Purveyor of Dead Things

Mischief Update: Set Chaos to Maximum

The contractors swear by all they hold holy that the second floor of the human female’s workplace will be finished on time.  Well, except for the air conditioning.  And the stools.  And maybe the electrical.  Or the water.  Or the phones.  But finished!

The New! and Improved! second floor is going to have multiple fume hoods, safe enclosures where scientists can work with nasty chemicals, DNA, and other cooties.  Evacuating so much air in a steady flow requires a VLF (Very Large Fan), and there’s no place those fans can go except the roof.  So a delivery was scheduled and a massive crane procured, and all the building’s inhabitants were told to stay home for a day and not approach the premises at all, to eliminate the chance of a) a  VLF landing on their pointy head, or b) a VBC (Very Big Crane) toppling over and making a pancake of someone or someone’s car.

The VLFs arrived, oh yes they did! But I had a word or two with the Purveyor of VLFs and they made their appearance sans the bolts required to actually attach them to the building.  So it was deferred until the following weekend when, once again, everyone was invited to stay very, very far away.

The old internet wiring in the part of the second floor that is going to become Biology and Chemistry teaching lab rooms was meant to have been stripped out, to make room for bigger/better/faster connections, and the contractors took this charge very much to heart and set to with a will, encouraged by myself.  So eager were they to accomplish the ripping and stripping that their zeal quite got away from them and they removed all the internet wiring from the part of the floor that is supposed to remain offices.  Ehehehehe.  Oopsie!  There is, unfortunately, no provision in the builders’ remit or room in their timetable for replacing what they took out–and no budget, either.  All parties involved are having a fine squabble and a round of finger-pointing about who’s to replace it.  And, more to the point, who’s to pay.

Water remains an iffy prospect.  There has been spotty low water pressure, a drip that doesn’t drip when the plumber comes, and hot water that takes for. ev. er to arrive once summoned.  The human female, having forgotten her water bottle at home, poured herself a mug from the break room tap.  Imagine her revulsion (and my glee!) when what she ended up with was pale yellow in color, with a fine black sediment and a rather disagreeable taste.  That will teach her to look before she sips.

The workman have created such a clutter outside the door that needs to be utilized for the annual Dead Cat Ballet that there is no way for the delivery truck to access the alley and no way for a pallet jack to approach the door. The human female, having made all the arrangements for delivery, removal of door posts, etc., was forced to do a little something I like to call “grovel and backtrack,” cancelling the door work order, arranging future delivery (at some as yet to be determined date) of the shipment with Central Receiving, and notifying the Purveyor of Dead Things that their payment will be tardy, since she cannot pay for what she has not received and checked.  Of course, I will make sure the person she spoke to in customer service at the PODT doesn’t tell the Bean Counters at the PODT, and there will be a nice dunning letter in the post for her, you mark my words.

The human female and her coworkers were told week before last that the phone lines were going to be cut at some unspecified date and be out for a while.  Another outage!  It has come to light, however, that there is no plan to replace the land lines and that the entire building is being switched to something called VOIP.  I was, I admit, confused.   Is not “voip!” the sound it makes when one wraps a piece of hot dog bun wrapper around a stick and lights it in a campfire, causing drips of molten plastic to fall with a very characteristic “Vvvoip!  Vvvoip!” ?  Apparently, though, no pyromania is involved, merely Voice Over Internet Protocol.  I am not dismayed, however, because I am fully capable of causing mischief with computers, so expect some good fun there!   (At a yet to be determined date, of course.)

The human male has not been exempt from my mischief.  He had ordered a number of Spanish language computer keyboards for a new faculty member arriving from Chile.  They did not come and they did not come and they did not come.  When he called to find out why, he was told that they were out of stock for educational customers.  When the male pursued it further, he talked with another person, who took a look around at the simply massive pile of Spanish language keyboards in the warehouse and said they would ship them out.  We will just see about that…

Another order, comprising some dozens of laptops, was dispatched to the human male by a carrier I had not previously meddled with.  But I adore making a new business connection, so I had a little chat with the good folks at Doin’ Hella Little, who subsequently informed the human male that they were completely unable to parse the delivery address (the University does not use street names and numbers but internal mail stops, building names, and room numbers) and that the laptops were going to rest comfortably in a warehouse at their distribution center in Humble, a small town rather closer to the Big City to the South than to here.  When the human male asked whether they could not reroute the delivery to Central Receiving, which does have something that is recognizably a street address, he was told that they could not do that and, if he didn’t want to drive an hour or more each way, he could take it up with the vendor.  Which he has done, and the vendor has supposedly Explained Things to Doin’ Hella Little, but we shall see if the laptops materialize.  

In the meantime. the human male was contacted by another shipper, inquiring about his shipment of over 100 tablet computers.  A bit of detective work uncovered that these were, in fact, not his at all but destined for some establishment in a town about two hours and more from here.

Recently, an old friend sent the humans a photo taken of them a decade and a half or so ago.  They were thinner then, and not so gray, and there’s a light in their eyes that is lacking now.  I simply can’t imagine why, can you?

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Time Is Fleeting. Madness Takes Its Toll…

Great Frigga’s Hairpins!  The human female is actually up on campus in her office today!  First full day here in eons.

It’s all very surreal.  Rooms 318, 319, and 302 are all torn up.  All the plants and animals from 302 are in room 325.  There is an anonymous half-person hanging out of the ceiling in room 313 doing who knows what.

I made sure that the huge generator-mobile thingy is parked right under her window, so even though it’s “quiet” in the building with most people still working from home, it’s plenty loud.  Especially with the various bangings and clangings that are going on.  That should help with her headache, don’t you think?

Everything looks strange in the office, doesn’t it?  Does she really have this much stuff?  What is all this junk?  She’s picking up bits of paper and putting them down again, trying to make some connection with the distant past that was her life Before and her life Now.

Well, looky here.  This is how her desk calendar was left.

deskcalendar1

Otherwise known as the last day anything made sense.

Contrast with the date on  the To-Do list she’s brought with her today.

deskcalendar2

Note items 9, 10, 11, and 12.  Preparations are afoot for the annual Dead Cat Ballet!  But since almost no Dead Things were used in the spring semester, the shipment is going to be much smaller this year, only 900 pounds or so.  Mostly piglets and kidneys.  Many, many piglets, and many, many kidneys.

Perhaps we shall call it the Porcine Parts Parade this year…

And now, for the finishing touch on today, I think I’ll have one of the contractors park a big diesel truck outside, right next to the air intake for the building.  Ah, yes, there it is!  The office now has the distinct air of eau de exhaust. 

No migraine medicine is proof against that.

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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

 

Oh, How Could I Forget?!

It happens every fall.  It’s as perennial as the changing of the leaves, the aroma of woodsmoke on the air, and the roar of the football-watching crowds (only one of which actually occurs in this part of Midgard in September.  The colored leaves will hold off until the middle of December, and the woodsmoke won’t arrive until January–unless someone barbecues for Thanksgiving…)

It did happen this year, and I did meddle, but I was so busy being naughty in other directions that I forgot to write about it.  Of what do I speak?  Why of the Dead Cat Ballet, of course!  The arrival of the year’s worth of preserved animals, “fresh” from the Purveyor of Dead Things, carefully coordinated with the PODT, the carrier, Central Receiving, Prep Staff, and Slow, Silent, and Costly.  Given all the things that have to go right, at just the right times, it’s amazing that it ever works.

The human female put her order in in May, the same as she usually does.  This year, the request included a truly staggering number of frogs and sea cucumbers (the latter of which, although they ARE pickled, are not at all nice on sandwiches.  Don’t ask.)  She was informed that the lampreys would be on backorder, and that the sharks might be delayed.  This was expected, as lampreys have the gall not to fling themselves into nets until late in the year.

Fast forward to August, when the human female began to arrange the shipping and delivery.  Central Receiving, true to form, indulged in that Midgardian children’s game known as “phone tag,” but eventually a date and time was settled upon. The human female, having been instructed that all requests to Slow, Silent, and Costly go only through the Department’s Facilities Manager (no more ad hoc work requests to deal with my plumbing projects, if you please), obliged and requested that the post in the double doors be removed.  When she asked the FM for the work order number, in case something went wrong at the last minute (like last year, when the removed post was put back before the delivery even happened), she was told, “It’s under control.”  “But what is the number?” “It’s being handled.”  In other words, mortal, sit down, shut up, and listen to your betters.

The delivery arrived as scheduled, multiple pallets of it, right on time.  One of Prep Staff having had quite enough of the Human Female and moving on to bigger and better things, the team was a person short, so the affianced of one of the minions was dragooned into helping.

I let it all proceed as desired (which should have been their second clue), with swift transfer of all the various boxes from the pallets to the shelves.  Sea cucumbers here, frogs over there, fish on the shelf by the door.  But what about the boxes with no labels?  Oh, just put those in the hallway and we’ll sort them out later.

When all the labeled parcels had been stowed away, the scope of my mischief was apparent.

dead-frog-boxes

None of those boxes had external markings that would hint at their contents.  What was supposed to be a forty-minute session of sweating and grunting turned into a long, protracted, painful parody of Yule, with everyone sitting upon the ground and opening the boxes to discern their contents.   None proved to be completely full.  “I’ve got three rats.” “Four more squid in this one.” “Mine is just twelve copies of the insert for the preserving fluid.”  And so on, for another delightful hour.

At the end, the human female and her minions were short on two items and over on one.  (Midgardians, apparently count like this:  One, two, many, ….thousands.)  A look through the labeled boxes revealed that one, at least, was mismarked and contained something different entirely, altering the count further.

So of course the human female called the PODT, who agreed to send the missing defunct vertebrates.  When she told them how the shipment had been so inefficiently packed as to result in about a pallet’s-worth of unlabeled, un-full boxes and asked if couldn’t they please a) pack full boxes next time, and b) label them.  “Well,  on your next order you should specify that you want the boxes labeled. I don’t know–there might be an extra charge for that.”

Ehehehehe!  Don’t you know that about half your vendors and ALL of the freight lines work for me now?  Now that I know it really bugs you, you can look forward to even more mystery boxes next fall.

One final note.  This might be the end of an era. Since the real, live Dead Cats are being ordered separately these days, since they take so long to arrive, for the first time in memory, there were no actual defunct kitties in this year’s order.  The human female reckons that the whole rigmarole  ought to be renamed.  She’s proposed the “Dead Frog Fandango.”  Hmm.  It’s not untrue, but it just doesn’t have the same “zip.”

What do you think?

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Mischief Update–I Solemnly Swear That I Am Up To No Good

I always say that I’m going to keep up with documenting my mischief. After all, future scholars and chroniclers will want to be able to appreciate my long games, my spur-of-the-moment flashes of evil brilliance, and my witty prose. But I’m so *busy* doing the actual mischief (and fighting off vegetative nightmares) that I do sometimes fall behind and then have to jot down an elephantine wodge of insidious history. Like this one.

I continue to do some of my best work with vendors. My collaboration with They Had One Mission And Stumbled is proving to be a very fruitful one. The human female put in an order for cases and cases and cases of those green, biodegradable lab gloves she’s switched the whole teaching program to. Her two previous orders each had delivery problems, so she was hoping for a smooth transaction this time. As if.  No, the whole pallet of glove cases did arrive, but it came in in dribs and drabs over a few weeks’ time. Half the order came in one or two cases at a time. Each little portion had its own ship notice and its own packing slip. The packing slips weren’t all the same size or format, and things came via both Unrepentant Package Smashers and Fed-up and Exhausted. In the end, there were eight packing slips, and one of the larger shipments came addressed to Stephen Wolfe. Luckily, that particular addressee-fu has occurred before, and the stockroom personnel know now to just shrug and reroute-the shipments to the human female. Finally, when one of these multi-box shipments of four different sizes of gloves comes, all the cases need to be held somewhere until they all come in and are checked off. Basically, it takes over a whole room for a couple of weeks.

One particular order for a refill for an antibody demo kit never came in at all. The human female waited….and waited…and waited. Finally, she called the vendor directly. The vendor did the email equivalent of a blank stare. They’d never received the PO at all. Turns out that the purchasing software had “helpfully” directed it to the personal email of a person who is not at the company any more.  The human female fixed that, much to my annoyance. Perfectly good prank, and I only got to use it once.

Preparations for the annual Dead Cat Ballet have already begun. She asked for a quote from the customer rep at the Purveyor of Dead Things and eventually got one. Of course, it didn’t have the plethora of pickled piglets she wanted and they had to do it over, so… Starfish remain totally unavailable, so the human female had to order three-hundred some-odd sea cucumbers. (Is that even an animal? Or are they switching to vegetables for dissection?) In any case, she submitted the order for approval and waited….and waited. No PO. I’ve figured out that if I distract her just as she’s quadruple checking the order one. last. time, she forgets to file the This Order Must Go to the Purveyor of Dead Things/ sole source paperwork, which slows the whole process down to a crawl. The order’s been placed now; we’ll see if it actually shows up as promised….

Earlier, she ordered some sharks for the a different class. The professor very strictly specified 1 female and two males. I helped the PODT pick out three beautiful females.  At my behest, hey also shipped three female stiff kitties and no stiff tomcats on a two male, one female order.

Speaking of Dead Things–remember the room full of skulls? Most of the shipment came in at once but there were a few things backordered (cats, deer, and the ever-elusive platypus). They came in a few here and a few there. Then the human female received another shipping notice and another invoice for two deer and one platypus, with a different order number from the big main one. Cue panic. Turns out that fake invoices are the Purveyor of Dead Heads’ way of putting shipped backorders through their system.  The human female submitted it for payment, but she’s discovered it didn’t get paid because a few days ago, the Purveyor of Dead Heads sent it to her again.

Oh, and remember the papers the human female has to sign every year for the Vendor Whose Responsible, saying that she promises not to use any of her chemicals to set up a meth lab in the basement?

VWR-Intended Use 2019

She filled them out this year and sent them in. Then they sent another request. “I already did this!” she whined. “How about you have your supervisor sign where it says, ‘supervisor’?” they replied. So she had him sign them and sent them back. They sent a third request. “I SAID I already did this!” she type-screamed at them. “But it’s a different account!”the VWR shot back. And setting her up with two account numbers wasn’t the best part of the joke. After all the wrangling–it turns out that the new lab exercises don’t even USE the chemical that triggered all the DEA paperwork in the first place!

That wasn’t the only fun the VWR and I had with the human female!  Oh, no!  Not by a long shot!  The new 111 labs use an astonomical number of test tubes–and now that the Powers That Be have decreed that they should be single-use (or at least tossed in the glass waste at the end of the week), the program is going through mounds and acres and tons of the things.  The human female ordered FIFTY THOUSAND of them.  She waited.  And waited.  Finally, there was a shipping notice!  She tracked it very faithfully on the Unrepentant Package Smasher’s website.  It got as far as Waco (which is, as they say in this part of Midgard, “up the road a piece”) and that’s when I stepped in.  You see, fifty thousand test tubes–fifty cases of 1,000) comes on a pallet.  When UPS has a pallet to deliver to the Department’s stockroom, if the driver doesn’t feel like working his large vehicle down the alley, he doesn’t.  He may take it to Central Receiving or just dump it somewhere else.  Which is what I suggested to him this time.  He dumped it down at the UPS hub facility back in Waco.

testtubes-vs-ups

The tracking said, “Will attempt delivery the next day,” but they didn’t.  And they didn’t call.  When the human female called them, asking if they could pretty please route the package to Central Receiving so that she could get it from them, they said, “NO,” and insinuated that she was somewhat lower than pond scum.  They made her get an Authorization For Reroute from the VWR, e-mailed to UPS and not sullied by her hands or her mail program.  She managed to do this, resigning herself to the $110.00 change of address fee she incurred in the process.  While she was waiting for the authorization to go through, the UPS tracking said, “Out for Delivery”–which induced a panic, because it wasn’t supposed to go anywhere until the paperwork cleared.  Frantic, she called the UPS depot in Waco who looked and said, “Nope, sitting right here.” It took a day or two after that to have the package show up at Central Receiving, and finally all the test tubes came to their “forever home.”  She should thank me!  She knows now to split the big test tube order into parts or to specify that it not be on a pallet.

Sometimes, when I finish with the human female for the day, I have a little mischief left over. Then I start looking for other mortals to tamper with. One of the human female’s techs, for example, played a big part in the acetone scare of a few months back. Funny, was it, coworker?  How “funny” did you think it was when I had HR lose your paycheck?

For the 111 labs, this summer was the second go around with the new labs. The professor wanted to try something different with the Forensics lab, the one that uses invisible bits of DNA and gooey/gelly agarose and lethal amounts of electricity. The first time, the results were deemed “okay,” but apparently they could have been better. So the human female ordered a different set of DNA primers. (Whatever those are…) The test gel–ehehehe! The test gel was completely blank except for the ladder of reference DNA fragments! Now, it’s a multi-step process from sample to gel, so they had to re-run it with various combinations of old and new primers and old and new regents. (I don’t need to know what “taq polymerase” is to mischief it up a bit!) Nada. Zip. Zero. They never did figure it out and ran out of time and had to do the lab the “old way.” I think the human female needs to read fewer articles on gel electrophoresis and more on chaos theory.

She won’t have too much time to read for a while. She’s been sad in recent years to do less with botany than in days of yore. I’ve been whispering in her ear that she’s a washed-up has-been and that she will die in ignominy, and I’ve been looking for opportunities to torture her further.  And now I have my chance! Years ago, she worked with a team of other plant nerds to write The Big Book of East Texas Planty Things That Only Other Plant Nerds Will Care About.  Recently, she’s agreed to collaborate as editor on Volume Two Much (which is FINALLLY in production), meaning she’s going to need to lay in a stock of red pens and patience with other people’s prose. About 157 pages of daisy-related gibberish is going to land in her mailbox any day now. I’m especially tickled because she’s going to have to shell out over $100 dollars to increase the size of her Dropbox space to handle this project. Time-consuming, unpaid, tedious, AND expensive. I’m enjoying this and she hasn’t even started yet.

I suppose it’s not true that she hasn’t been doing any botany this summer. She hasn’t been in the field because a) hot, b) foot in a boot, and c) did I mention hot? She has been working on the Herbarium’s database, fixing errors, checking label information, and other very boring jobs. Recently, she found that I told the student workers they could make changes to the database, an apostasy that was supposed to be Forbidden At All Costs. They’d been editing their version and she’d been editing her version, with the result that she had to re-enter a couple of work sessions worth of data. Now she has to work, not on her saved version of the file, but on the main version that I have urged the Herbarium to host on its server. She has to do all sorts of computery gymnastics just to log on and reach it, and there’s always the chance that the file she needs will be locked for use by someone else.  (Like when I had someone leave for the weekend still logged in with the file open!) And I’ve peeked–the student workers, busy little bees, are always adding new records, all of which will have to be vetted, so the proofing is very much a moving target.  She’ll never be done!

You know…sometimes, all it takes to put the finishing touches on the human female’s day is something very simple. The other day I saw to it that her ugly silver car had a nasty-gram on it when she went to get it from the church parking lot, where she had left it for a few days. During the week, the church makes a little income from charging students to park there while they’re at the university. “Your license plate has been recorded,” the note said, “and the next time we find you here without paying, you will be towed at your own expense.” This note was left under her windshield wiper, right next to her properly displayed parking permit, whose number– along with her license plate number–is duly recorded in the parish office.  You should have seen her eye twitch!

The human female was making (delusional)  gardening noises and plans for a while there. “I’m going to plant this,” and, “I’m going to plant that,” and “Oh, this would look good out front.” She was starting to be really annoying. Then the heat hit, and now she’s just hoping nothing expires from pure despair.  She tried to plant a shrublet the other day and couldn’t manage to chip a hole in the hard-as-iron dry clay.  She had to let the soaker hose run for an hour before she could scrape out a spot for it.  I did nudge a little rain her way to help. But is is *my* fault the accompanying wind broke off 1/4 of her beloved Vitex bush? Or that the five lush, now-house-high elm trees that planted themselves neatly along the property line are, she’s beginning to suspect, not native winged elms but invasive Chinese lacebark elms? Yes. Yes, it is.

In the backyard, the big dead oak is still looming over the house, making the human female fret every time the wind blows.  The tree service folks she’s called either want an amount with a lot of zeros, or they quote a price so low that it’s pretty certain that their “company” is just Joe Bob With a Chainsaw.  The one reputable outfit that comes highly recommended has a voice mailbox that’s full and doesn’t answer email.  (They wouldn’t come take the tree down anyway.  I’ve warned them what a loOnY the human female is, and they have a file on her that says, “do not respond.”)

Inside the home, I’ve been egging the Terror Twins on.  They stage wind sprints and wrestling matches every night about 11:00.  If you’re a betting person, bet on Flannel.  She outweighs Taffy by a fair amount and knows a little judo (I think she’s been taking lessons from Muffy.)  Recently, she gave Taffy a scratch on the chin that made a big scab.  The humans had to take off work, come home, crate up Boo Boo Kitty,  and haul her–screaming all the way–to the vet.  The vet cleaned it up and administered an antibiotic shot, to the tune of over-a-weekly-grocery-bill or half-a-nice-fountain-pen.  It took four adults to hold Miss Wriggle on the table for the shot, and by the time the fur-slinky was back in the crate, the entire exam room, all its occupants, and all its contents were covered in drifts and fluffs of cat hair.  They’ll remember Taffy for a long time.

So, you see, I have had my fingers in all her pies, as the mortal say.  Work, church, home –you name it, I’ve done it.  “But, Loki!” you cry.  “Can you keep this up?  Aren’t you running out of ideas?”

Not even close…

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Labels are Very Important

I am continuing my exploration of the Room of Dead Things.  Today I am paying particular attention to the labels on the boxes.

The Purveyor of Dead Things is usually good about putting labels on the outsides of the boxes.  (I say “usually,” because last year, I made sure that twenty boxes of the Dead Cat Ballet came in completely unmarked.  Opening them all to discern the contents was like a Very Gruesome Yule.  I still giggle every time I think about it!)

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Those are sharks, but not the sharks the human female is hoping for.  She should have learned by now to live with disappointment.

Some of the boxes bear additional helpful notes from the human female or her staff.

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I know *I* wouldn’t want to use eyeballs that were past their best-by date!

Even preserved goods don’t last forever.  Larger items, especially, can degrade over time.  Indeed, older stock is clearly marked “use first.”

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Hmm. I think I will add a few more helpful label items.  

They say a picture is worth a thousand words:

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It helps that my godlike magic lets me see inside the cartons.  Caution labels are always nice:

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Uh oh!  Better mark this one too, to avoid a catastrophe.

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Ehehehe!  Who am I kidding? That box is heavy enough and wet enough inside that, warning label or no, someone’s going to go home some night redolent of Eau de chat preservé.

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A Visit to the Room of Dead Things

The human female is down in the basement, checking on the stock of sharks and cats while the whole Dead Shark Shuffle is fresh in her tiny mind.  I am always up for a visit to the Room of Dead Things.  Sigyn, not so much.

It really is like an educational mausoleum down here.  Shelves and shelves of bags and boxes of defunct creatures, waiting their turn to suffer at the hands of scalpel-happy undergraduates.

It’s all fairly well-organized, with the various sections clearly marked.

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Kidneys, kidneys, and more kidneys.  There are also shelves of hearts.  And eyeballs.

And braaaaaaaains.

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Thor’s bitty ball-peen!  Sheep brains are SMALL.  I had no idea.  I suppose it doesn’t require a lot of gray matter to grow wool and fall into ditches.

Oooh!  Snake!  Ah, my lovely, I could wish that you were still alive and slithering sweetly about your business of terrorizing the mice and scaring people.

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Oh, now this is interesting!  This shelf has some spare skeletons!

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Rat on the left and lizard on the right.  Hmm.  I shall have to look into an animation spell or two, because those fellows would be quite effective if they were scuttling about the halls or climbing up on desks to sit by coffee cups and computer mice.

Come to think of it, the preserved animals would be pretty great to have running around as well.  I can see it now—skinned cats, litters of piglets, and the odd pigeon lurching from room to room and spreading the good news about formalin-free processing and colorful latex injections.

My To Do list gets longer every day…

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The Dead Shark Shuffle

The human female just sent off the large order to the Purveyor of Dead things, that almighty conglomeration of pickled fauna which will constitute this year’s Dead Cat Ballet.

Since it can take for. ev. er for the PODT to amass such a mountain of carcasses, especially the cats and sharks, and since the Powers That Be have not finished specifying which particular cadavers they want to include in the new 112 labs, she has put in an order of just cats and sharks and sheep brains, which she knows she needs for the upper level Anatomy lab.  She will make the huge order later, whenever the final cast of Dead Things has been made.

She has not forgotten the “difficulties” the PODT and I have made for her in previous years–how orders have come wrong, incomplete, late, leaky, or not at all, so she took special pains to set constraints on this order.   The professor teaching the class was quite specific. One triple-injected pregnant cat; two double-injected cats, two male and three female; ten sheep brains; one triple-injected pregnant shark; and three double-injected sharks, two female and one male.  She wrote,”NO SUBSTITUTIONS ON SEX” in the description of the cat and shark line items.  She included “PLEASE DO NOT SUBSTITUTE SEXES ON CATS AND SHARKS” in the area of the P.O. that’s for notes to the vendor.  When the Helpful Representative from the PODT called and said, “We’re short of male sharks, is it all right to go ahead and send three females now?” she replied, “Augh!  Please do not!  We can wait until August to get what we asked for.”

The sheep brains arrived.  The pregnant kitty arrived.  A double-injected female shark arrived.  And then…

Oh, dear.  Would you look at that.

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Two more lady sharks, with nary a gent among them.

She called the PODT and tried to point out the error of their ways.  The Helpful Representative on the receiving end of her exasperated expostulation seemed very surprised that the human female was not 100% satisfied with the three sharks she had received.  Higher math appeared to be beyond the grasp of the Helpful Representative, who could not quite be brought to understand that 1 + 2 does indeed = 3, but 1 apple plus 2 apples does not equal one apple plus two oranges, and that for the purposes of the fruit salad in question, any apple beyond one is a useless surfeit.  In the end, the PODT agreed that she could keep the two extra females at no cost and that they would send two males when–or if– they get them.

Of the regular dead cats, there has been nary a whiff.  (Which is good, because those things are…aromatic.)

It is not a ballet, it is a graceless, lurching Dead Shark Shuffle.

I think I can string this out all summer.

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Mischief Update: So Very, Very Busy

I’ve regaled my public with accounts of my larger exploits–the hard drive failures, the pipette tip madness, the wholesale emptying of one classroom, the autoclave, etc. , but I don’t want you to think I haven’t been looking for other ways to annoy the humans.

Here, in no particular order, my crimes and misdemeanors:

I sent another invoice from the Vendor Who Was Swallowed Up By The Vendor Who’s Responsible to Qatar, in the Persian Gulf.   The people in Qatar sent it on to the human female, who had to call the Vendor Who’s Responsible yet again and explain how this was never going to result in payment.  She’s had to place another order with the VWWSUBTVWR–this one for An Abundance of Lampreys.  We’ll see how the billing goes, but she shouldn’t get her hopes up…  Actually, that was a fun order, because one of the items showed out of stock at the VWR and in stock from the VWWSUBTVWR.  Invoice and shipping will be from VWR.  Maybe.  Why didn’t she order from the Purveyor of Dead Things, you ask?  Because they are out of filthy, fish-sucking petromyzontidinous goodness until August!

The new first-semester freshman Bio labs, the ones with the new exercises that the female and her staff have been frantically trying to understand and order for and prep, have been rearranged in sequence.  This means that one of the bulletin board displays will go up, come down for a week, and then go back up.  So far the new labs are going fairly well, though they are running over time and the students seem quite reluctant to actually read the exercises and do the appropriate math beforehand.  Protocols that worked for the faculty when tried with small groups over the summer are proving difficult to scale up.  And remember the new micropipettors?  The students have already managed to break six of them.  You might think that they’re just being careless, being young mortals whose pre-frontal cortices are yet rudimentary, but mostly it’s because I’ve led them to believe that they can abrogate the laws of physics and aspirate 1.8 milliliters in a pipette that will only hold 1.0.  I’ve promised a prize of $100.00 to the first student to actually achieve this feat, and they do keep trying!

Ah, students.  The semester is young yet, but already they are showing their intellectual capabilities.  One astute young scholar attended the wrong lab for two weeks–just wandered into the wrong room at the right time, presumably liked it, and stayed.  another added the class late, was directed to a lab to make up the missed session, and then attended a different section entirely.  Several others overlooked emails, signs, and syllabus materials that told them when labs would start and missed the first lab, “Because I didn’t know labs were meeting this week.” Four put down the wrong TA’s name when filling out their Lab Safety Agreement.  Quite a few others put down the wrong section number or supplied their room number instead.  Our future scientists and civic leaders, folks! I should be able to gull them easily and direct them to do my bidding like good little sheep.

The Teaching Assistants are just as subornable.  One left a stack of homework in the classroom.  Another missed his office hours.  And one stellar individual remembered to refill the buffer bottles after their section but neglected to close the stopcock on the large carboy.  They do say mopping is good cardio.  The human female should know.  She knocked over a gallon jug of RO water in one of the prep rooms, and the plastic shattered like glass.  Mop, mop, mop…  Later that day, a bag of old, fermented, red-dyed, soaked lima beans that was triple-bagged fell and splattered on the same spot.  It’s a very clean floor now.

Remember whole reverse-osmosis/ distilled water flap?  The technician did finally come to run the antiseptic (bleach, basically) through the system.  It sat for 48 hours, during which time the bleach ate a few leaks into the lines. That got fixed.  It’s all over now and, apart from still not having distilled water, all seems to be well.  I had been hoping to string this project along until May, so I was a little disappointed that the work has been done.  I contented myself with having someone from Slow, Silent, and Costly come visit the human female the week after it was all over and say, “So, what’s all this about white chunks in the water?”

For years I’ve seen to it that the outlet the human female’s work computer plugs into is as finicky as a spinster aunt.  Jostle any cord that’s plugged into it and the uninterruptible power supply that’s plugged in for the computer beeps loudly about “interrupted power!” (It’s no coincidence that the acronym for those things is pronounced, “oops.”)  The other day, she happened to administer the barest brush to the phone charger she had in the outlet and the UPS started announcing Ragnarok at pitch and decibel levels worthy of Sif in the midst of one of her finest rants.  Every few seconds, BEEEEP!  She tried every combination of plug, unplug, reset, BEEEEP! shut down, restart, reset, and curse she could think of, but all she managed to BEEEEP! do was make her computer unhappy as well.  BEEEEP!  She thought it was the breaker, which is helpfully BEEEEP! behind a locked door to which no one but Slow, Silent, and Costly has the key, but when the fellow from SSC showed up BEEEEP!, he deemed it a faulty outlet.  He departed to get one (I’ve made it a rule that they never to travel with parts) and returned BEEEEP!, only to proceed to tinker with the innards of the wall.  Eventually, she was all sorted out and silence reigned, but it sort of shot an afternoon of (pretending to) work.

The warped counter around the sink in one of the prep rooms has been approved for replacment.  But I’ve delayed the epoxy countertop indefinitely.  Even if it comes in, the crew may need to wait for a semester break to do all the rip out and install.  Prep staff had all the drawers removed or emptied. They’ve put them all back–which of course will mean the slow,  silent, and costly folks will be here the very next day.

The office ran out of Bio 112 lab manuals, so the human female had to put out a call for anyone with a used one from a previous semester.

The honors sections of 112 lab are two weeks behind the regular sections (different curriculum), so the human female won’t be able to carry over live materials from regular labs one week to give them.  Nope!  She’ll have to order all the live goobers in a second time.

The rush order for human sickle-cell anemia hemoglobin (miscalculated on initial order) wouldn’t go through online, so the human female had to call with a credit card and enjoy the fun of trying to explain the whole convoluted mess that is any mailing address at the university.  Eventually, the order went through.  However, when she had to do another rush order for something else last week, the vendor couldn’t pull up her account or address or anything.  Why?  Because it’s another company that has swallowed a bunch of other smaller companies.  Though they all say, “We’re proud to now be a part of Expect Major Delays (AKA, United Amalgamated Consolidated Lab Supplies Unlimited),” they’re still actually, legally separate companies, and they don’t share account info, and you can’t order Company A’s product from the Umbrella Company.  The phone operator actually sent her to the website.

The pet store was out of crickets.  A hungry tarantula is nobody’s friend.

I told the spiny urchins in the two main salt water aquaria to make themselves at home.  This they have done, consuming two lettuce sea slugs and a sea cucumber.  Perhaps the aquatics tech confused gentle, herbivorous sea urchins with carnivorous ones that just like to eat invertebrates named for vegetables.

The copier ate a page of the multipage packing slip the human female was scanning to send for payment.  You know, the big one from VWR?  That big order that has been coming in in dribs and drabs since December?  That’s right, the one where every packing slip includes every item on the whole order, even a particular box has only a single item.  Pages and pages of packing slip!  Except, of course, for the boxes that arrive with no packing slip…  Meanwhile, the three outstanding cases of pipette tips have generated not one but two “update on your shipment, here it comes” emails, but still no joy.

The elevator and key card doors on the floor randomly refused to work during the first week of the semester.  No reason, other than I like to mess with people’s heads.

All is far from perfect on the home front.  A free annual inspection of the heating system showed that my repeated kicking of the infrastructure is paying off.  Something about the supports for the plenum box about to give way…I think.  Something expensive, anyway.

The aerator on the kitchen faucet, with my help, went a little wonky and was spraying water sideways.  The mortals’ old bachelor friend removed it to clean it, and it wouldn’t go back in.  He promised to fix it, but the first new aerator he tried didn’t fit.  He was prevented from returning with the proper part, so the humans had an aerator-less faucet that shut off with a “blurt!” for a few weeks.  It’s mostly fixed now, but it still has a tendency to splatter a bit at low pressure.  I find it’s the little annoyances that can really grind a person down, don’t you?

I made the human female drop a sock in the felines’ water dish.

I made sour milk when the female wanted to eat cereal for breakfast.

The human female finally gave up on the embroidery kit she ordered LAST January (2018).  Come to find out, the kit maker, who is in Europe, has a minimum overseas order, so the human female’s order, which was much less, was just going to sit until several hundred dollars’ worth of additional orders were submitted by the stitchery shop.  The human female gave the shop a Stern Talking To about not advertising items they couldn’t actually procure.  That prank took a full eleven months, start to finish, so bonus points for that.

I made the jam go bad in the fridge.  Do you have any idea how hard that is?  I’m sure the human female could spin you a very boring lecture about osmotic potential and microbes and oxidation and how jam has too much sugar in it to spoil, but Rancid Jam, apart from being a very good band name, is a thing that can happen.  What can I say?  It’s a talent.

So you can see, I’m at the top of my mischief game.  I give it a 9.5 for execution and a 10.0 for creativity.

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Time For Dead Things Again Already?

I hadn’t realized the summer was nearly over, but Odin’s eyepatch!  It’s time for the Dead Cat Ballet again already!  The human female put in her usual multi-page, multi-ton, multi-thousand dollar order with the Purveyor of Dead Things back in May, and today’s the day they’re set to arrive!

She put in a work order with Slow, Silent, and Costly to have the post taken out of the double doors downstairs, so there will be room to get a pallet jack through.  It was supposed to have been done by 8:00 a.m., since the dead things are coming at 9:00.

Could I let things proceed as scripted?  No, I could not!

It’s 8:40. The human female is just coming onto campus and her techs have just this moment sent a text.  Great Frigga’s Corset!  The post is not out of the door, and is that…?  Yes it is!  The delivery truck is here!

Now she’s human female is on the phone to SSC, asking them not so nicely why the post is still in the doorway.  Ehehehee!   They DID take the post out of the doorway at 7:00, but I brought this gross breach of security to the remodeling crew on the first floor, who very helpfully put it back in.  SSC is on their way to remove it again.

Very well.  It’s out again.  But the techs are saying the borrowed pallet jack, which has to be in the basement to receive the goods from the elevator (because, you will recall, a loaded pallet jack will not fit the elevator, so the goods have to go down by themselves) will not fit in the elevator.  The human female has told them that, yes, it will fit, but they will have to be… creative.

At last!  The post is out, the spare pallet jack is in the basement, and help has arrived for the unloading.  The first pallet is on its way into the elevator and…

…it’s too wide!  It won’t go through the elevator doors!  This is priceless!  The delivery men have lowered the pallet and are picking it up again from the narrower side.  Oooh–the suspense is killing me!  Ah!   Now it just fits in the elevator.  Good show!

Snort! The human female has just realized that once the loaded pallet is in the elevator, there isn’t room to lean in and push the button for the basement.  She should have thought of that before.  She’s texting the basement crew to call the elevator.

(later)

I must admit, that was impressive.  The human female and her crew moved 4,240 pounds (or about 31 human-female-units) from tailgate to store room in 30 minutes.  It would be more impressive if they’d managed to get all the boxes on the shelves.  However, the Purveyor of Dead Things sent twenty or thirty unlabeled boxes, and no one knows if they’re hearts or frogs or kidneys or fish or eyeballs or what.  They’ve all got to be opened.

Some of them are suspiciously light.  The suspense is killing us all!

Ehehehehee!  This is beautiful!  I told the packing crew at PODT to let their imagination run wild with the packing, and they’ve outdone themselves this year.  Each of the mystery boxes is stuffed with yards and yards and yards of crumpled paper.  It’s like Yule! Anything could be in here! One box is less than half full of earthworms.  Another is less than half full of sheep eyes.  This one has–count them!—four measly clams.  This one has three little gray fish.  This one has just one pig heart.

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Another has only the packing slip and several copies of the “our preserving fluid is so safe you could almost drink it” card.

My favorite, though, is the long, skinny box that looks as if it might contain a poster.  The human female does not remember ordering a poster, but there it is.  The contents?  Three small jars of PTC test paper strips.  This is brilliant.

(later)

Well, all the boxes have been sorted and put on the shelves.  Now the techs have to count it all.  Given how the PODT has shorted us on at least one line item every year, it’s a safe bet that something will be off.

There’s a multi-page packing slip to corroborate, along with a copy of the original purchase order, because sometimes the PODT doesn’t send what was ordered, and sometimes what’s on the packing slip doesn’t agree with what was received.

Each box needs to be opened–because who knows what’s in them.

Crayfish?  Check.

Grasshoppers?  Check.

Fetal piggies?  Check.

Tiny, bony fishies?

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Dead cats?

Dead cats?

Stiff kitties?

(crickets chirping.)

We do not have dead cats today.  It would not be the Dead Cat Ballet unless there were a problem with the defunct felines.  The dire national Dead Cat Conundrum is still very much a “thing.”  The stiff kitties are, alas, on indefinite back order.  Also missing from the order are the sheep plucks.  A pluck is a nasty thing–trachea and lungs–and the human female is just as glad they didn’t show up.

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Thor’s bitty ballpeen! That is a lot of kidneys.  And a even lotter of hearts, because they sent us one extra.

And it had its own box.

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Uh oh.  Looks like there’s a discrepancy with the J2 (double injected) sharks.  We could almost call this yearly onslaught of formalinic fun the Dead Shark Tango, because it seems there is always a problem with the sharks as well.  And since the fancy, double-injected sharks are for the upper-level Chordate Anatomy classes taught by the Big Boss, a discrepancy is a Big Deal.  The human female ordered 14 males and 5 females.  What was in the boxes?  15 females and 5 males.  The PODT didn’t have what she wanted, so they sent what they had.

Thanks to my meddling, she’ll now have to spend a lot of time on the phone with the PODT.  She’ll probably find it easier (if more expensive) to just order 9 male sharks on a separate PO, one marked “NO SUBSTITUTIONS!!!” IN ABOUT SIX PLACES.

Now do something about that mess!

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It looks like Hurricane Mittens came through.

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