slow silent and costly

A Long Game I Really Adoored

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


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:


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


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

They didn’t!  They did!


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.


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


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?


It’s a behemoth.


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


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!

>|: [



Mischief Update: I Had Help

Lest my loyal readers think I’ve been doing nothing but swanning about gaming conventions and rescuing Sigyn from the odd bit of macabre glassware, I present for your delight a compendium of my latest exploits.

While the human male and I were up at the gaming con, the human female was on her own.  I made sure that every morning she was driving in to campus, there was a wreck on the way, slowing her down and making her late.  One day I actually blocked the entrance to campus!  I do some of my best work with traffic cones and vehicles with blinky lights.  A couple of days, I parked a big pickup in the lane she needed to be in to reach her parking spot.  Love pickups.

To make the human female’s work life a little more surreal and the job of her Prep Staff more difficult, suborned one of the undergraduates.  Together, he and I dismantled the human torso model in one of the lab rooms and hid the various body parts all around the lab room.  It made for a very visceral treasure hunt!

Then there was the week the students were playing with working with DNA.  Prep staff always has the very expensive reagents measured down to the microliter.  Someone spilled a whole tube of DNA ladder (a mix of DNA bits of known sizes), and two groups added ladder to every single sample, instead of just loading one lane of it in the electrophoresis gel they were running.   Cue the human female doing a mad scramble to order more over the phone with a credit card.

It’s not just the undergrads I’ve warped to my service.  I nudged one of the Lab Instructors, and she accidentally sent a copy of the lab final to every student in one of her sections.  Since what she sent was the base exam for a whole group of TAs, all those TAs had to write completely different exams.  This same LI also (thanks to my meddling) left her thumb drive in the computing lab.

Another TA decided to change the due date on a homework assignment.  This is strictly forbidden, as there’s a master calendar.

Another decided to ignore the rules about food in the lab and  bring cookies for his class.  Admonished, he removed them.  And put them back later.  Honestly!  Grad students are so suggestible!

And yet another decided to let the students into the lab final one at a time.  It took him about forty minutes to get them all started on the twenty-five station exam.

And yet another TA lost a whole set of ungraded homework papers and a set of ungraded quizzes.  Cue a big tizzy over what to do.  The human female thought someone on Prep Staff found them, and told everyone the good news. Unfortunately, what was found was four *other* sets of papers this TA had left in the Prep Staff office, so she had to untell everyone the good news.  The human female got chewed out for speaking too soon and muddying the situation.  Isn’t it funny how I can always work it round to her disadvantage, even when it’s not her fault?

Honestly, I’m finding TAs to be some of my best minions!

The human female ordered some pond weed that was urgently needed for a lab.  The Purveyor of Squiggly Things obligingly sent it on a Monday for arrival on Tuesday.  Then Fed-up and Exhausted, for reasons that were never explained, held onto the package in Memphis, Tennessee for twenty-four hours, so that it arrived on Wednesday, cold-damaged and kind of sad looking.  Salvageable, but too late to be useful for the lab.

Of course, I can’t leave the other vendors out of the mix.  I don’t always have time to think up new tricks, but the old ones are still good.  I sent the invoice for the human female’s latest order from the Vendor Who’s Responsible to Qatar in the Persian Gulf again, and then I  made sure an invoice from another vendor, one that wasn’t hers and didn’t have her name on it showed up in her mailbox with “Please pay this PAST DUE BILL NOW” all over it.  She spends half her time trying to tell vendors where invoices really ought to go.

One of the lab rooms has been too cold–about ten degrees colder than the other labs and the hallway.  *I* think it feels good in there, but humans are wimps, so the human female filed a work order.  Come to find out, some worker from Slow Silent and Costly, on some prior visit, had removed the valve that lets hot water for the climate control system into the room.  Not closed it.  Removed it. Possibly because it was leaking.  No one’s sure.  Now someone else has to come out and put it back.

I took the Biology Image Library down one day, so all of the students trying to study were met with a giant Error 404.  It’s an old program, and the underlying software, I think, is scratched onto rough stones in primitive runes.  The human male will be lucky if he can keep it running.

In the meantime, the University has decreed that all users have to have dual-factor authentication if they are logging in from off-campus.  They keep changing the adoption date, too, moving it up and up.  People are scrambling to get the software on their phones and such.  The human female’s phone wouldn’t take the software (thanks to a little jiggery pokery from Yours Truly), so she had to go over to a hidden room in an unmarked building and purchase a little doodad that generates a  log-in code at the push of a button.  So far, she hasn’t lost it, but it’s only a matter of time…

Computers are such fun to mess with.  I arranged a campus-wide cascade of computing, web, and email outages one day, starting with an equipment failure in the main computing center.  The systems were supposed to be multiply redundant so that if some bit failed, things would still keep going.  If you have all the systems in the same building, though…  Hey–they should thank me!  It was a good exercise in disaster recovery.

That caused such merry chaos that I’ve had random email outages and slow downs once a week or so since then, just to keep things interesting.

I’ve kept it rainy.  4.75″ just the other day.  The human female has given up trying to mow.

The human female had to get new glasses, just for a slight prescription change in one eye.  Would they let her get just one new lens?  They would not!  Because of her frames, it was all or nothing.  She wanted to get frames just like the ones she had.  Ehehehe!  Of course they don’t make them anymore!  She had to settle, which is always demoralizing for her and fun for me.

She bought a box of her favorite orange cookies, Mexican polvorones.  When she opened them, she found them smashed to crumbs.  I think she needs to look up the definition of “polvo” and not whine so much.  And that old quip about broken cookies having no calories?  Yeah, not true.  You should see the size of her!

Then there’s all the stress of Yule preparations, but that’s a tale for another time…

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So What Was the Verdict?

The fellow from Slow, Silent, and Costly (who, oddly enough, turns out to be the spouse of the lady who runs the greenhouse) has come and gone, and come and gone again.

Now we know what the mysterious white stuff in the R/O water line is.

It’s chunks of biofilm!  A biofilm being a layered carpet of bacteria.  Yummy!  Biofilms are really interesting!  They’re usually composed of several different species, intermixed and in layers.  When the bottom layer gets smothered by newer layers, it can detach and break away, taking top layers with it.  That’s what’s going on here.

That’s right, folks!  The building’s reverse osmosis water system is basically a giant bacterial culture!  Harmless–they think.  But who knows?  Apparently R/O systems are quite prone to them.  Set up a membrane and pipes and whatnot, and here come the microscopic goobers to glunk it all up.  It’s enough to make a body believe in Spontaneous Generation.

They’re really, really hard to get rid of.  Steam cleaning the line is out, because the PVC pipe can’t take temperatures that high.  Annihilating them entirely would involve running bleach or some other disinfectant through the ENTIRE BUILDING’S system, making sure the disinfectant runs out of every tap on every floor. Then the system has to be flushed out of every tap so that no trace of the cleaning agent remains.

As you can imagine, this is not cheap, so negotiations will have to be begun with Chemistry, who’s in charge of the building.

When I do mischief, I do it right.

The temporary solution is to install a filter to trap all the crud before it comes out the faucet.  The fellow from SSC ordered one, but the company sent the wrong size.  (I may have helped.)  He had them overnight the proper size, and then he came and installed it.

And here it is:


The hoop-y things are wrenches for removing the blue filter cartridges so that the filters can be changed.  The human female was told that they’ll unscrew backwards, because one has to pretend one is looking at them from underneath.  I bet she forgets.

Now, the whole R/O water question is made more complex by the fact that the Aquatics people also use the water for making the salt water for the aquaria.  Prep Staff accuses them of leaving the sprayer nozzle in their big drums of “instant ocean,” which corrodes the spray-y bits, so that over time, the nozzle doesn’t shut off very well, eventually becoming totally useless.  Prep Staff has tried to get them to quit, but hasn’t had much luck, so Prep Staff bought a splitter, along with a hose and a nozzle for the aquatic techs’ particular use, in the hopes they’d leave Prep Staff’s alone (so far, it hasn’t worked.)

So now that particular corner of the Plants and Animals room is a plumber’s nightmare.  Pipes galore, the water line for the ice machine, the splitter, the filter system, two hoses, two nozzles…

…and the new valve setup for the now-filtered R/O system.

The human female, needing to fill some jugs with R/O water for the plants, was the first person to try it out.  She had good water pressure at first, but it soon slowed to a trickle.  She tried opening the red R/O master valve.  Same result.  She fiddled with the splitter.  She tried the master valve again, in both the parallel and perpendicular positions.  Same result–lots of water, then nothing at all.

Now, humans are nothing if not predictable.  There are standards.  Usually, when the valve handle is inline, the valve is open, and perpendicular usually means “off.”  Neither position worked here.

With a little trial and error, the human female and one of her techs determined that “open”, in this case, is about 23 degrees off of inline.  (Why?  Because I like the number twenty-three…)

The human female, ever helpful, decided to mark the valve and the pipe so that other users wouldn’t have to thrash about, trying to get more than a trickle.  Unfortunately for her, she sometimes suffers from sleep-deprivation aphasia.  It can cause trouble with her vocabulary—she’ll say or write a random word that sounds a bit like the one she wants, sometimes with hilariously nonsensical results.


And sometimes it’s just laughably accurate.

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What’s That Stuff? I’m Not Telling!

It has been too quiet here in the human female’s workspace, ever since Slow, Silent, and Costly showed up to fix the drooling cold room.  Time for me to cause a bit more mischief.

Hmmm.  What could I do that would be annoying every single day?  Something she and her staff use all the time?  Something basic like…


That’s it!  I’ll muck up one of the specialty water lines!  There’s regular tap water, distilled water, and reverse osmosis water (R/O).  They’re all important, but the R/O water has to be specially good, since it’s what is used to water the plants, make the salt water for the aquaria, and all sorts of other sciencey goodness.

A wave of my hand, a few choice utterings, and behold!

RO water chunks
Odin’s eyepatch, that looks awful!  It won’t take them long to see the problem.   I wonder how long it’ll take them to figure out what it is…


I’m having such fun with this!  I let it clear up for a few days and everyone was happy, but now the whatever-it-is is back with a vengeance!

And what IS it???

They still don’t know!  They thought  perhaps the faucet gasket was decomposing, or maybe the lining of the hose.  Nope. Being scientists, they experimented a bit and discovered that the water looks like this straight from the tap.  Chunks abound!

Ehehehehe. *I* know what it is, but I’m not telling!  They’ve taken a sample to show Slow, Silent, and Costly:


Mmm.  Looks delicious!  But seriously—Isn’t that pretty?  It’s just like a snow globe!

A weird, contaminated snow globe.

Stay tuned, kiddies.

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