Couldn't resist changing the format of the blog a bit. Not sold on the color combination, but I like the fact that it is much wider now. New office, new look to the blog. What can I say? If DamnGoodTechnician and drdrA can do it, why can't I? The only thing I can't seem to do is change the header text color independently of the body text, but I'll live with it.
Archive for: February, 2009
I have worked hard this semester to fill our seminar series with good talks. Nevertheless, I have had a few talks pushed down my throat. The one this week was just such a talk. It was given by an alum of the program who has recently finished a PhD at a prestigious institution. Alum originally contacted several members of the department looking for a post-doc, but has since found employment at a private company. Our chair suggested that we should still have Alum in for a talk and I tried hard to accommodate this by giving Alum an early pick of the potential dates. However, Alum took forever to get back to me and ended up with one of the two dates I had remaining on the schedule. The "I will email you when I damn well please" attitude ended up being the norm with Alum including a three week wait for a title. Despite initiating a discussion over a month ago about whether Alum wanted to meet with faculty on their visit, it wasn't until Wednesday night that I received a list of 7 (!!!) faculty members that Alum wanted to spend half an hour with (each). Well, for Fuck's sake, let me just drop everything and coordinate that in a couple of days, I'll get right back to you. Surprise surprise, 6 of 7 people were busy because most of us plan things more than a couple days in advance, but apparently, that's not how alum rolls.
Alright, so I set up a what I could and it worked out alright. But the talk turned out to be totally worth the pain. Not the subject of the talk, I have no idea what alum said, but how it was presented. The whole things was a roller coaster ride, where the valleys were normal talking at a regular pitch and the peaks were a squeaky and tense quiet-shriek delivered through a face locked in a expression somewhere between the crying family at the end of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and the kids who have their dreams crushed on "American Idol". There were only about half a dozen of these "episodes", but I was riveted to the build-up of each one and trying to predict where the pinnacle would be reached. It was quite the performance and was even punctuated with a substantial burp at one point, which was particularly delightful. This is not to say that the talk was horrible, but it was fairly close to a 1.0 on the PISSOFF scale, I would say, but probably because the whole visit was a pissoff for me. Maybe I'm just sensitive to time-suckers right now, but most speakers don't come in expecting the world on a plate.
Three days ago I was told that we would be moving to the new building next Friday, the 27th. For a variety of reasons, that day is now not very good for me so I contacted The Guy and asked if it could be moved a little bit one way or the other. Now sooner had I hit send when I get a phone call from The Guy who asked, how about tomorrow. "Um, like this tomorrow?" was my response, as if there was the possibility that he meant another tomorrow, defined in a separate dictionary from the one we generally use for the English language. He paused and said, yeah, like tomorrow. So, at 11:30 AM our lab found out that the people responsible for moving the chemicals were coming in an hour and a half to move our stuff to the new building and that movers will be here at 7:30 tomorrow to move anything we have packed and ready. Since we are actively working we had packed almost nothing, but the advantage to being a new lab is that we are light on our feet (not in our loafers) and spry because we are not encumbered by 22 years of shit built into every crevice. TWO HOURS is all it took to undo all of the setting up I have done for the last 5 months. The whole lab is all boxed up, save for a few items that will not box well and some that I am moving personally. The next step is to clean my office, which will probably take longer than boxing the lab. It will be great to move over to the new building, but I will be the only one on the floor for at least a week, aside from my students, and there will surely be some issues associated with being the guinea pig. Little things like not having a photocopier in the building for the next couple of weeks are probably going to drive me crazy, but it's temporary. I'm hoping we can set up and be working again early next week. What are the chances? At least it gave me a great excuse to cancel class for tomorrow since I am completely unprepared to teach this week thanks to Godzilla. This is one of the better distractions I can think of right now.
Odyssey has posted a formula for determining when a speaker should be placed on the "Never invite again. Ever" list and I agree with all of the points listed for the PISSOFF metric posted there. I suggested switching to a seminar format that resembled The Gong Show and I think there is some real merit here. Just like the show, three judges could be assigned to man the gong and if it turned out that the speaker was horrible, why listen to a full 50 minutes (or longer, ugh) of garbage when you could have the satisfaction of gonging someone and going off to do all of the things you need to? It would also function as feedback to the presenter that they need to work on their presentation skills. It's a win win. Of course, the more I started thinking about this, the more applications to other parts of this job became apparent.
Faculty meetings immediately jump to mind: long tangent that is wasting everyone's time. Gong! An unprepared committee member decides to read the minutes from the committee's last meeting rather than summarizing the key points. Gong!
Thesis defenses / proposal defenses.
Undergrads relating a long story as an excuse for missing class/assignment/exam.
Colleague hovering around to criticize your teaching or research for no reason (The official term for this would have to be the PiT Gong).
Deadwood lab putting in a request for yet another departmental TAship (a whole post for another time).
I'm sure I will come up with more and that you have suggestions, but this could revolutionize my life. Maybe after I have tenure.
I came across the following video when a friend sent me the link.
I thought it was pretty funny, but it got me thinking about the public perception of grad students and what they do. I realized that I can't think of many cases where grad students come across in a good light in the mass media. In movies, for instance, grad students either come off as malcontented jerks (e.g. Road Trip), obsequious (too many to name) or even murderers (88 minutes. FYI Pacino, you owe me 90 minutes of my life back you mailin-it-in MoFo). Even in movies that center around academic quirkiness, (Weird Science, Real Genius) grad students are portrayed as unsocial shut-ins or maladjusted individuals at the very least.
So, I wonder what the public perseption of grad students really is. What would someone on the street say if you asked them what they thought of when someone utters the phrase "graduate student". While college students are celebrated in hundreds of movies it seems as though grad students are seen as the extension of the high school AV club. So, WTF? Am I missing positive references to grad students? Are there any?
If you have 8 minutes to spare, check out this very cool slide show about what lurks behind the scenes at museums. It's not just crazy collections managers. Carl Zimmer also wrote a piece in Seed about the photos.
I couldn't rightfully call it a bowel movement, because we are leaving the bowels behind. It's semi-official, we are moving this week! The chemical safety lady was here to tell me this morning that my chemicals are being moved Thursday and even though I have not heard anything official from anyone else, they have been saying all along that they did not want us to be half moved at any point, so I assume that the rest of our lab is going at the same time. I guess that will put a few things on hold in the lab, including just about everything I am working on for this upcoming grant. I could probably have assumed that was going to happen, as soon as we got all of the reagents and materials. Nothing like being told to wait for 6 weeks, then being given 3 days notice. Whatever, it will all be better soon... it will all be better soon... it will all be better soon... it will all be better soon...
I just strolled over to check out the new digs and see what kind of progress they had made in the last couple of days, because the last time I was in there it was NOT ready to move into. Looks like they have made ZERO progress. My office looks great and all, but something about having a 10 foot high, two foot wide floor to ceiling window between my office and the hallway WITH NO FUCKING GLASS IN IT makes me aprehensive about moving my shit. If they had a bunch of workers in there fixing these minor problems I might have some faith that it's all going to get done, but the building is deserted. In the labs, they still have not dealt with the minor oversight of completely forgetting to plumb in DI water (you mean the faucet doesn't produce molecular biology grade water?) and none of the doors can lock yet. This will be fixed by Thursday?
I don't have time today to do this justice, but I would certainly be remiss by not celebrating Darwin's birthday today.
PLS - Hey tubes, you guys look like you're all ready to go, why are you still here.
Tubes - Well, remember that machine you had trouble with a few weeks ago?
PLS - Yeah, they told me that was all fixed and the problems were in my imagination.
Tubes - I guess not, despite the passive aggressive note scrawled in black over you log entry that read "Machine if fine for use". When we went across campus to deal with the ass-wipe sous chef tech, he couldn't even get the machine to turn on.
PLS - Really? Even though I called twice this week to make sure everything was set.
Tubes - Yup. And the machine is now going to be down for 2 to 3 weeks, which means that you won't get us spun before you upcoming grant deadline.
PLS - Hey, that's great! I'm sure the reviewers will understand.
Tubes - p.s. Sous chef tech blamed the problems with the machine on your previous long run that never ran more than an hour out of the 48 that you had it set for. And thanks for figuring out this sweet rack.
PLS - Dude!
Tubes - Fuck.
PLS - Sigh.
The next time someone random requests a sample that took me a serious amount of time, energy and frustration to procure, as though the stuff grows on trees, maybe I will try this strategy.
ps. I love xkcd.