, or whatever.

Thus, the human female having to write another one of her cheery little Notes of Doom and Impending Expenditure.  I.e., “The autoclave is threatening to die, and we should be thinking about replacing it.”   There are rumors that the human female could get a used hand-me-down if someone else gets a new one.  Or that a new one could be possible when the mythical second floor renovation takes place, because autoclaves will be needed on that floor.  The Department’s Chief Bean Counter has said he will ask for three autoclaves for the second floor, so that if funding is short, he can grudgingly accept two.

I love this.  One more thing in the human female’s life that is unresolved, with the promise of future misfortune…

It’s good to have plans.

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Mischief Update–Improvement in My Cash Flow

A busy Loki is a happy Loki, and boy, am I happy! I’ve also found some clever ways to bring in a little extra income, as you shall see.

Mostly, I continue to make the humans’ work environment and strange and surreal place.

First off: Slow, Silent and Costly continues to play dice with utilities and maintenance. Faucets drip or stop dripping at random intervals. Chilled water lines drip spots into ceiling tiles. One section of campus had both a chilled and a heated water outage–at the same time. Another week, most of west campus lost landline telephone service. And recently it came to light that the sewage from a large dorm complex had been tied into the storm drainage system and was routinely discharging gallons and gallons of wastewater into a local stream. (That wasn’t my idea, but I have been amused by the outcry and all of the digging up that fixing things has necessitated.)
Closer to home, two men showed up and installed a new break-room faucet in the human female’s area, unasked for and without warning. The work order for the new countertop in one of the main Intro Bio prep rooms involved multiple entities, none of whom, apparently, was talking to the others. All of the work (remove sink, replace counter, replace sink) had been written up and approved–and was in fact due to begin. Then two plumbers showed up, saying they’d been sent to look at a “leaking faucet.” No, the human female explained, the problem wasn’t a leak, it was that splashed water had, over time, warped the particle board counter and laminate covering. The two men hemmed and hawed, looked at the sink in the counter and its attendant plumbing, said, “Yep, this is a job for a plumber,” and left. Bill a visit from two techs.
The doorlock people finally finished their work, but it did take a while. One day they were delayed because someone who was supposed to show up and do part of a job, simply didn’t.  And once the locks were installed and hooked up, it took several further days before they were activated.  One professor still can’t get into his office.  And another two days for the old locks to be removed. I made sure to adjust the cordless power tool’s whine to the particular frequency that resonates with the human female’s fillings.
The policies of the University continue, at my direction, to remain mysterious and capricious. On the Third of July (a holiday devoted to the purchasing of watermelon, charcoal, and fireworks), the Powers That Be declared that staff could take early release and get a jumpstart on the festivities. Fifteen minutes later, another announcement came out– “Ooops! Sorry! We forgot summer school’s in session! If you’re involved with the actual teaching of classes, you don’t get to sneak out early. Our bad.”
The University’s first home football game of the season has been scheduled for Thursday, August 30th, to launch the career of our new circus-elephant-monikered coach. Since this is a work day, all of the staff and student parking lots are bound to be full. To better serve game-goers, however, many of the parking lots must be vacated. The Powers That Be have given notice that staff in these lots should make alternate arrangements on that day or vacate by a certain p.m.  It was even said that they could get a $10 credit for an Uber ride to work that day.  Most recently, “non-essential” staff have been told they can leave early, so that Moneyed Alums can have free run of the campus. Rest assured, I’m getting my cut.

Oh, the fine folks at Transportation Services are some of my favorite minions. Recently, they “discovered” some arcane tax law that says that the University’s faculty, staff, and students can no longer pay for their parking permits pre-tax. So essentially, parking is going up. More pennies in my pocket.
The University sends out various congratulatory newsletters every week. Here’s a screen shot of one of the most recent:

science

There is nothing like good, clean contrast in web design, and that is NOTHING like good, clean contrast.  When the human female asked the web folks about it, they assured her that the page was coded for maroon and white.  It’s just that the campus’ Exchange email program doesn’t seem to want to talk with the design software.  But they’re Looking Into It.

The University generates a lot of waste. I mean, a LOT, a lot. The hazardous waste, such as is generated by the human female’s program, is all tagged and contained and sent for proper disposal. Recently, the protocol for so doing has changed. Unfortunately for most users, I tickled the license for the software that lets folks fill out the disposal tags and requests online, such that only one user on the entire campus could log in and do it at any given time. Remember, folks, to beat the crowd: before 8:00 and after 5:00 are Hazardous-Waste-o’Clock!

The human female actually is all about the safety. And compliance. She harps on it all the time. Blah, blah, blah, “Use a hemostat to change that scalpel blade.” Nag, nag, nag. “Tie your hair back before you light that bunsen burner.” “Don’t lick that petri dish.” Whatever. Apparently the Vendor Who’s Responsible, though, has its doubts about her, because it asked her again to sign the “I am not going to use this iodine to make meth” declaration again, for the second time in six months. I keep telling her that if she’d let me set up a little…special lab down in the basement we could fund pretty much anything she wants to do with the Intro Bio program, plus have enough left over to stop looking like she dresses out of the charity box.

I may set up that lab anyway.  The price of horn polish just went up.

Negotiations with various vendors continue to be one of my favorite ways of annoying her. She managed to do an end-run around me recently, though. When she called the Purveyor of Squiggly Things to change the amount of squigglies in an order, she discovered that I’d changed the delivery date from the 6th to the 9th and was able to correct it. Rats! I was looking forward to the wailing and gnashing of teeth.

She also remembered to order the 700-plus pig intestinal roundworms that she’d forgotten to order. She forgot the live Penicillium culture, though and had to order it at the last minute on the credit card, with ru$h air $hipping. Meanwhile, it’s almost time for the annual Dead Cat Ballet involving the Purveyor of Dead Things.  You just know I’m not going to let that go off without a hitch. (I can tell you that I already know that there will not be any actual dead cats. They’re on indefinite back-order.)

And the packing slips for all of these orders! Who knew that little pieces of paper could be such fun? I had the new video camera and tripod show up without a packing slip. The packing slip for a couple of items off the human female’s enormous fall order from the Vendor Who’s Responsible showed ALL the items on the order, so that one had to leaf through the many pages to figure out what was in that particular box. Then the free goods that enormous order garnered were sent with double and triple packing slips so that she had to make sure that there weren’t extra free goods her conscience wouldn’t let her keep.

Sometimes, when I run out of new ideas, I just revisit an old one. Remember the hurricane last September? I fouled up orders and shipping and deliveries for weeks, when Fed-up and Exhausted and Unrepentant Package Squashers couldn’t get any live materials in or out of Houston? The human female put all sorts of notes into the purchasing system, explaining the work-arounds she’d had to do and pointing out which goods weren’t coming. The other day, the Bean Counters, trying, no doubt, to be ahead of things when it came to closing out the fiscal year, dredged the whole mess up again, asking her to do receiving on the things she didn’t get, or to indicate they weren’t coming if that were the case. She pointed them at her months-old comment and let them know that, no, there are no more live termites coming in on that P.O.

I don’t let the male rest on his laurels– or his haunches– either. Some server or other is always going down, one round of soft ware updates breaks something the last one fixed, and the parade of clueless users through his office is never-ending. The other day, one of the machines hooked to the network was causing an error message, so Central Information Services disconnected it. Except they didn’t–they mistakenly shut down the system of one of the Department’s super-users, who was in the middle of a days-long backup of his squillionty terrabytes of data. The resultant shouting wasn’t at the human male, but it was human male-adjacent, which was nearly as draining for him and just as amusing for me.

Traffic around town continues to be a sick, twisted joke. I’ve managed to tap into the traffic-barrel rental business, so I have money coming in there, too. The new Diverging Diamond of Death opened this week. I get the feeling that, after it has been open for a while, the local populace will promise me anything if I just put things back the way they were.

Despite my best efforts at further delay, the long-awaited expansion of the church facilities has commenced. The human female is in mourning, though, because the entire beautiful courtyard has been turned into a construction-staging area, and all the trees have been cut down. That wasn’t my idea. I was hoping they could be saved, because Sigyn liked them. She hasn’t had a glimpse of the denuded courtyard yet. I’m hoping to keep it from her as long as I can.

On the home front, the Terror Twins and I keep things lively. Every night I let in June bugs and click-beetles so the felines can have an arthropod frenzy. The click beetles are their favorites because they make! noise! AND are fun to chase. So far, my record is three in one night. One of these days, the human female’s going to tire of getting up off the sofa, catching the clicky little goobers and chucking them outside and just let the kitties have their fun. When that happens, I’ll make sure Flannel Cat eats one and leaves the bug barf in the main traffic pattern in the house…

I’ve recruited the large appliances to my cause. The dryer still turns itself on at random intervals. The little end-stopper thingy came out of the dishwasher’s left top rack-glide, so now it’s possible to actually remove half the top rack completely. And the refrigerator, from time to time, will piddle a little puddle of very cold water into the middle of the kitchen floor. Always, you understand, when someone can discover this transgression sock-footed.

The local market has stopped carrying the humans’ favorite kind of shredded cheese, while no store the humans can find in four different cities carries the female’s favorite flavor of yogurt. I keep offering them more and more opportunities for spiritually-enriching penance and self-mortification– you’d think they’d be grateful, but no. Hypocrites.

I hid last month’s utility bill, and no one thought to contact the company and volunteer payment, so when this month’s bill showed up, it was for two months of triple-digit-heat-fighting AC and dear-Idunn-please-don’t-let-the-lawn-die watering. That was a real shocker, I can tell you. The human male looked like a gaping codfish there for a minute or three.  I took photos.

So, as you can see, I’ve been up to some first-rate mischief, and even managed to monetize it a bit. Life (for me) is good!  I give this update a 9.75.

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Dead Cat Ballet–Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Open Your Email

This was in the human female’s email, courtesy of the Purveyor of Dead Things.

past due nasco

You are correct!   This is in reference to the bill for the large Dead Cat Ballet, the one the human female has been struggling with since AUGUST.   I’ll wait right here while you scroll through the archives and refresh your memory.

It’s invoices again!  Apparently, BOTH invoices (the one from the right vendor ID and the one from the wrong vendor ID) got cancelled!  The human female had to write MORE emails explaining what happened and telling the Bean Counters that yes, they could pay for the dead seafood paella and all the other goodies.

Friends, I’m not sure I’m ever going to be able to top this one.

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Return of the Dead Cat Ballet

You didn’t really think I’d let this go, did you?

Astute readers may recall that the human female was struggling to pay for the latest shipment of Dead Things.

She’s still struggling.  The whole flap initially was that there was one invoice for the Purveyor of Dead Things at the right Vendor ID Number and one with the wrong VID.  As far as the human female knows, it should have been possible to just tear up the wrong one, but both had been cancelled.

She looked again a few days ago, and there are STILL two invoices attached to the PO, but both are showing the right VID and one is for the mostly complete shipment, and another for the backordered things.  Both are cancelled.  The PODT has been asked to provide a new one.  Maybe it’ll get paid.  Maybe it won’t.  Only the Bean Counters really know (and they work for me.)

Meanwhile…

carolinacats

Three boxes of ACTUAL DEAD CATS have shown up!  These were ordered back in May from the Purveyor of Squiggly Things (who also deals in Dead Things, though they’re not as well-preserved as the Dead Things from the PODT–are you following all of this?)  They were ordered because the PODT couldn’t promise 14 stiff kitties, so the human female ordered these as backup, because the POST said they could deliver.

The ones from PODT got here weeks ago.

It doesn’t show on the packing slips, but the order was specifically for 6 female and 8 male.  What did she get?  10 female and 4 male.

Ehehehehe!  This may be my very favorite prank EVER.

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The Dead Cat Ballet, The Sequel

This year’s Dead Cat Ballet was such a smashing success (or maybe just a smash-up) that I am directing a Sequel!

The human female, after much back-and-forthing,  says that she finally convinced the Purveyors of Dead Things to send her the nine sharks, ten sheep eyeballs, ten fish, twenty-five clams, and two-hundred and twenty pig hearts that were missing from the order.  Actually, I’m not sure she did convince them, because the PODT rep kept saying things like, “But we sent you all the fish,” and the human female kept saying things like, “Yes, that is the number that was on the packing slip, but it is not the number that you shipped.”  I think what happened is that the PODT just got tired of dealing with her and decided it was worth a pallet of Dead Things to SHUT HER UP.  If they keep a black list, she’s probably on it.

When the Supplemental Dead Things arrived, the pig hearts were in boxes of ten.  Some of the boxes weighed about twenty pounds and some only half that.  Suspecting that the packers at PODT cannot math any better than the shippers, the human female opened some of the boxes.  All contained ten hearts.  It’s just that some were MUCH larger than the others.  Some porkers have more compassion, I suppose.

And now, the heart of this new drama:  The human female cannot pay for this colossal assemblage of once-living organisms.

I’ll let that sink in.

It’s not that her Introductory Biology Program is bankrupt, it’s that the Bean Counters are confused.  Or they hate her.  That’s equally likely.

You may recall that the Overture of the Original Production involved the issuance of one PO with two different requisition numbers, owing to the fact that the PODT has two entries in the ordering software database and the wrong one was initially selected.  (It is all about the Vendor ID number, people!)

Well, as luck Loki would have it, an invoice was generated for each requisition, even though there was only one PO and one shipment.  This engendered much flailing and wailing from the Bean Counters, who saw only one way out of this confounded, Ghordian predicament:

The human female was directed to write up another Purchase Order for the same purchase, complete with all seventeen line items and product numbers, etc., and submit it for purchase but clearly marked Do Not Distribute.  Thus, they reasoned, there would be two POs and two invoices and everything would be very tidy.   Except, you know, for the fact that generating a PO first generates a requisition.  But hey, if two is fun, three would be MORE fun.

The human female suggested that the Bean Counters A) Get hold of themselves and B) take the radical and unprecedented step of tearing up the invoice that is for the wrong VID.   After all, it is not as if the PODT is expecting to be paid twice for the same goods. (Or maybe they are… Perhaps as an “Idiot Tax” for having to deal with the human female.  That would be fun.)

There has, at this point, been much back-and-forth emailing and leaving of comments on the PO in the ordering system.  At one point, the human female was taken to task for responding to a comment via email and not as a further comment—by a Bean Counter whose reprimand she received only as an email and not as a comment.  The initial, you-must-make-a-duplicate-order Bean Counter has been strangely silent recently, with the thread taken up by two further Bean Counters.  By my count there are now at least three Bean Counters involved, all of whom keep asking “What should we do?!”   The human female has –in a comment, of course—explained everything, with dates and VIDs and requisition numbers, but still, no one can figure out how to cut a check.

The last time the human female looked at the history of the PO, BOTH invoices were marked as cancelled, so she has no clue what’s going on.

Ehehehe! I’m not done with this!  It’s my sincere hope that the human female ends up on some scientific blacklist for Bad Purchasers and that the PODT will never again sell her so much as a sheep pluck.   That way, she’d either have to find a vendor of inferior products or else go out and collect and pickle all the corpses and offal herself.

Stay tuned, kiddies, it’s not over yet!

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