l.o.n.z.a

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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