slow silent and costly

You Said You Were Lonely…

The human female has been spending a lot of time at the herbarium lately, still working on that huge botany book no one wants to read.

Sometimes she’s the only one there and it gets sort of lonely. Sometimes I arrange for there to be lots of volunteers there, working on other projects–I’ve seen to it that the crew working on mushrooms have booted her out of not one but two workspaces. Take today, for instance. She can’t work in the big main room. She’s going to have to work at her desk in her little office cubbyhole. It’s not bad, but there isn’t much room to spread out.

Is that a leaf under her chair, or a stray scrap of dark paper?

Wait–did that just move? Is that what I think it is? Time for a closer look.

Odin’s Eyepatch! It is! It is! There is a LIVE BAT under her chair! I had invited some of them to pay a visit the herbarium, but I didn’t know we were going to have a squeaky little guest today.

The human female, after a truly gratifying startle, has remembered the wise advice not to handle bats (rabies, don’t you know) and has turned an empty box over the bat and weighted it down with a book. The Herbarium Curator has called Slow, Silent, and Costly to come and remove the chiropteran interloper, and the human female has looked online for A&M’s “What to do when you find a bat on campus” page and called the number there. We’ll see if we can get any sort of response…

(later) Ehehehe! There was much confusion. Both phone calls ended up creating a work order with SSC and it took some time for the human female to convince them that a) there was just one bat and b) the bat-removal guy really could find his way out to the herbarium, which is pretty remote. Supposedly, he’s on the way! This is all so exciting. I can tell you, the human female is not getting any work done today!

(a bit later)

The venerable bat-catcher has donned a big glove and scooped up the unhappy flyer.

Looks a bit like a winged ox, does he not? Do not be fooled, however, he is not inclined to be still. In fact, there is quite a lot of “feisty” in this critter.

“I am fierce! I will bite you! I will bite your children! Fear me!”

This is by far the most interesting thing that has happened to the human female in… forever. Possible exposure to rabies aside, she should thank me, don’t you think?

>|: [

You Had ONE Job

I am still trying to make the human male’s last few days on campus memorable. Meddling with maintenance remains one of my chiefest joys.

The handicap door-activation button on Heldenfels is frequently out of order. This is quite inconvenient for those staff and students in wheelchairs, not to mention anyone trying to maneuver a large, loaded cart through the doorway.

Last week, Tsk, tsk! Things weres are on the fritz again.

Slow, Silent, and Costly were summoned (again) to fix it (again.)

I have heard that they finally showed up to address the problem. Let’s see how that turned out, shall we?

Oh, well done.

>|: [

I’m Not Leaving Without a Fight

If the human female thinks she can escape her workplace without a farewell barrage of mischief from me, she’s either stupid (quite likely!) or willfully delusional (almost certain.)

The phones have finally been replaced with the new VOIP units, and now I know where the word “VOIP” comes from. That’s the feeble, pathetic sound they make when a call comes in.

voip…. voip…

It’s so faint that it sounds like a proper phone ringing in another room, so even when a call does come in, the subconscious files it under “someone else’s problem” and filters it right out. The sound quality’s not so great either. The person on the other end of the line sounds as if they’ve been stuffed into a bus station locker—-muffled and distinctly tinny.

The Teaching Assistants and Lab Instructors continue to rearrange their lab and office hour schedules with merry abandon. No sooner does the human female compile and distribute the information than someone announces that they’ve changed something. One enterprising Lab Instructor (hired to teach six sections) quit entirely the day before classes started, leading to some hair-pulling and creatively colorful language on the part of the Intro Bio Director. There’s one TA whose name doesn’t match what the university says it is (married over a year ago), as well as a Lab Instructor whose existence the university doesn’t acknowledge at all. He’s not in the directory and thus cannot be added to the list of lab users the human female had to compile and submit to BioRaft.

Ah, BioRaft. This is the University’s newest attempt at herding cats. In theory, it is a place to gather all the lab safety for the university under one benevolent umbrella. In practice, however, it is being slowly implemented and is still earning a big, redN in “works and plays well with others.” The entire Intro Bio program is one reporting unit, with the human female in charge of reporting. She got the initial listing set up without too much fuss, noting which permanent staff members face which workplace hazards. Toxic chemicals? Check. UV light radiation? Check. Infectious biological agents? Yes, please. Now, however, she has to enter in the information for each of the fifty or so TAs and LIs. “Can’t I,” she asked sweetly, “submit a spreadsheet with each of the pertinent persons, their contact info, and the hazards they face? Surely such could be imported into the guts of the program?” “Don’t be silly!” BioRaft has answered. “Remember our slogan: “One by one is more fun!”

BioRaft has the same notion about hazardous chemical inventory. They’ve been promising for about six months that “real soon now” it is going to be possible to upload a spreadsheet with names quantities, container type, location, manufacturer, and particular hazard for each and every chemical Intro Bio uses. The human female has had such a spreadsheet ready go since forever, but each inquiry has been met with, “you bet, but not yet!” I had big hopes for BioRaft as a source of aggravation for the human female and hilarity for me, but now that the stupid wench is running away retiring, she’s deprived me of that pleasure, and I’m more than a little put out.

I continue to have fun with the computing software infrastructure on campus. One day last week, Zoom had problems nationwide, wreaking havoc on the ability to teach or take classes online. Then there were problems with eCampus, the portal for all grades and assignments. If I could find a way to feed off frustration and panic like some sci-fi monster, I would be as fat as Volstagg.

The construction in the building, which has afforded me so many, many opportunities for outages, delays, noises, and funny smells, and which was originally supposed to be complete before classes started on August 19, is nearing completion but is by no means done yet. I believe the major work is done, but the workmen are still in the installing fixtures/ running wiring/ painting/ running around without masks/ parking in other people’s spaces stage.

They’ve nearly finished with their total disruption of Prep Staff’s office space. Let us examine the progress.

It looks a little less “horror movie” now and a bit more “comedy of errors.” Buuuuuut… Do you see that blank wall to the right? That demarcates the area that was “borrowed” from the office to allow for a duct conduit from regions below to regions above. What do you notice?

I’ll give you a minute. Humpty tum, humpty tumpty tumpty tum. Got it? No? Sigh. Silly mortal.

It’s not what’s there that’s the problem. It’s what’s missing! Behind that partition is the AC vent for the entire room, and the new blank wall is missing the electrical outlet and the ethernet port that used to be there. Ehehehehehe! Prep Staff is going to be warm and unconnected unless the contractors can be persuaded to come out and remedy the situation. I could be wrong ( I’m definitely cynical) but their, “Oh, yes. We know. It was always part of the plan and we intended to fix it. Yes, that’s right,” rings a bit hollow…

Oh, and the faucets in 313? No running water. Or, rather, there’s a steady stream of hot water trickling from the tap, but no more than that, and no cold at all. Hooray! One more round of fun with Slow, Silent, and Costly before the human female leaves.

Soon alas, I will have to give all this up. No more con/destruction. No more fun with (f)utilities. No more Intro Bio. I’m bereft.

Bereft, but not out of options. Just you wait, human female. There are more ways to torment you than just the university…

>|: [

Scandal! Outrage! How DARE SHE?!

I hinted about this last week but didn’t share details, knowing that it would take me several days to formulate a response to the human female’s latest unspeakable actions.

Having thought about it long and carefully, I can now state, categorically:

AS!# 9&*kdk j$%@m-pa7^)aq–WTFBBQ?!!

I…I honestly did not see this coming. Huginn and Munnin did not see this coming. What catastrophic event has my horns all bent out of shape? What has shaken my world upon its mischiefy foundations?

Just this:

The human female is retiring.

I know! I didn’t believe it either, at first. But she’s doing it. She’s turned in her mountain of papers to the University. She’s turned in her further mountain of papers to the Pension People, written her resignation letter, and started putting all her work affairs in order.

What am I supposed to do for fun if I can’t harass her via the Vendor Who’s Responsible, the Purveyor of Dead Things, Usually Smashes Parcels Significantly, Slow Silent and Costly, the Purveyor of Squiggly Things, Fed-up and Exhausted, and all the various Bean Counters at all the various levels of administration?!

It’s unthinkable.

This calls for a reinforcements.

Let me introduce to you my new ally, Timey McWatchface.

He may look a little dorky, with his underwear on the outside and all, but don’t be fooled. He and I have an insidious and cunning plan to undermine the human female’s sanity.


We simply have to suggest that she’s running out of time to finish up the Technical Laboratory Coordinator’s Manual she’s working on.

Tick… Tick…

She has years of e-mail to sort through, archiving anything important that her successor might need.

Tick… Tick… Tick…

Files to transfer. Accounts to close. An office to clean out.

Tick… Tick… Tick…

She needs to train her Techs to do some of the purchasing.

Tick… Tick… TICK…

And what about after retirement?

Timey, I think that’s where we can really start putting the pressure on.

What are you going to do with your time, woman?

You can’t just sit around all day, you know. No, you have to improve yourself and get to all the home repair projects you’ve neglected and do the document shredding you’ve been putting off and sort those books and clean up the craft room and catch up on your mask-making and finish some of the quilting and stitching projects.


You promised yourself you’d start exercising regularly and doing more volunteer work and sort the closets and keep up with the housework, or have you forgotten?


You’re not getting any younger! What about the travelling? The novel you want to write? What about the English country garden you’ve always wanted? The stamp collection you need to revive? Huh? Huh?


What happened to learning to juggle?


Good work, Timey! She’s now a quivery ball of overwhelmed dread! Between the existential angst and all the work she has left do do before they knock her down and pry her office keys from her little clenched fingers, she’s paralyzed. The mind is working a thousand miles an hour but the wheels are just spinning in place.

How long has she been sitting here, staring at nothing while the rest of the house sleeps? What time is it getting to be?

Gonna be a loooong day tomorrow!

>|: [

She Honestly Doesn’t Know If She’s Coming or Going

I’ve spoken here before about the ongoing con/destruction in the human female’s workplace.  I’ve been working with Slow, Silent, and Costly and all the contractors to make sure it is the biggest headache possible.  I’m proud to say that my hard work is bearing fruit!

This is what the Prep Staff’s office looks like right now.


I believe that’s the ceiling sitting in a pile on the floor, there.

And then there are the Outages.

The human female and her techs knew there were going to be numerous outages, as bits of the remodeled second floor utilities are tied into the remainder of the system.

Every time there’s a scheduled outage, there are a million texts and emails beforehand, clarifying just what is and isn’t going to be affected.  Precious plants, animals, and perishable chemicals have to be protected with backup power.  Sometimes I think EVERYTHING on the floor needs to be hot, cold, or wet!

The inbox overfloweth.

All the computers on the floor need to be shut down ahead of a power outage, because a) they don’t like to run when it gets to be 90 indoors and b) there’s always the chance that the power will spike when it comes back on.  (Nobody trusts their UPS.)  Since people are logged in remotely, this means no one can do anything on their work system during an outage and all the computers need to be switched on again afterwards.  They’ve been scheduling outages for Saturdays, but nobody goes in to turn things on until Monday, so it’s a nice little “break” from work. (But see below.)

The power and chilled water/AC outage at the beginning of the month went more or less as planned.  Backup power went where it was needed and nothing died.  But many of the rooms are on automatic temperature monitoring, and when they get warm the human female gets a nice little text notification.  Bing!  Every minute or so for every room that edges up over 78.2 F.  She got to delete one hundred and twenty-two messages!  All day Saturday!  Then there were the accompanying emails…

Then there was an unscheduled water outage.   That was fun.  More email!  Does the building proctor know about this?  How about the facilities coordinator?  What’s affected?  Is it fixed yet? With every text and every email, the crease in the human female’s forehead got just a little deeper.

Then I made a water leak.

The next week, I scheduled a two-day outage of the hot and cold water, the RO water, the forced air, and  the vacuum lines.

Then a two-day outage for natural gas.

The vaccum is something that never gets used, gas wasn’t needed those days, and the forced air is only used for blowing up sheep lungs in what has to be the grossest demo in the whole Lower Division Instruction Program.  (The human female and her techs keep trying to write this out of the lesson plan, but it keeps being put back in.) 

The water, however, was a pain.  No water fountains, no faucets, no potties.

The human female is still working from home, so she was minimally inconvenienced.  I just had to make sure she got all her notifications.

The most recent outage was supposed to be a power outage.  Then everyone heard that it was only supposed to be for the north end of the building–which is where most of the offices are.  Something about “volts” and “buses” and blah blah blah.


Today, Prep Staff discovered that, while the lights and such were back on, there was no power in many of the wall outlets!  More fun!  More email!  This is part of the best one, from one of the contractors:

power outage 1

Apparently the “more information” was this:

blown transfomer

Now, you’ll recall that only the north end of the building was supposed to be affected, but Behold!  The outlet in room 302, down at the other end of the hall, went out as well, the one the ultra-cold freezer (-80F) is plugged into.

Cue a hundred more texts and emails

An unplugged freezer doesn’t freeze very well, so everything started to…t…h…a…w.   A poor Prep Staffer had to move everything into a regular freezer, with plans to move things to alternate storage in another building once it was all frozen again.

Nice try, but the things in that freezer are very, shall we say, finicky, so they will probably need to be replaced.  The human female drew up a list to present to the nice contractors, in hopes that they can be prevailed upon to make good the loss:

freezer losses

More email:  Were there other primers?   Is that all the ONPG that was spoiled?  Was some of it not mixed up and in the freezer?  The bacterial cultures aren’t replaceable, are they?  Just how much Sybr Green did we really have?  While all of this unscheduled swapping and counting and price-looking up was going on, someone noticed also that the water and RO water was off.



All while the human female was dealing with the flurry of activity and paper that vetting and interviewing applicants for the vacant tech position, put together a fall purchase list, and deal with a ton of other paperwork.

Out of all of this, I have confirmed one Biological Fact:  The human female is part chameleon.  No, really,  I can prove it! Her face definitely can change color, and her eyes can swivel to look in two directions at once.

And she’s going to be bald before all of this is over…

>|: [

So… About That Ice Machine

I mentioned last week that the ice machine at the human female’s work broke the other day.  It malfunctioned just as everyone was battening down for going into exile, but its misbehavior (and my mischief!) started long before then.

Last November (Great Frigga’s corset, has it been that long?!  I’ve been remiss, remiss, remiss in posting updates.  I’m so far behind I could behave until Yule and still have stories to tell!)

This is the inside of the machine.


It’s always full of ice.  For some reason, I feel quite at home here.


Anyway.  Last mid-November, the ice machine at the human female’s work broke.  The bit that attached the actual ice maker to the chute had come loose and it was spewing ice out of the top of its stack, rather than shunting it down inside.  And with it spewing out the top, it was never reaching the,”Hang on, I’ve made enough ice.  I should probably stop now,” point, so all of  the extra ice was going all over the floor.

And melting.

Prep staff refastened the chute to the maker with zip ties.  For a while, everything was fine.

Then the zip ties broke.  So they replaced them.

And it broke again.

Meanwhile, Slow, Silent, and Costly had been invoked.

Then I turned the mischief up a notch.  The Facilities Coordinator got cranky, because she wasn’t getting any updates from SSC.  Then the human female and her staff heard that a part had been ordered and it would have to wait.

They were surprised then, when someone showed up almost immediately to fix it—with more zip ties.

Cue a flurry of bewildered and scarcely civil emails between all parties.  Was the cursed thing fixed or not?  Was a new part still imminent?  No one knew what was going on, and I had to hide in the custodial closet so my laughing wouldn’t give me away.

Then in early December, more conflicting messages appeared.

“The ice maker’s fixed.”

“No, it’s not.  I’m here to fix it.”

“How many open work orders on this thing are there?!”

“None, ’cause it’s fixed.”

“Says you.”

Eventually, the chute got fastened to the maker again, with what are delightfully known as Worm Gear Hose Clamps, which have held up— until a few days ago.

The building’s shut up, the machine’s turned off.  No one knows if SSC is working during the shutdown or not.  Prep Staff mopped up the water before they left, but they know…

Oh, they know

That something unpleasant awaits them when they return, because this:


…will be about fifty gallons’ worth of melty bailing in the bottom of the bin.

Unless, of course, it leaks.

>|: [


Really, She Should Have Expected This

Humans live such short, miserable lives.  One gray day is much like the next for them, and yet each one wants to be special.  They carve up their pitiable existence into chunks and put names on them, and identify with them, as if it somehow means anything.  This is the “Year of the Rat,” supposedly.  What’s next?  Guineapigs?  Dormice?  And the year gets parceled out month by month as well.  According to the superstitious system the human female uses, she was born under an astronomical sign that corresponds to water.

I’d dismiss this as mere superstition, except wherever she goes, water misfortunes of one sort or another seem to dog her heels.  When she visited an island known for its dry summer weather, it rained.  When she went hiking in the mountains in the middle of a drought, it poured nonstop for three days.  Her first apartment’s roof leaked.  So did the one on the place where the humans spent their first married Yule.  The building she used to work in flooded on a yearly basis, and you know how many leaks, puddles,  drips, and dribbles I’ve caused for her in the building she works in now.

Which is why she should not be at all surprised that her Prep Staff minions have just called on the walkie-talkie to let her know that the autoclave is leaking.

A lot.

A lot, a lot.  Scummy, rusty, autoclave-guts water.

One of the Techs has located the water vaccuum and is employing it with vigor. The human female is on the phone, requesting help from Slow, Silent, and Costly,  urging them to be faster than they normally are.

Curses!  Another one of the techs has located the water cut-off valve.


And here comes SSC.  That means my little prank is over.  But it brightened up an otherwise boring workday and inconvenienced a lot of people, so I’m willing to let it go.

On to the next mischief!

>|: [


Making My Mark

After much delay and needless dilly-dallying, Slow, Silent, and Costly are finally coming to paint one of the human female’s prep rooms.  It’s not as if it needs it to function, you understand.  It’s just that the paint is peeling from the autoclave steam, and there is black stuff in the corner that no one wants to examine closely to see if it is mold or little presents from the big cockroaches that infest this realm, no matter how well you clean.

So, in a day or two, workmen will be in here scraping and priming and painting.  I think I’ll leave them a little something.


>|: [

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.


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?

>|: [

Your Bad News Is My Belly-laugh

Good news!:  The custodial crew is deep cleaning all the floors so they’ll be beautiful and sparkling.  They’re stripping them down to bare tile and everything.  They’re even using the new, super-strength stripper I provided.

Bad news! (Well, bad for the human female):  The new, super-strength stripper I provided doesn’t stop at dissolving all the old, yellow, grungy wax.  No, it continues to power through and dissolves the adhesive sticking down the floor tile as well!

Now, as the human female and her staff are walking through the rooms, they can hear the distinctive ~crackle!~ of loose tiles underfoot.

Ehehehe!  Will you look at that!  Mop-water has gotten in under the tiles and is squeezing back up whenever someone puts weight in the affected spots!

floortile vs water1

Did I know my little prank would turn out so well?  No–but color me tickled!  Dirty, mop-water-brown and tickled!

Oh, dear.   Looks like it’s time to file a work order with Slow, Silent, and Costly.  I’d frown in consternation and disapproval, but the corners of my mouth keep twitching up…

>|: [