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German Gifts

January 5, 2010

I had kind of a rough day yesterday. And by "rough", I mean by my standards.

First, I didn't really get a lunch. At one point during the afternoon, I slammed down a somewhat overripe banana and some celery and washed it down with some water. Oh, healthy.

When I came in in the morning (oh! Double preposition!), I was filled with optimism that I'd be able to better the world, one sp3-hybridized orbital at a time (unless I'm actually fiddling with the sp2-orbital on the aromatic ring with my bromine on does lithium-halogen exchange work anyway...I know it's a single-electron transfer mechanism, but does it dump into one of the pi-system antibonding orbitals or does it...oh, I'm sorry, what? Did I slip into chemistry speak again? Well, let's fix this ship right the fuck now!).

Anyway, I had high hopes for what I could accomplish during the day. So, I mixed up some solvents, prepared a few samples, slammed down some coffee, and signed up for a decent amount of time on the High Pressure Liquid Chromatography machine (henceforth referred to as the HPLC-inator). I trundled off with my carboy of solvent, my samples in hand, and extra gloves. Science was about to be done.

I prepped the machine appropriately, and I was all fired up. I had this thing. I didn't need to go find my friend, Joe (which would have involved a trip to some sub-tropical, pirate-infested waters, anyway, so it was better that I had everything under control). I could handle this. I started the machine, and this loud buzzing, like a million angry bees were coming for me, started up along with the machine.

Things didn't seem quite right (at least in my adolescent-level mind) but I figured I'd let the first run go, see how things shaped up. Except, I did something stupid: I leaned forward, resting my forearms on the bench, thus pushing the keyboard back into the UV-Vis detector, and shutting it off. Keen. I'll just turn it back on.

Except. It didn't come back on. Not fully. It wouldn't calibrate. I tried shutting it off for longer and letting it come back up. Still no calibration. Crapfuck. I had to go get help.

Fortunately, I went and found someone who wasn't on a cruise in pirate-infested waters, and they tried the same things I did. Nothing. So, they went to consult someone else. Finally, we called it a bust and I hopped on another machine. Not literally, as that might have crushed it. However, hopping on it probably would have netted the same result.

Apparently, over the break, the computer that runs the HPLC-inator had a fight with the pump on the HPLC-inator, and they weren't speaking. I dunno, they started bitching about little things and then the computer called the pump a whore and...well, things got ugly. After a little bit of fiddling, that problem was rectified...except the computer, in an uppity fit of bitchitude, decided it wasn't going to read my information for me, so it wouldn't run the program.

The obvious fix was what anyone does when dealing with an uppity computer: turn it off, turn it back on. Things finally seemed to work, so I reloaded all of my data into the sequence programs and got things running. This was an hour and forty-five minutes after I wanted to start, and I had a meeting looming over me at 2:00.

Yeah. Six hours into the new year and we're having a meeting. Right, sir, I'll send a memo.

So, after the meeting, it was 3:00, and I went down to check on my HPLC-inator runs, and I found that it had shut off. This was not unexpected. The initial run was to get a feel for the method I was running and to see if it would, in fact, purify my compounds for me. Finally, around 3:30, after having to reload all the data for the sequences into the computer and restarting the run, I was able to go sit down for a bit and cram some food into my piehole.

I worked on my notebook to make myself look busy for a little while and then wandered back out to my bench to see what was happening there (the answer better have been nothing, since I hadn't been able to set anything up, thanks to the bitchy nature of the computer and the spat it had with the pump).

Instead of nothing, I found a big-ass, flat, cardboard box. "What the bloody hell is this?"

"It's a box," said my labmate, Jennifer.

Because it's always a good idea just to go tearing into mysterious, unlabeled packages in a chemistry company, I dove right in. What I pulled out was...a calendar.

Apparently, I bought a chemical from this vendor in Germany, and they wanted to thank me for my purchase with a calendar. It's a nice calendar, pictures of flowers, all that good stuff. The days are even in the right order, and all the months are there. Top of the line stuff.

I found a letter enclosed with the calendar. It was in German.

"Can you read German?" I asked my labmate, Jennifer.

"Nyet," she responded. I cocked an eyebrow at her.

"You're very funny; you know that, right?"

She grinned.

Fortunately, if you flip the letter over, there's English on the other side. That's how I knew this was a "thank you" calendar. Also, I found a packing slip. It was, perhaps, my favorite thing in the box. It read: "Contents: 1 calendar".

Also, there was a letter verifying that the calendar did not contain any infectious agents. Nice. So, it's not an anthrax calendar or anything. Which is good, because "death by calendar" is probably a very ignoble way to go.

So, thanks, German vendor of chemicals. I'll hang that calendar up in my office...whenever I find a way to do it. All I need is a hook or a nail or someone with rock-hard nipples one of those magnet things.


mo.stoneskin said...

You jest but one day a calendar will meet you with an infectious, overripe banana, so you can't be too careful.

Moooooog35 said...

"Death by Calendar" would be a great name for a rock band.

Mala said...

Turn it off, turn it back on is the solution to all my technical woes.

Next year I'm writing "This card does not contain any infectious agents" on all my Christmas greetings.

Travis said...

So let's say, right now, maybe, if I volunteered my rock hard nipples...

...would that be weird?

Judearoo said...

I didnt know you were the chemistry type? And organic too if Im not much mistaken!

Spent a considerable amount of time at uni slamming things about to get them to turn on (and indeed off); calibration be damned. I would blame the celery if I were you.

carissajaded said...

I'm so glad you didn't die from the calendar. I think you really just have to worry about the Mayan calendar now.. but that's a big one.

Ed Adams said...

It's comforting to know that someone with such awesome machinery skills has access to volatile chemicals.

I shall sleep more soundly tonight.

Jeney Peney said...

"unless I'm actually fiddling with the sp2-orbital on the aromatic ring with my bromine on does lithium-halogen exchange work anyway...I know it's a single-electron transfer mechanism, but does it dump into one of the pi-system antibonding orbitals or does it"

My head just exploded a little bit.

Bev said...

Any day without lunch is a rough one, IMO.

Just Another Momma said...

Are you sure it didn't contain any infectious agents?? hmmmm

Del-V said...

I don't know how to operate a HPLC-inator, but from your blog entry I'm pretty sure I would know how I would try to fix one, by shutting it down and restarting it. The same way I fix my cell phone when it jams up on me. Now where is my uncontaminated German calendar?

Joshua said...

If my 7th grade science teacher had looked like that instead of the frigid bitch that she was, I might be a scientist today.


Eric said...

It's a good thing that atomic weapons don't need to be calibrated in a 'feedback loop' kind of situation. What is the name of that chemical company? I want to buy enough to get the calendar.

JenJen said...

For real. I checked out at the sp3 and sp4 you were giving me some gnarly flashbacks....
Skippin' to the comments....

Scope said...

Of course it's a good calendar. It's from Germany. You know the Germans always give good stuff.

You following me, Chemistry Guy? I can't do this all day.

words...words...words... said...

Did the calendar feature the St. Pauli Girl showing off chemicals like a model at the car show? Just say yes.

Vic said...

You can slam down a banana?

Anything I type after that sounds dirty.

Nej said...

A big ass flat cardboard box. How big was the calendar? are you sure that it didn't contain chemical agents? I mean....maybe it's a way to test some new-fangled chemical agent delivery method. And they're testing it on those that would be the first to possibly be able to fix it's damage...ironic, no. Part of their big ass master plan, yes. :-)

adrienzgirl said...

Death by Calendar made me snort! I think I've always wanted to go out that way and just never knew it!