Chaos by the Numbers

There seems to be some notion that I have been “slacking off” recently,  doing nothing but eating take-out food and traipsing about the neighborhood, looking at wildflowers.  After all, it is summer!  Usually by about this time, I have the human female’s work life all tied up in knots with large course orders for fall from the Vendor Who’s Responsible and the Purveyor of Squiggly things and the Purveyor of Dead Things.  Not to mention plans for the Dead Cat Ballet.

This year, everything is different.  Instead of dealing with so many concrete objects, I have extended my mischief largely into the realm of the abstract, and believe me when I tell you:  the numbers add up to maximum chaos.

Days remaining in the self-isolation/quarantine the humans are having to do, on account of being exposed to The Virus: 10

Number of weeks that the human female has been working from home: 14

Number of pounds she’s gained: Approximately (There is probably a correlating number of bags of chips consumed, but she has been hiding the evidence, so it’s hard to tell for sure.)

Number of days per week the human male spends at least some time on campus: 3 to 4

Number of times he has found construction vehicles occupying or blocking his reserved, numbered parking space: 8

Number of Zoom meetings per week:  2 to 5 for the human female, 10 for the male.

Number of times per day I jiggle the router and make the home internet connection drop3 to 10

Number of times I have made the human female’s internet browser seize up so that it will not make bookmarks or remember her history, causing her to scramble to try to figure out where was that thing she needs to find again: 2

Gigabytes of personal files she has removed from her work system in preparation for retiring: 8

Number of personal file folders that vanished in download entirely: 1

Number of major projects the human female is working on: 6

Number of minor projects: 3

Number of Tech Is Intro Bio is short: 1

Number of Bio lecturers who have decamped to other departments with not a lot of warning: 1

Average number of undergraduates in the Intro Bio program in the fall: 3,000

Percent increase in Biology enrollment predicted for fall: 15

Number of persons the largest classroom on campus this fall will hold: 600

Number of persons that will actually be allowed to occupy said room: 120

Usual number of Intro Bio lab sections:  About 120

Percent occupancy allowed for teaching rooms: 40

Usual number of students per lab section: 24

Number of half-sections per section this fall: 2

Number of students who will be allowed in each lab half-section in the fall: 12  (Because, of course, 12 is 40% of 24.  Ask the Provost.)

Original number of minutes in a lab section: 170

Minutes in the new, shorter sections for Bio 111 and 112 in the past few years: 110

Minutes in the Corona-shortened, online sections this spring: 60

Minutes in the Biology 107 and 112 half-labs this fall: 70

Minutes in the Biology 111 half-labs this fall: 50

Minutes mandated between lab time slots for passing and cleaning: 30

Minutes mandated between half-lab time slots: 20

Minutes mandated at noon for deep cleaning everything on campus: 45

Average number of days between conflicting “This is how we will Do Things” directives that come down from University Admin: 7

Man-hours spent trying to figure out what to teach in tiny bites of time and how to teach it: Dozens and dozens and counting

Percent of fall course order that can be ordered until lab syllabus and activities are firmly decided upon: 0

Weeks wait time for glove orders: 5? 7? 10?  No one knows.  (That’s not true.  I know, but I’m not telling.)

Percent increase in price of biodegradable nitrile gloves: 30

Percent budget cut everyone is sure is coming: 15

First day of fall semester:  August 19 (moved up)

Estimated date of completion of second floor construction:  August 19 (moved back)

Weeks between first day of class and first day of labs: 1

Number of times Anatomy and Physiology will have been moved in the last few years:  (Let me count:  up, down, up…down): 4

Rooms which will not be ready when the semester starts: At least 1

Number of stools which will have to be carted downstairs to put in the new labs whose stools will not yet have arrived: x/2, where x is the number of stools on the third floor.  (Guess having half the students per lab on the third floor works out well for the second.)

Number of rooms that have to come *off* the Biosafety Level 1 permit: 1

Unscheduled AC outages so far: 1

Scheduled AC, power, and water outages: 1 eachAnd no one knows when or how long.

Square feet removed from room 302 for new conduits: 25

Number of currently-intact walls in the Prep Staff office: 3

Number of from-out-of-country Teaching Assistants who will not be able to be in-country when the semester starts: Unknown, but most assuredly someone will be stuck somewhere!  Visa problems, quarantine, take your pick.

Number of new international Bio grad students who have deferred coming to the U.S. because of the pandemic: 1 so far, with almost certainly more to come.

Percent of Bio faculty who secretly or openly believe the University will have to shut down completely again at some point in the fall: 100

Number of times the human female’s Prep Staff have got the forensics electrophoresis gel to work: 0

Chapters of the horrible digital/online course text book the human female has reviewed to date: 44.5

Pages of notes and corrections on said book: 365 and counting

On the home front:

Number of masks made so far: 63

Number of times Taffy Cat has to be shoved off the laptop every time the human female tries to work sitting on the sofa:  Average of 7

Number of piles of upchucked breakfast Flannel Cat left in the living room this morning: 4

Number of days per week the struggling baby hollyhocks must be hand-watered: 7

Height, in meters, of the tallest sunflower this year: 3+  And half of them try to get into the car with the human female every single time.

Days over 100°F so far: 1

Days that have felt like over 100°F: Half of May and all of June

Weeks without in-person church attendance: 7

Number of old TV series binge-watched: 3

Episodes in the English-dubbed Chinese fantasy drama the human female has been working her way through: 50


Mischief Update–It’s Not All Pens Around Here

It’s not all pens around here, though you’d never know it by the ink samples on the dining room table.

No, there is a lot of messing with the human female so that she gets her exercise running around.  Take, for instance, the time the stockroom folks delivered a package that patently was not anything she had ordered.  It contained petri plates full of nutrient goo, meant for doing environmental sampling.  She called the Vendor Who’s Responsible and asked whose name was on the original PO.  They told her it was for someone named Craig Bell.  Armed with that info, she searched the A&M directory for anyone named Craig Bell.  She found a Greg Bell, so she called him and said she might have his package.  Then, since the VWR had just sent the good that were manufactured by another company, Hardly Diagnostics, she called them and was told the package was something ordered by one B.E., who actually is in the Biology Department.  So the human female called B.E., who met her in the hallway for a handoff.  B.E. got her plates, the human female had thirty minutes of her day wasted, and I had a good laugh.  Win-win, I’d say!

The human female and her prep staff were in charge of the snacks for the big, ten-day Teaching Assistant workshop that took place right before the start of the semester.  They received a schedule of all the break times and the human female carefully calculated how many snacks and drinks they’d need–six snack breaks times sixty participants, etc..  She went on a huge shopping run.  Then she found out they were responsible for two other breaks, so she had to go again.  I made sure that, on the second run, the Big Box Store was out of the cookie assortments everyone likes so much.  Or rather, they had them, it was just that each one had been opened. No idea what happened there (munch, munch…)

I also saw to it that on one of those runs, the human female’s university ID fell out of her pocket.  She didn’t know about it until she got an email from someone who works on campus saying that someone had found it and put it on the windshield of her doesn’t-work-on-campus boyfriend’s truck in the Big Box Store’s parking lot.  Rather than turning it in to the store, the boyfriend had taken it home.  The human female had to call him up and arrange to get it.  He wanted to take it to some coffee shop he was going to and leave it there.   The human female actually had to explain to him why leaving a card that identifies the worker’s department and which functions as, you know, a KEY in a public place was not a good idea.  She and the human female ended up driving all over the southern part of the city, out in the country, to catch up with him and get the card back.  That was a good one!

The first week of the semester was an absolute joy–for me.  One lane of the humans’ route to work was closed on the first day, and I arranged a fender-bender-tieup on the second.

The Thursday Night Home Football Opener caused as much trouble as predicted.  Traffic was a zoo.  Some employees were told they could leave at 1:00 and others were not.  Students were told to attend their afternoon classes, but some buildings were locked up early so they couldn’t do that.  I worked with the Memorial Student Center to be sure lockers in the MSC were available for the students to stash their stuff so they could go right to the game from class.  And then the next day, I saw to it that offer was rescinded.  Confusion is so exhilarating.

I’m still having fun with Workdon’t.  I had it mess up September’s insurance deduction for a lot of people.  And since the human female was finally able to hire a fourth Tech, I’ve had opportunities for mischief there, too.  He was hired three weeks ago, and he’s not in the system yet as far as anyone being able to code his ID card for the door locks.  Ah, door locks.  Love’em.  I’ve favored some of the Teaching Assistants and Lab Instructors in the same way.  There are all sorts of people wandering around who can’t get where they need to go.

The Purveyor of Squiggly Things continues to be a willing and able partner in the human female’s mental demise.  They are located in one of the states that bore the brunt of Hurricane Florence, so they shut down for a few days.  The human female had to put in her weekly order with them early, and then hope it came in time.  Then there was the time they canceled one item without notice (no Nostoc for you!).  The female didn’t notice it until the shipment arrived without it–no backorder notice had been sent.  Quickly, she scrambled to put in a phone/credit card order with the Alternate Purveyor of Squiggly Things–who also cancelled without any notice, on the exact same item.  The human female and her staff had to make do with prepared slides.  Then on the same lab, it wasn’t until Tuesday that the human female discovered that in one room, the jar of Nitella (a lovely freshwater alga) from the APOST contained no actual Nitella, just a lot of Bazania, a weedy aquatic liverwort that I’ve had fun spreading through all the freshwater tanks on the floor.  The human female called up the APOST to chew them out for sending bad merchandise, but they couldn’t find the PO in their system.  Why?  Because the human female had canceled the order when they couldn’t ship the Nostoc, so the Nitella in the lab was from a previous semester.  Didn’t she look like an idiot for not remembering?  Yes, she did!  And even moreso when she discovered that the Oedogonium in one of the lab rooms was also mostly Bazania.  Have I mentioned how much I like Bazania?

Then, on another order, the Purveyor of Squiggly Things just randomly changed the shipping date from one in September to one in October.  The human female caught it in time.  I still don’t think she’s realized that half of the employees at POST actually work for me.

I’m still playing my favorite game, Vendor Roulette.  The human female ordered a bunch of prepare microscope slides from several different vendors.  She received most of them.  That was too boring, so I had the Vendor Who Was Recently Swallowed by the Vendor Who’s Responsible (VWRSbVWR) send the invoice to the university’s satellite campus–in Qatar.  Never mind that POs are distributed with the email to which invoices should be sent.  Nope!  The invoice went all the way to some foreign fellow in the Middle East.  Someone there sent it to the human female, who let the VWRSbVWR know what to do with the invoice.  That was such fun that I started a whole ‘nother round–VWRSbVWR to Qatar to the human female to VWRSbVWR. That time she talked to an actual person, and it seems to have been resolved for now.

I’m still having another vendor, Lonza, send the human female Angry Past Due Notices for any university invoice, regardless of whether it is hers or not.  It’s such fun that now I’m doing it with a second vendor as well.  She’s everybody’s scapegoat, and I love it!

The last time the human female’s set of teaching labs and prep rooms was inspected, the inspector seemed preternaturally fascinated with the breaker boxes.  In one prep room, he found several slots without circuit switches, and he wrote them up, promising to send a tech to fix this Very Dangerous Problem No One Else Had Ever Found.  Nothing happened.  Then more nothing.  The human female called the department’s safety officer, who promised to put in a work order.  Not too long after, someone from Slow, Silent, and Costly came out and did the job.  A week later, someone else from Slow, Silent, and Costly came out to do the same job.  Also, the one worker at SSC who came when he was needed, actually called with updates, and did a good job the first time has retired.  I love it when smoke curls out of the human female’s ears.

The human female lost her yoga t-shirt, and I hid it so well that no one ever turned it in to lost and found.  She couldn’t ask the custodian if she’d found it, because said custodian quit on no notice.  The new custodian can’t figure out how to lock the human female’s office door, or that of her nearest office neighbor, since their locks lock and unlock “backwards.”

Construction continues to make driving anywhere in town a misery.  Lanes disappear for no reason at all, with no warning.  Getting to work is more and more like a video game every day.   And the TexDOT  (i.e., the Texas Department of Ongoing Torture) has just announced that in the next few years, they are going to widen the east bypass around the city.  Yes, the one they just spent five years redoing all the on-ramps on!

And one day, anyone trying to approach the Blocker Building suddenly found there was no actual way to do it.

construction on campus

The human female occasionally likes to listen to books on tape or books on YouTube while she works.  She was really enjoying a good murder mystery.  Too bad I saw to it that the last two hours were missing.  Never fret.  Waiting a few weeks for the book to arrive on interlibrary loan was a good exercise in patience for her.

On the homefront, the felines continue to offer me amusement and the humans bemusement.  The swirly one, at my prompting, has begun a new routine of rubbing up on the human female if she sits on the floor, with each arching rub going a little higher up her back, until she can nibble on her shoulder or her hair.  When she’s not tearing around the house or rubbing, she’s Sitting Funny.


I taught her that too.  The humans have since had to barricade that lower shelf of that bookcase you see there, because she likes to NEST.

Aaaaand the human female  is still waiting for the needlework kit she ordered in January.  Some jokes never get old.

So you can see that I have been very busy.  And a busy Loki is a happy Loki.

Sometimes I smirk so hard my face hurts.

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Mischief Update: Mostly More of the Same But With a Few New Twists

I’ve been up to a few things this week, mostly continuations of previous projects. Still, I’ll have to give this one a six just for attention to detail.

1. The work order that keeps on giving: Do you recall the water outage some days back? The one that deprived all of the human female’s workplace of functional bathroom sinks? That bit of mischief is still paying dividends! She submitted a work order. Then the building proctor got involved and– I believe the term is–“chewed her out” for bypassing said proctor’s authority. Then her supervisor took her to task for the same thing. Days later, when she thought the incident was behind her, I had her “randomly” selected to complete a satisfaction survey on the work. Being of a very literal bent, she filled it out candidly, marking off points for communication because, no, she wasn’t kept updated on the work (the proctor was.) I then prompted the King (or something) of the Maintenance Contractors, who called her to inquire about just how his minions had disappointed. When she tried to explain, he delivered yet another dressing-down on the chain of command regarding reporting! Ehehehe! But the fun didn’t end there, because later she received another survey about the selfsame issue! She deleted the email. Two days later, another appeared. She responded to the email (and I quote), “Been there, done that, got the lecture.” No no no, she was told, there is a separate survey for the University’s side of the contractor arrangement and she must do both! It was such fun that I have since arranged for her to be randomly selected for a survey on every transaction she undertakes and a review of every product she purchases.


2. And oh, there are so many transactions! The human female has put in the big fall course orders, and it is no secret that I like to play with those. I have reprised some of my best tricks–the quote that is labeled for another university, the vendor who promises to accept a P.O. but who most emphatically does not, the vendor who sends a dunning letter for payment before the goods arrive, the vendor who responds only s-l-o-w-l-y to calls or email, and my personal favorite: the game called “Where Has My ___insert the name of chemical___ Gone Now?” Last year, it was two liters of chloroform. This year I just started at the top of the list and had the acetone on the Extremely Large Chemical order go astray. Vendor Who’s Responsible says they shipped it. Unrepentant Package Squashers have helpfully provided a tracking number which not-so-helpfully reveals that the missing bottles were last seen somewhere in Georgia. Three days ago. They might be delivered soon. Or they might not! The suspense is wonderful! Step up and place your bets! Meanwhile, the rest of the enormous chemical and labware order is coming in–twenty two boxes on one day, eleven the next, another yesterday, more coming! Each little packing slip must be checked, scanned, filed, and a copy sent to accounting, who most assuredly do NOT appreciate that the documents come bearing the human female’s scrawled notes such as “backordered until ???,” “still waiting for the other 1,000 pipette tips,” or the rather cryptic “ship.alt.whse” or “ship.dir.mfr.” That last means that the Vendor is having the hideous stuff shipped directly from the manufacturer because they don’t want to touch it! At last count, there were fourteen pages of slips from four different affiliated sources on just this one order. I always make sure that at least one page is so faint as to be nearly illegible, which causes the department’s accountant to chastise the human female and demand the original and not a scan. Little details are so important.


3. A new twist–the scrutiny of the Feds. Apparently the nefarious actions of someone (insert innocent whistle) associated with the human female have caught the attention of the Powers That Be, who now suspect that some sort of drug-manufacturing operation has been set up in a broom closet by the human female and her cronies. Twice–twice!–in the last week, she has had to fill out and sign a form for the Drug Enforcement Administration and swear upon her sainted apple-pie-baking granny’s sweet rosy cheeks that she is not going to use either the malonic acid or the iodine to (gasp!) manufacture barbiturates or other illicit pharmaceuticals and sell them to all her druggie friends. She has jokingly said that she now has an idea of how to provide supplemental monies for purchasing new lab equipment. And now just by typing this and sending the electrons into the air, I have all but guaranteed that her computer is going to be seized, searched, and given to the DEA’s forensic computer specialists and she herself will get to spend some quality time in a small, well-lit room with some nondescript men in sensible suits. Ehehehe! I swear, sometimes all it takes is the merest whisper in the right person’s ear….

4. Things that go bang-whine-clomp and then just go silent for a week at a time. Construction in and around the human female’s workplace continues. I’d say, “continues apace,” but it does no such thing. Instead of finishing the restroom remodel on the first floor before progressing to third, but I convinced the workmen that it would be more efficacious to work on both at once. Or, rather, rip them all out to the piping, tear up the floors, make a mess, and then pause working for days at a stretch. They were instructed that they needed to observe some quiet when classes were in session, which they did for the ten days when no work was done because they were waiting on the tile whose delivery I had, shall we say, had a hand in. They recommenced with the sledgehammers and banging at precisely the moment the Anatomy and Physiology classes immediately adjacent began taking an important exam. They were told to stop. They did. Then they started. They were told to desist, and they did! Until they began again for a third time on the same day. The lab coordinator (who is a friend of the human female’s and who loses no opportunity to disrespect me) was forced to move her two classes to different rooms on two different floors for two weeks while the work proceeds. Except it doesn’t proceed. I am waiting for some groveling from the friend with the smart mouth.

5. Quiz time! Identify what is happening in this photo:


I apologize. That is a trick question. Nothing is happening in this photo! As part of the “improvements” to the human female’s workplace, New! Shiny! Water-fountains! that will Deliver Filtered! Water! at the Touch of a Button! will be installed. To that end, all seven existing fountains were removed. Two weeks ago. I’ll let you decide whether a) I have delayed the arrival of the new fountains so that I can enjoy the grimaces of everyone as they drink tepid tap water*, b) the contractors see the installation of the fountains as the last step of the plumbing updates and much more nothing will happen here until the bathrooms are completed, which, see above, or c) I have done a deal with the company that has the soda concessions for this building, since the tap water here is definitely not tasty**

A Loki’s work is never done.

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*True fact:  The city’s water supply is a deep well of slightly brackish, very warm water that emerges from the ground at 108°F.  It has to sit in a chilling tower before it can be considered “cold.”  In the summer, the cooling towers work less efficiently, and the “hot” water that has sat for a while deep in the plumbing is often noticeably cooler than the “cold” water when it first begins to run.  It is a common sight to see someone run the “hot” water tap to get a cool drink or wash fruit.  Not my fault.

**850 ppm soluble salts, most of it sodium.  Not recommended for houseplants or hypertensives.  Murder on lawns, coffeemakers, and plumbing.  Also not my fault.