Archive for the ‘At Work’ Category

Nerd Trash Talk

November 9, 2011

I headed right up to the lab when I arrived at work this morning, which is a different pattern than I’ve had over the past several weeks. My most recent project has been a long-term study that I’ve been testing it in the later part of the day just because it’s a simple assay that I can throw on as I’m walking out the door at night. But usually I can be found in the lab at all hours of the day or night.

A relatively new coworker (and also my office mate with whom I get along well) saw me in the lab this morning and commented.

Him: What are you doing in the lab? You usually don’t stroll in until sometime after noon.

I’m in work mode and tend to make science jokes because I have a receptive audience here.

Me: Hey, buddy! Your observational data set of my behavior is dangerously small to be making any assumptions.

Him: Hey…I can only work with the data I have.

So, a relatively benign, forgettable, nerdish exchange. But I later realized that I had just asserted – in probably the geekiest way EVAR in all of recorded history:

“Bitch! You don’t know me!”

And I’ve been giggling all morning over that.

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Interwebs – you waited for me!

June 14, 2011

I wasn’t sure you’d still be here when I got back!

So, yeah. Hey.

How ya doing, Internet? My name’s Brianne, and I’ve been out of you for about a week and a half now, but I’m super excited about getting back into you.

Work has been crazy, but in a good way. I like being busy, having challenging goals and deadlines to meet. The frustrations are frustrating, but the wins are AWESOME. But there have been some long hours…about 120 of them in the past two weeks.

So I’ve been struggling to stay abreast of the latest online news, and holy crap has there been some. Sadly, I haven’t had a lot of time to process – let alone blog – some of the best stuff. And the Tonys…I missed the Tonys! I was going to bring chicken pot pie, chocolate salty balls and cheesy poofs to a friend’s house to watch the Tonys and show my support for The Book of Mormon, but turns out they didn’t need my contribution – they took home NINE  freaking Tonys! Woo-hoo!

Oooo…oh yeah, and I have a netbook now, and I’ve been doing my Rosetta Stone for Spanish. If there is ever a young male underneath a table, or if a boy and girl are in a boat, I can totally tell you so in two languages. Awwww yeah!

In between running assays and writing reports, I have managed to sneak in a few chapters of Pyramids, by Terry Pratchett. I’m a grudging fan of the Discworld series; I grew up on Piers Anthony’s Xanth – back then there were no other fantasy worlds as far as I was concerned. So, I missed out on Ankh-Morpork until just recently when some good friends re-introduced me to the books. And actually, these friends are involved with putting on the North American Discworld Convention that is taking place in Madison in a few weeks – there are still tickets available, you guys. If you’re a fan, you should go; Sir Terry is going to be present and there are all types of art, theater, role-play, storytelling, costuming and other Discworld merriments to be had. Did I mention that it’s in Madison, Wisconsin – a mere four hours away from the Twin Cities?

So, no news or rants today, but to wrap it up I want to share a couple of my favorite quotes so far from the Harper paperback 2008 edition of Pyramids: 

On gods physically walking among men:

And Dil was realizing that there are few things that so shake belief as seeing, clearly and precisely, the object of that belief. Seeing, contrary to popular wisdom, isn’t believing. It’s where belief stops, because it isn’t needed anymore. -page 178

On camels, the greatest mathematicians in the history of Discworld:

Human mathematical development had always been held back by everyone’s instinctive tendency, when faced with something really complex in the way of triform polynomials or parametric differentials, to count fingers. Camels started from the word go by counting numbers.

Deserts were a great help, too. There weren’t many distractions. As far as camels were concerned, the way to mighty intellectual development was to have nothing much to do and nothing to do it with. -page 193

Absolutely awesome, odd, engaging fantasy storytelling.

See you tomorrow!

New CUP Contest tomorrow!

May 13, 2011

Okay, I want to write about my week, so you can either bear with me OR if you just want to learn about tomorrow’s CUP Contest scroll all the way down to the last paragraph of this post.

START READING HERE FOR DRAMA! INTRIGUE! BETRAYAL! TOW TRUCKS!

This past week has been amazingly stressful, both in good ways and bad.

On Friday I drove eight hours down to Chicago to visit with my Mom. On Saturday we went to the Art Institute, enjoyed a lovely tapas lunch at Emilio’s, and went to Cirque Eloize that evening. After the show we ate a light dinner at Petterino’s and then came back to the hotel and packed. The next morning we got up early, I dropped Mom off at the train station and I headed over to meet Chicago cool cat and fellow blogger Jeremy and his Chicago cool cat wife, Tina. We puttered around snapping photos in a relatively famous cemetery called Graceland Cemetery, then battled the Mother’s Day crowds to have lunch at Marietta’s (phenomenal lunch and well worth the wait!). I’ll have more info and pics of the Chicago trip in a later post.

I left for Minneapolis at around 2pm, but immediately became stuck in traffic on I94 leaving Chicago. I survived that and stopped at the Belvidere Oasis for road snacks (i.e., junk food that can’t be justified in normal day-to-day existence), and then I made it four hours NW to Mauston, Wisconsin when my car broke down. My bought in February of this year/60-day bumper-to-bumper warranty expiring less than three weeks ago/NEW CAR broke down. When I stopped for gas in Mauston, the engine wouldn’t start again. I called AAA for a tow truck. When I went into the BP to let them know why I was blocking a pump, I was browbeaten into pop clutching the car by this horrific bully of a woman who mocked me for  calling for help when it was so obvious that all I had was a dead battery. We got the engine started and I agreed with her that I should just head for Minneapolis and not stop anymore.

But instead, the second I left the  BP gas station I drove over to a local KMart to buy a battery, just in case mine quit on the trip home. At KMart the car died as I was pulling into a parking spot. Not a good sign, but my first reaction was  joyous indignation as I thought “Ha! I knew that pushy b*tch was wrong!” But then I realized “Oh wait, my car is broke good, innit?” Still, I decided to replace the battery and try for home.

As soon as the battery was in, I started the ignition and the engine roared to life. I headed for Minneapolis, but made myself nauseous with worry for the next three hours. I tried all sorts of tricks to relax including listening to different kinds of music and podcasts to distract myself, breathing deeply and calmly, arguing with myself that even if I did break down I could call for help, and really a breakdown was just money and time.

None of that worked.

I worried for the entire time up until I actually did break down again outside of Hudson, WI, which is about 40 miles from Minneapolis.  I was THIS close to making it home! It was about 9:30pm and night had fallen. I glanced down at my dash and saw that it was completely dark. I glanced at the road in front of me and was horrified to realize that my headlights had gone out. The only reason I was able to see was because the traffic behind me was illuminating the road and the tail lights of the cars in front of me were guiding my way. I pulled off the road just as the engine died. Alternator.

Aych eee double hockey sticks.

To make an already long story slightly less interminable: AAA came and towed me to Stillwater where some nice friends rescued me and put me up for the night.  

Monday was gray and depressing. I had left my glasses in the car at the repair shop and my contacts had conked out, so I spent most of the day with fuzzy vision, which gave me a headache. The car wasn’t ready until 2:30pm. So, many hours and $600 later I left Stillwater. I drove right to the house of some friends in North Minneapolis to relax and be around nice people, because I was so bummed out that I didn’t want to be in an empty apartment by myself. Who knows what kind of damage I could have done the Ben and Jerry’s container in the freezer at my place?

On Tuesday I had to go to the dentist AND I had a doctor’s appointment. Also, work got very…involved that day. The one bright spot was a crazy spring storm and an evening of drinks and gossip at the Independent with a friend.

On Wednesday work was very busy again, and I spent the evening doing laundry and cleaning the house.

So, you see…it’s just been an often crabby, sometimes enjoyable, busy few days.

But yesterday was pretty awesome. Work is crazy busier than usual, but I’ve taken on an interesting new project. After work last night I headed over to the Be’Wiched Deli in Minneapolis to enjoy dinner, drinks and conversation with the Minnesota Skeptics meetup group.

And today I felt like blogging. Woo-hoo!

START READING HERE FOR CUP CONTEST INFORMATION!

So, now that I’ve completely tricked you into reading about my personal drama by putting a misleading title on this blog post, allow me to announce that TOMORROW at 6pm I will post the next Close Up Photo Contest entry. I actually have the CUP Winners page up to date, so stop on by to read the rules, learn about past entries and take a gander at the current player rankings.

See you tomorrow!

Today My Lab is Busy

January 12, 2011

To be fair, in my line of work most of these are valid reasons to be bumped from an instrument.  It just means that I have a lot of “hurry up and wait” “”free”” time.  In which I have chosen to doodle.

Double quotations means that if I were speaking I would have given this word even GREATER emphasis than the phrase in single quotations.

Ah, so it’s one of *those* days.

January 5, 2011

I doodled this last year right before Christmas break started.  Now, three days into the new work year, it looks like things are picking up right where they left off.

I signed it because I know you guys are sneaky bastards and would otherwise steal this fine art and claim it as your own. 

Stuck in the Lab

December 22, 2010

Work is crazy today; I’m probably going to be pulling a 16-hour shift today.  Yikes!

At my work we’ve got these high-demand instruments.  I signed up to use two of them on this date, so I get them for today.  Tomorrow some other lucky scientist gets to use them.  But my studies just keep going wrong…and by “my studies just keep going wrong” I mean I keep finding new and creative ways to screw them up, whether it’s running the wrong protocol, QNS-ing the samples (Science-nerd points and a hand-drawn picture from me for the first person who tells me what QNS stands for!), using the wrong sample type or screwing around for so long that I’ve left my reagents on the bench past their room temperature stability limit.  Yeesh!

So, if I want to finish my studies before I leave for Christmas break (and my boss assures me that yes, in fact I do) I’m stuck here until they’re done. 

Picture the Jeopardy theme song here.

Luckily, I have Qdoba lunch leftovers (from today, even!) and a full soda machine in the lunch room.  Oooo…and some Ghirardelli chocolate squares that I received as a Christmas present from a coworker!  So I shan’t starve this evening, which makes the prospect of being stuck here a little less depressing.  I’m actually wanting to go sleep on the phlebotomy cot in one of the labs, but I don’t think the night security guy would approve.

Ah, science – you cruel, cruel mistress, you.

Lab Supply Gingerbread Houses

December 16, 2010

A small group of us at work gathered together to celebrate the holidays.  A coworker and I planned the event and we decided to have a contest around building gingerbread houses…made of lab supplies! 

We supplied the glue guns, the cardboard bases and the little blue and green plastic squares (the first person who can tell me what they are will win my admiration and a hand-drawn picture by me!  Of course a drawing by me is more of a punishment than a prize…).  Five groups of two participated, and these are the results.

Now, it is important to remember that one can be a scientist AND an artist.  Indeed, I think science can open our eyes to beauty and elegance in all types of environments and situations which might otherwise go unnoticed. 

Ahem.  All types of environments.  Yeah…

******************

Update: 12/23/10

I finally got around to drawing MPM’s prize for being the first one to correctly identify the blue/green plates in the pictures above.  His answer is in the comments.

Brainy White Elephant Exchange

December 10, 2010

Our office holiday party was yesterday, and it was pretty fabulous.

The party was held off-campus in the Snyder Building Auditorium of the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.  The room had a gigantic sloping ceiling and huge wood and glass chandeliers.  One of the organizers had made pretty centerpieces made of red-bark dogwood, pine tree braches and ribbon.

The food was really very good!  There was a lot of food that I was able to eat, even with the whole gluten-free deal-eo.  I had a mixed greens salad, grilled vegetables, caprese salad and chicken with capers, nom nom nom!  I had to pass on the orzo (Orzo is always frustrating.  I want to go to the cook and say “You picked rice-shaped pasta!  You meant to pick RICE!), the heavenly-smelling bread basket, and every single desert option, but after dinner I had some delicious apple cider with cinnamon sticks and was plenty satisfied. 

There were a few short speeches and recognition awards, and a drawing for door prizes that seemed relatively benign – T-shirts with the company logo, some gift cards, etc – until the big winner opened his plain cardboard box to reveal a frickin’ iPad!  Argh – so jealous!  Apparently our department received the iPad as part of a promotion for ordering a whole slew of HPLC columns that we needed anyway.  Order more!  Order more!  I need to do some chromotography on…uh…that dihydrogen monoxide over there (As an aside, this is the awesomest website on dihydrogen monoxide EVER)

Then came the event that I had been looking forward to for the whole week:  The WHITE ELEPHANT EXCHANGE!

I love white elephant exchanges because they’re humorous, slightly competitive and there’s always a chance you’ll walk away with something fun and exciting.  Just in case you haven’t heard of a white elephant exchange, this is how it works:

1) Find something around the house that can be re-gifted.  It can range from semi-nice (soaps collections, candles) to ugly (homemade ceramic fish) to very strange (huge green Hulk mitts that make growling sounds when you bash them together).  The odd gifts are usually the most fun.

2) Wrap the present and bring it to the party.  All of the presents go into a pile.

3) Everyone draws a number.

4) #1 goes to the pile and chooses a present.  He/She unwraps the present and displays it for all to see.

5) #2 may either choose a wrapped present from the pile, or may “steal” the present that #1 unwrapped.  If #2 steals, then #1 gets to choose a replacement present from the pile.

6) #3 may either choose a wrapped present from the pile, or may “steal” either of the other two already revealed presents.  If someone’s gift gets stolen, he/she may either choose a new present or steal a different unwrapped present.

And so forth and so on until everyone has a present.  Rules may vary.  Our White Elephant Exchange had a rule that any given present may only be stolen three times.  The person who got it on the third steal was safe; they could no longer have the present taken away.

We had 40 people participate, and there were some pretty silly and pretty decent presents in our pile.  On my first turn I chose a wrapped present.  It ended up being this ridiculous poker table/business card holder affair:

I figured that there was no way anyone would take this piece of crap present off of my hands.  I mean…who keeps paper business cards anymore?  But somewhere around #20 the big boss honcho took his turn.  He looked at all of the unwrapped presents and then said something to the effect of, “What department supervisor doesn’t need a good place to store business cards?  I’m stealing that poker table!”

Holy cow!  Hardly believing my good luck, I handed over the business card holder and rushed to the stack of presents.  I unwrapped a ~8″ wooden giraffe statue, which looked something like this:

Meh.  Whatever.  I could get down with a giraffe statue.  But just a couple of turns later, a coworker stole the giraffe, proclaiming that it would be perfect for his little cousin who just loves giraffes (note the plea to sympathy to try to avoid having it stolen later down the line).

That was a good steal for me, because in the intervening time someone has unwrapped…a BRAIN CANDLE!  It was beautiful with its gray, plump gyri and deep sulci, perhaps about the same size as adolescent human brain.  It did have a severely flattened cerebellum and a noticeable lack of the rest of the hindbrain, but I suppose it was shaped to sit on a flat surface, so I was willing to forgive the designer his or her artistic license.  Because, HELLO, it was a BRAIN CANDLE!

So I stole the brain candle and retreated to my corner, hoping that in the plethora of gifts available, no one would remember me and my little treasure.  Sadly, but not surprisingly, the candle was stolen a few rounds later.  After all, I was in a room full of nerdy scientists.  Despondent and bored with the opened presents I went back to the mystery gift pile.  I unwrapped a well-used, stained coffee cup/candle warming plate.

Crap!  Well, that was going in the garbage.  I’ve never owned nor wanted a warming plate, but I nodded, acknowledged my present and got back in line with everyone else.  In other news, there was some drama over a very nice set of pasta pots that had been stolen once or twice.  A few turns after I had drawn my lousy warming plate, the current holder of the pasta pots had them stolen from her.

Now whenever it was someone’s turn to choose between a wrapped gift and an already-opened gift, all of us who wanted to get rid of our crap presents would loudly market our wares to that person.  When the pasta pot-less women came over toward me I pitched my plate, “You could use it to cook pasta.  You know…if you used a very small pan.”  Amazingly, she took the bait!  I was free to choose another gift.

I was heading toward the pile of unopened gifts when inspiration struck.  “Hey!”  I turned toward the emcee.  “Can I steal a present that has already been stolen from me?”  After a  brief huddle I was given the okay.  I turned toward the brute who had so cruelly stolen the brain candle, raised my eyebrows and started sauntering in his direction.  He made a sound of protest and looked down at the brain candle, which he was protectively cradling in his hands.  He gave me a mock scowl, sniffed and handed it over.  

Bonus: This was the third steal – the brain was henceforth protected from other present thieves!  I returned to my seat with my new treasure, glowing with the excitement of having fought for and won my very own brain candle (and managing to weasel out of the other crap presents).

Biology Pareidolia

October 7, 2010

Forget Mary in the grilled cheese sandwich Jesus in an MRI scan; my officemate and I saw a seriously spooky image today.  We both saw something, but we can’t agree on what exactly we saw.  

What do you think: Does this sunlight reflected off of a glossy-covered industry journal onto the ceiling looks more like a golgi apparatus or an endoplasmic reticulum?

~

 

 ~

 

Work Haiku

October 6, 2010

Sometimes the notes I take in meetings come out in three lines of 5-7-5.  You know, like they do.

Haiku from a meeting:

He points, waves his pen.
To us, a gaudy gesture,
to him it’s so clear.

The meeting bores her.
She swings her left foot around.
A suffering sigh.