slow silent and costly

It’s Been A While…

Since I sent the human female any plumbing-related woes.  I think, therefore, it would be interesting to have water appear randomly, with no discernible source.

Odin’s Eyepatch! I appear to have miscalculated.  Instead of water appearing on the human female’s desk, it has manifested on the desk of one of her coworkers.  Still, the coworker being absent today, it falls to the human female to move the coworker’s computer, mop up the water, and put down a bench paper blotter, in case more appears.

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Where did it all come from?!  The human female is looking left and right, down and…

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…up.  Always, always look up.

I don’t know if I’ve made the observation before, but if I have, it bears repeating:  the human female is a big, fat hypocrite.  She prays and begs for water to fall from above outside, on the “garden,” but let a little moisture drip down from a ceiling indoors, and it’s all, “Woe is me!”  “Plumbing emergency!”  And, “Oh, noes! Now I have to deal with Slow, Silent, and Costly!”

Spare me.

(later) Well, that was fun!  The incident got tagged in the system as a “ceiling tile replacement,” without any indication that workmen should investigate the source of the water damage.  There are so many options!  Plumbing, fire sprinkler system, condensation on chilled water line, melting Frost-Giant snowballs, portal to bottom of fjord on Vanaheim, etc., etc.

In the end, I suppose it doesn’t really matter, because when plumbers from SSC finally do show up, I shall, of course, make sure that the human female looks as foolish as possible when there’s no trace of a leak to be found anywhere.

Until the next Mystery Puddle appears…

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It’s Been Too Long Since We Had Any Squelching

It’s been much too long since we had any squelching around here.  Or at least no squelching inside.  Outside, there’s been a good bit of rain, things are a bit soggy, and the grass is getting loooooong.

Inside, though.  That’s where I love a good puddle.  Aside from the inconvenience, there’s always the chance I can get the human female to slip and fall in it, which is always good for a laugh.  (Don’t worry–she’s never actually seriously injured.  She has far too much padding for that.)

Today feels like it could be a good day for some water on the floor.  Hmm.  Where to put it?  How about in the middle of one of the human female’s prep rooms?  Someplace people have to go in and out of all day?  That could work.  Done!

A bit later…

Aw, yeah.

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Looks like the minions have been busy mopping.  I can stand on the shore where they’ve put some bench paper down to sop.  Ehehehe.  Sop and mop!

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Now, of course, it’s time for everyone’s second favorite game–Where’s That Water Coming From?  

The humans are  not sure if this is the source of the water on the floor…

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…but they are catching on to the fact that there may be more than one problem.  I don’t know if it shows well in the photograph, but can you see there’s a constant stream of water running there?  Tsk, tstk.  Wasteful.

Slow, Silent, and Costly have been summoned to investigate.   Actually, I think that, as is typical, they  have already been here, taken a look at the problem, and promised to return..  How can I tell?  Easy!  1) While the sink is still running, the puddle on the floor has ceased to grow.  I. e., the job is half done. 

Also, someone has left behind a tool.

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A lovely, grippy, bone-chomping tool.  An adjustable, grippy, bone-chomping tool.  I do not know who left you out, you sweet, toothy thing, but you’re mine now!

(later.)  Yes, Slow, Silent, and Costly have been here and are coming back.  They have promised a whole new faucet!  The minions are quite excited.

Do you see the diabolical brilliance of my pranks?  This is how you may know that you are in the presence of the Master of Mischief:  I can visit upon the human female and her staff as many misfortunes as I wish, but if I throw them a little bone from time to time, all they can think about is that, and not the giant, still-unsolved problem that SSC may– or may not– be coming back to fix.

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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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A Long Game I Really Adoored

Look at this.  It was a lovely, long bit of mischief.

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Looks like a regular, boring, institutional door, doesn’t it?  But it’s one of  my greatest pranks!  Would you like to guess when I put it into motion?

I shall tell you.

Last July thirty-first.

Last summer,  a new Lecturer joined the four who have their offices off of a shared lobby across the hall from the human female.  The only problem was that her shoebox of an office had a door that opened into the hallway, not the lobby.  A work order was submitted to Slow, Silent, and Costly on 7/31/2018.

In due time two fellows came out (remember, they always travel in pairs), took a look at the blank wall, tapped some sheetrock, sucked a little air through their front teeth, and told all assembled that it was going to Take Some Time, as there was a hitherto unknown Door Shortage.  Yep, they reckoned as how it was going to take six weeks just to get a door, what with all the construction locally and what not.  Besides, the the fall semester was due to start sooner than six weeks,  no one really wanted wall-sawing noise going on with classes in session, did they?  Best wait until the break between semesters, right?

Fast forward to the first day of classes this semester.  It was Door Day!  Three workmen came out to Install the Door.  

They were here all day.

They rummaged all over the hallway ceiling looking for wires.

They cut a small hole in the sheetrock, because they’d have to move an outlet:

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Then they cut a door-sized hole in the drywall from Not-so-new Lecturer’s office into the lobby:

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But what was that up there?  What was that hangy-downy bit?

They didn’t!  They did!

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They didn’t know what that cable was for so they just sliced it.  Depriving Not-so-new Lecturer, an Additional Lecturer, and all of Prep Staff of phone service.  Oopsie!

The rest of the story is best outlined against a calendar.  This is where the human female became involved.  Largely because she was a) handy and b) in possession of a working telephone.

1/14  A work order is put in with Slow Silent and Costly because, “Look what your guys did!”

1/14  SSC replies.  “Phone service is Telecommunications, which is part of IT.  Call Helpdesk Central.”

1/14.  The human female initiates a work order with IT.  And of course, it’s a different work order from the one she filed with SSC.

1/15  She calls IT, since she hasn’t heard anything, and asks them to send her a copy of the work order form.  “We’ll email it,” they say.  They do so.  Twice.  It didn’t show up.

1/15. Ms. L. from IT calls back.  “If you file the work order, Biology will be charged for it.  You need to call Slow Silent and Costly back and get an account number from them, so they will pay.”

1/15.  She calls SSC.  SSC agrees that maybe they should pay for it and asks for the original work order number.  From last July.  Great Frigga’s Corset!  Who has that?!  SSC says she should call Trades, which was the SSC group that had the work order.

1/15.  The human female calls Mr. W. in Trades and leaves a message.

1/15.  She finds two copies of the IT work order where I’d helpfully left them.  In her junk mail.   They’re useless now, of course.

1/16  The human female calls Mr. W. again, makes contact, and gives him Ms. L.’s number and tells them to sort it out between them.

1/18  IT/Telecomm does come out and fix the phone line.  There are hopes that SSC will come out and put the thrice-blasted door in.  Perhaps over the weekend?

1/19  Nothing…

1/20-1/27  Nothing…  The gaping hole remains in Not-so-new Lecturer’s wall.

1/28  The door, as pictured above, is finally in place.  Why did it take so long?  No one from IT bothered to tell SSC that the phone work was done.

One hundred and eighty-two days.  49.86% of a non-leap year.  Roughly as long as it takes to gestate a baboon.

Somehow that seems fitting.

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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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Mischief Update: Off To A Great Start

This time, I think I’ll lead off with the fun I’ve been having with the human male.  The electricals in the building he works in are the original ones–the main system hasn’t been changed since it was put in during the 1960s.  Well, Slow, Silent, and Costly have been fixing this, swapping out something they call the “Switch Gear.” This has involved a series of planned power outages.  The first was scheduled for a Sunday last December, and the human male had to go all over both halves of the building (which is sort of like a giant “U”) and make sure all computers were powered off, since when the power started up again, it could surge and fry things (I think that is funny; the human male does not.)  Everyone else in the department just had to be logged off the server.  Many of the faculty squawked, saying their work was Too Important to be interrupted and demanding backup generators.

Well, it started off all right—but about forty-five minutes into the outage, the backup generator–which SSC had supposedly checked and declared fit for duty–failed.  Then, at the end of the outage, when all the servers were re-started, the department’s Web server failed to restart.  Dead.  Stone dead.  He put a new drive into the array, but it wouldn’t format.  He got home very late and very cranky and he and the human female missed their favorite annual Yule concert.  He has been working since then on rebuilding and all of its files, but it is largely Error 404 Territory.  Why not restore it from backups, you ask?  Why indeed!  That would certainly work—if I hadn’t corrupted the backups.  The departmental Webmaster has had to recreate about a million files.  The best part of this may turn out to be that the human female’s Lower Division Biology Image Library was a total loss as well.  She’s got the spreadsheet that has all the data for the images.  She has the images she has herself added.  Buuuut all the other multiple thousand images are electronic toast.  She can’t even recover things from internet archive sites, because they were all behind log-in passwords.  I believe this is where mortals traditionally insert what they call “sad trombone noises.”

The human female has other woes,  mostly as a result of a splendid new construct I have invented that is a cross between a shell game, a domino setup, a nuclear chain reaction, and trying to keep an unhappy octopus confined in a loose mesh sack.  It all starts with the land-grab that Biology has wanted to make for years–the goal being the full or partial annexation of the second floor of the human female’s building.  (Currently, only the third floor is their domain, plus one Anatomy and Physiology lab on the second.  Remember that lab; it will figure into my tale shortly…)  Well, at long last, this bids fair to happen.  The Texas Transportation Institute will move to their new building on a satellite campus, then Kinesiology will move from the second floor of the human female’s building into the old, vacated TTI building, then the second floor will be remodeled, and Bio will get half of it.  Hooray!  Or, to be more precise, not hooray, because I suggested to TTI that their new building is insufficiently grand, so they have not moved.  Because they have not budged, Kinesiology has not vacated, so the remodel has not commenced.  Which would put everyone at least no worse off, BUT the Registrar was planning on the second floor being under construction this semester, so all the small lecture rooms on the first floor are vacant and unscheduled for the semester, since it was assumed that construction noise would be too much.  Also, the Anatomy and Physiology labs from the second floor have been shoe-horned up onto the third floor, so the human female and her Prep Staff are short one room for the foreseeable future.  A&P was given a room smack  in the middle of the hallway, and only with great difficulty did the human female and her cohort get them swapped further down so they will not be in the middle of the Bio 111 rooms.  It took even more finagling to get them changed in the online course listing–and it’s still not completely correct up there!

But that is only one loose thread in the Sweater of Horror I’ve been knitting.  Usually in the spring, there are no Intro Bio labs on Mondays.  It means Prep Staff has two days to set up all the labs (Friday and Monday) and that labs are not affected by the Monday holiday which honors one of Midgard’s triple-named heroes.  Not this year!  Because Intro Bio is short a classroom, there will be Monday labs, beginning at 8:00 a.m.  As well, there will be three days of  night labs and not just two, which plays merry Hel with staff scheduling.

To make matters worse, the triple-named-hero holiday is late this year.  When it falls in the first week of the semester, no one minds, as there are no Monday labs and no labs in the first week anyway.  This year, however, it falls in the second week of the semester, when there are labs, including on Monday.  So the students in the Monday labs will have lab the first day of the semester, some of them before they have even been to lecture yet.  The other days will not have labs.   The second week, the Monday labs will be off, but all the other labs will meet.  The human female had to order one measly jar of microbes for that first Monday and three more jars for a different delivery date for the other days the following week.  Double the air freight, double the fun!

Because A&P is moving up, the human female and her staff have to get almost everything out of the room they are losing, and it all has to go somewhere.  Thirty microscopes, six spectrophotometers, a skeleton, all the contents of the drawers, a computer, a waterbath, an incubator, an enormous terrarium, and a refrigerator!  Some things can stay in the lab, if the human female can get locks installed on some of the cabinets in a hurry. Where the rest will end up is anyone’s guess.  Actually, there is a good chance that some of it will be stored down in the A&P room on the second floor, because it is looking more and more like the remodeling is not going to happen any time soon!  It’s entirely possible that I could string things out long enough that everything could have stayed right where it was for another whole semester.

This would all be merriment enough, but all the Intro Bio I labs are completely different now.  Prep Staff hasn’t done them; the TAs haven’t done them.  There’s no hard copy lab manual and the TAs won’t be giving an introduction– the students will be watching videos before coming to lab and jump right into the protocol, after they take a quiz over what they are about to do.  Prep Staff is having to do new things–like growing and maintaining stock cultures of bacteria and breeding and growing hundreds of Arabadopsis plants.  Everyone is nervous, and I’ve arranged it so that the professors whose brainchild the new labs are won’t actually be teaching the course.

This week, Prep Staff has to start the bacterial cultures, and they have to thrive–otherwise, several of the labs later on are ruined.  They also have to make about thirty liters of something called “Bradford reagent” (don’t know; don’t care), and it has to be vacuum filtered.  They’ve begged to be allowed to purchase a vacuum pump, but I think it will be more fun to watch them waste a pond’s worth of water using running water to create the vacuum.  The medium for the bacterial cultures needs to be made with distilled water, except–remember:  there is no distilled water in their labs.  Ehehehehe–It will also need to be autoclaved.

And that’s another thing I’ve been having fun with.  The autoclave for Intro Bio is twenty-plus years old.  It is always needing fixing.  Recently, I had the door stick shut.  The repairman came and fixed it, but he found that one of the three computer boards in it was dead.  He borrowed boards from someone else’s unit to swap around and figure which one it is.  He is letting the human female keep the borrowed board, and he’ll come in to rebuild the steam manifold (again), but it’s very likely that a new one will need to be acquired sooner rather than later.

Thus, the bacterial medium is going to involve toting distilled water from another building and very possibly toting it back to said other building to autoclave.  Oh, well, it will have to go on the incubating shaker table in another building anyway…

So you might say it was a stressful first week back from Yule for the humans. The female, having turned in just before Yule a large list of equipment needed to teach the new labs, had to, in three short days, deliver the bad and expensive news about the RO system, the small RO/still unit, the image library, and the autoclave.  No one wants to open an email from her anymore!

There is more, much more, but my hands are cramping from typing so much.  I’ll have to fill you in at a future date…

To Be Continued…

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

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

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

303-di-RO water

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

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

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

313-supposed-di-water2

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

313-supposed-di-water

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

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

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

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

303-still-filter

It’s a behemoth.

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

303-303-still-maintenance

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

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

Good times!

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