professional adjustment

Yesterday at work wasn’t earth-shattering or anything, but we had a few good laughs about it…

ours is even newer than this

ours is even newer than this

We received our new GC/MS about a week ago, and the service engineer came yesterday to set it up for us – that’s usually how these things go.   He’d been corresponding with one of my coworkers, so he was aware of our schedule, and supposed to be meeting us at 8am to begin the installation.

Eight came and went.  At 8:30 my coworker called him and woke him up.  He assured her that he’d come soon.  So we unpacked the instrument, and moved our trade-in out of the way.  And went to break.  And came back.  I suggested that perhaps he had stopped at a breakfast buffet…  Finally he was escorted in around 10am.  He walked in wearing some ratty, yellowed jean shorts and a polo that has definitely seen better days.  I thought it odd, but brushed it off.   I’ve been conditioned since college about the proper attire for a lab.  Pants and closed-toed shoes are a given.  Since he had no idea where the instrument would be located in our lab, he actually took a chance coming in shorts.  Today, we thought about it and posited that maybe his luggage had been lost – although, since he came for just one night, we’d have expected him to just bring an overnight bag carryon.  But then, perhaps there was another reason for the shorts.

Apparently our friend has a set spiel that he gives to all customers when he sets up the instruments.  And it seems that he most often does installations for people who possibly have never seen such an instrument before, and have no clue what it does or how to use it.  I say this because he wasted a great deal of our time with

See, nitrogen and helium are gases at room temperature.  Water, on the other hand, is a liquid at room temp.  And it boils at 150 degrees. *pause*  Oh.  I mean 100 degrees.

and other lovely bons mots.  He later suggested to me that we didn’t have to use methanol as our solvent.  We could use acetone, or any other solvent that our samples would dissolve in.  This is when I started wondering if he could see the instrument we’d just placed on the cart to make room for the new one – or the other one sitting across the room.   I actually can’t imagine anyone who would order one of these instruments who would be unsure of the definition of a solvent.  And I know that I’ve known 3rd graders who know that water is a liquid at room temperature.

cool spectrum - not a solvent we'll use tho

cool spectrum - not a solvent we'll use tho

Before lunch, I’d been setting up our newly cleaned density meter while taking notes on the new GC/MS.  After lunch, I was fully focused on the training, and had the misfortune of sitting directly in front of him as he demonstrated how the software works.  This is when I had to start looking everywhere except directly in front of me.

Why, you ask?

Because, besides sitting across from me with his legs spread far and wide, this fellow was adjusting himself (yes – exactly what you’re thinking) every 5 minutes!  – not an exaggeration –  At least every five minutes, he had to fiddle with things in the frayed shorts.  While it was happening it felt like a visual assault, but once he had gone I began to wonder if he didn’t have some kind of medical condition.  I’m thinking that he needs to get seen – maybe get some kind of cream?  baby powder?  I don’t know.  What I know is that I ended up closing my eyes, staring at the monitor, or staring at the clock until he left.

What the crack?  Who wears frayed shorts to go see clients for their job in a *chemical laboratory*?  and then spends the day adjusting themselves forthefunofit?  Crazy.  Keep taking the meds til they run out, buddy.  Don’t skip a day.


summer, so far

imagine the inside glowing orangey-red hot - kinda like the sun

imagine the inside glowing orangey-red hot - kinda like the sun

My life has been topsy turvy for quite a while, and I’m starting to feel like I’m on an even keel again now.  Or…getting there.  I think I briefly mentioned the project from hell that lasted close to 2 years and was almost responsible for me quitting/getting fired.  Thank God that’s complete.  It was a nightmare, mostly because of my boss and our really awful communication, but I think most of that is over – now that the method works and the results have been reported.

It seems that I’ve been living on the AA [atomic absorption spectrophotometer] at work for the last two years, and once I finished the project from hell, I started on a rush project with more method development work – some on the AA and some in a muffle furnace.  It turned out I’d need a high-temperature burner and nitrous oxide for the AA work [which translates into super heat and 2 foot(!) flames], and 1000°C in the furnace.  I did what I could, put in some long hours, and pretty much got it done.  We’re looking at some alternate methods for that furnace fiasco, though.

imagine the flame another foot and a half taller and a bit redder

imagine the flame another foot and a half taller and a bit redder

So craziness at work has been contributing to weirdness for a while.  Not to mention random schedule changes from 8 to 10 hour workdays and back again.

But then I’ve had some weirdness going on with some friends, too.  Folks that I’d gotten really close with and now seem like they’re avoiding those of us that had gotten close with them.  I figure it’s something personal that’s going on with them, but it can be frustrating too.

I bought the Mustang – which I love love love to drive.  But I put a little too much on the principal last month, and now I’m strapped til my next paycheck.  I definitely want to pay it off as soon as possible, but I’m not aure how soon that will actually be.  The actual payments aren’t bad at all, but I think I got a little too ambitious last week.  Now it stings, a little.

But I just want to go places in this car.  It’s freaking hot, and I just want to drive it.  I’d actually like to take it some place new, cuz the drive to ATL is kinda boring.

I’m supposed to be reading The Color of Wealth, but I’m being delinquent about it cuz it’s so heavy.  And since I’ve been getting home late a lot, I’ve been watching a lot of random tv.  I just watched “Millionaire Matchmaker” for goodness’ sake.

I did get some shoes that I wanted [Converse All-Stars and some white church shoes], along with a few clothes to make sure I’m ready for my Labor Day vaca.  I cannot wait for a whole. week. off.  At the beach, no less.

Right now, I’m trying to figure out if I want to plan anything else for my dad’s 65th bday next month, or if a BBQ is sufficient.

unraveledMy mind flits from one thing to the next [as does this post] cuz I’m a bit sleep-deprived and I’m getting used to 8-hr days again. But my Fourth was lovely!  I went to the itty-bitty town nearby to see fireworks [since my town couldn’t afford them this year] and had a good time doing that.  Then I stayed up talking with a friend until ~3:30am that night [Sunday morning].  So of course, that threw off my sleep pattern, and last night I stayed up til ~3 reading a book. [And Then Everything Unraveled by Jennifer Sturman, whom I really enjoy as a fun mystery writer.  It was good, but I suggest waiting until the sequel is published – it’s a quick read and when you get to the end, you just have to wait for the next book anyway…]

Oh and I’ve seen two(!) movies in theaters in the last couple months – Star Trek and Up.  And I’m seriously considering going to see The Proposal.  Just cuz it looks funny.  Betty White, Sandra Bullock, and Ryan Reynolds – sounds good to me.  Of course, I’ve been wanting to see the new Maya Rudolph movie Away We Go as soon as I heard about it.  I want to support her in everything, because I LOVE her.  I thought she didn’t get enough sketches to showcase her talent on SNL, but then there are a lot of misses on SNL.

And then of course, Michael died.  And some people don’t understand why it impacted so many of us.  Some folks at work were like – why are people crying?  They said they never had an emotional connection to him or his music.  And it never really occurred to me that that’s what it was for me.  But that’s exactly it.  So on the eve of his funeral, I’m sending encouraging thoughts out to his family and close friends.  Those of us who shared that emotional connection can dig out Dangerous and listen to “Gone Too Soon” one more time.  In the mean time, remember.

somebody is screwing Grey’s

dead guy killing TV

dead guy killing TV

I don’t know if it’s Shonda Rhimes or somebody else, but somebody is screwing Grey’s Anatomy.  Izzy fell in love with this dude – heart patient – and it was really unprofessional.  She stole a heart destined for someone else and nothing worked – he died.  He was totally dead.  Sink her into a funk for at least half a year dead.

So why the ____ is he back?  Izzy even made the comment that though she heard his heartbeat, that was impossible, because they’d removed his heart during the autopsy.

Folks, none of this makes any sense.  We’re watching a doctor show – full of science-y stuff.  Why is there a dude who is dead, NOT dead?


Update: Now I know what’s going on.  I’m not totally pleased, but I do feel better about this asinine storyline.  Wanna find out what’s up?  Here’s the spoiler.

the demise of intellect

Have you ever found yourself watching a movie with very little merit, but you’ve watched just enough to make you feel like you’re committed – and you gotta keep watching? That happened to me this evening. I didn’t read the description on Netflix very well, and I ended up with a movie instead of a stand-up special: Idiocracy. woo. This movie sucks. The premise, though, was terrifying. Premise being: Humanity begins regressing and intellect begins to disappear as the wisest among us tend to have fewer children, and the least astute are veritable baby factories.

Ever hear of the Quiverfull movement? I’m not saying that participants are necessarily lower in intellect, though some might wish it so. Just … food for thought, I suppose.

Honestly, IQ is a sort of random indicator of intelligence, considering the piece that was on the Colbert Report last night. Apparently, IQs have been steadily increasing, year by year, since the time they began administering the tests. This is no surprise, considering that those ideas/concepts/thought patterns that are most prized will be reinforced within society so that [at least] the most privileged of the society will be exposed to the media/material with more frequency and at younger ages, to facilitate better scores and subsequent opportunities. So in reality, IQ is as much of a construct as anything else. As much as we want it to be a measure of innate ability, it’s not. Thus, patterned differences in IQ should appear across groups that are systematically more disadvantaged: poor, minorities, those with alternate learning methods, and those whose first language is something other than English.

Wow. How did I end up talking about built-in bias in IQ tests? [Especially since, I believe my own IQ may have dropped a few points after watching that movie.] I just think it’s interesting that folks who are supposedly well-versed in the scientific method [though they may not have any social scientific training] pop up every once in a while to talk about how black people aren’t as smart as white people. Yeah – those kind of comments tend to stick with people. I still remember the Bell Curve business. What stands out more than anything to me is how obvious it is to me that environmental factors impact IQ scores so strongly, and how reticent people who benefit from those factors are to admit it. {I actually AM as smart as that paper says I am. Really! Just cuz people taught me how to answer the questions beforehand doesn’t mean anything!}


aside: best line of a tv show this week? “Do you wanna go to that party alone with that talking-head of a slut throwing you shade?? I don’t think so.” Cashmere Mafia

The SC Democratic primary is this weekend, and I’ve made up my mind – at least for the primary. I’m going for Hillary. She seems to draw a harder line on things that are important to me. Obama is tempting in some ways, but I’m starting to see a few chinks in the armor, and it’s not … it’s just disturbing to me. I could still see him as President if he wins the nomination, but I’d like to throw my support behind Hillary for this one. The one thing I’d like her to do, is step up and just stop all this war business. Just stop it. As much as you can stop this quagmire. That’d give me more confidence in her. But all in all, I’m happy with my decision.

And yet. I’m troubled. The most recent debate – here in SC – devolved into drama. I don’t think anyone left unscathed, but I know a lot of people have been absorbing the press coverage on the Hillary-Obama segment, and it seems that the press is spinning it in such a way that Edwards is the one coming out smelling like a rose. Obama was leading in SC, coming in to MLK day. It will be interesting to see who actually wins this wknd. I feel like we’ve all been set up, though. That all the hype about ‘an historic bid for the presidency’ was a means to get the two minorities out there sparring – with most of the press coverage. [In my mind, more coverage = more chances to put your foot in it, like Howard Dean’s yelling gaffe.] So, the white dude consistently comes in third, garnering just enough, but not too much publicity. And then, when ‘the woman’ and ‘the black guy’ finally succumb to the pressure and go off on each other, the white guy swoops in to carry the torch and keep the legacy going.

I know I’m not the first person to think of it either. But it scares me. And I don’t even hate Edwards. [Although, if I hear about his daddy working at that mill one more time…]

There is good news, though. Fred Thompson’s out of the race. Yay! One less (One Less!). And Florida will tell the tale of Rudy’s fate – we’ll see. I thought Jon Stewart had a good take on him at the beginning of the week [relevant piece starts at 3:55]

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Whatever happens, I’ll still be here. Crossing my fingers.

How much is too much?

After receiving my new C&EN (Chemical and Engineering News, the flagship of ACS Publications) every week, the first thing I do is read the editorial. Then I flip through, stopping wherever I see something that interests me [sometimes, not much] until I get to the jobs section. After perusing through everything except academic positions, I land on the back page for the light side of science. This is my formula. And I tend to stick to it, unless I’m having a really bad day – in which case I turn directly to the back page and read the magazine backwards.Today, the editorial is about overpopulation and Rudy Baum gives me pause for contemplation with these words:

“The fact is that many of the problems we face today-water and energy shortages, pollution, climate change-have at their root one common element: There are too many people on Earth already, too many more are coming, and they all very reasonably want to live like people in the developed world. The idea that a decline in population is a “disaster” proves only that the world’s economic system is unsustainable.

…[A]n economic system that is based on an ever-increasing number of consumers is, by definition, not sustainable. At some point, the carrying capacity of Earth for any species will be exceeded. And while we are still a long way from reaching that carrying capacity for humans, the cost of even coming close-in environmental degradation and species loss-would be catastrophic. We must, at the very least, at some point in the near future stop world population growth.

And we must develop a new economic paradigm that provides Earth’s stable population with goods and services that make life worth living. That is one of the most fundamental challenges we face in the coming century.” (emphasis mine)

Wow. “Stop world population growth”. How would you recommend we do this? Continue reading