How to find my blog

One of the fun things about wordpress is that they tell you what search engine terms led to your blog. Here are two recent ones:

  • radiac wash msds
  • is it bad to leave a pcr machine on over

So, the first one led the person here and the second one probably to this post (“probably” because I tried the search on Google and didn’t see my blog on the first page so gave up; the radiac wash msds was actually the first thing Google gave me which just seems wrong, fortunately the actual msds was the second one). Neither of which answered their questions. I think the second one got cut off and it’s supposed to be “overnight” or possibly “over the weekend”. So, if you’re still out there, and you haven’t found the answer to your question, then I would say the following:

There’s nothing wrong with leaving the pcr machine on for a long time. The problem is that some of them–although they CLAIM you can leave them at 4 degrees–break down or start to have problems if you consistently leave them at 4 degrees, particularly if you have a lot of humidity in your lab because, apparently, it’s something to do with condensation. However, we often let our run on an 11 degree hold overnight or over the weekend no problem (though I don’t understand that because wouldn’t condensation still be a problem?). But, if you’re really worried about it, have the final hold be at room temp (25 degrees) it won’t hurt your sample or the machine.

There. Now if someone does a similar search, they’ll actually get the answer. I feel like I’ve done my good deed for the day.

Other search terms that ended up in my blog:

  • glucose autoclave problem (not sure what that’s about but I would suggest filter sterilizing instead of autoclaving) 
  • Mrs Whatsit (that seems obvious though I wonder if they were actually looking for me or for the book)
  • response to a fun committee
  • Science Project- how time flies
  • What to do when you lose mental balance (that one makes me think I ought to put some links to sites about depression in my sidebar or something; I’d hate to see people looking for help get stuck with a science blog)
  • “ethidium bromide” “food dye” (I can’t find any evidence to substantiate that rumor; I think it may be a lab myth)

Nothing really wild and crazy yet.  Perhaps I need to be blogging longer for the truly strange ones to show up.


I am currently on vacation visting my husband who lives a couple thousand miles away from where I go to school (literally).  I haven’t taken a real vacation in well over a year (moving your husband 2000 mi away, going to weddings, and visiting your family do not count).  I had been putting it off because of course, I was going to graduate in only a couple of months so therefore I could just wait.  A couple of months stretched into a year and so I decided I should just go ahead and take a vacation.

I left last Friday and will return this Saturday and I am having a great time, except that in my spare moments, I feel like I should be doing some “work.”  Maybe read a paper or something like that.  Think about writing the intro to my thesis.  I had decided that I would NOT do any work whatsoever while on vacation not even in the airport or on the plane, but this is turning out to be harder than I expected it to be.

The reason I decided not to do any work is because I have been suffering from severe burn-out.  I wanted to get complete and total rest from work so that I would be refreshed when I got back.  I wasn’t even sure a week would be enough time to do that but I really can’t afford to take more time off than that.

So, why do I want to do work stuff?  I think I don’t actually want to do work, per se.  I think I feel like I should be doing work because I have the time available.  Therefore, I believe I am suffering from a mild form of vacation guilt.

Anyone know a cure for vacation guilt?

Opportunity lost

When I was in 5th grade, I read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.  It was perfect timing for me.  I was approximately Meg’s age; I was a misfit, unpopular, and I had mousy brown hair that could not be styled for the life of me no matter what I tried.  Her family was the kind of family I dreamed of.  I loved the story and it was my first foray into sci fi/fantasy fiction which became my favorite genre.

Her parents both had PhDs.

At that time, I didn’t know what a PhD was.  I had never heard of it.  I had to look it up in an encyclopedia.  The upshot was, I wanted one.  At the age of 11, after reading this book, I had decided that I wanted a PhD.  I already loved science, I loved school, I loved learning, it seemed natural to me.

And now, here I am.

Years later, I read the Crosswick Journals and I found out that A Wrinkle in Time was almost never published.  No publishing company would take it.  It was rejected over and over again and she had almost given up.  I was stunned.  My beloved book–a book I had read over and over again.  A book that I actually have three copies of, with different publishing dates.  A book that I can now be said to collect.  THE book, THE reason I had ever even thought about going to graduate school at all almost never existed, except as an unpublished manuscript.

I always meant to write Ms. L’Engle to tell her how much that book meant to me.  I don’t know if she ever would’ve gotten the letter, it’s not clear how much fan mail she got or how much she read.  But, at least I would’ve attempted to tell her.

Now, I will never get that chance.  She died last Thursday at the age of 88, of natural causes.

I want to weep.  I never met her, she never knew I existed, yet her death fills me with sadness and a sense that so many possibilites are now lost forever.  So many things that might have been will now never be.

It was funny, except that it’s not

One of my labmates is interviewing for post-docs.  He just got back from an interview out east and we were asking him where else he was interviewing.  He said he might be interviewing at this one place but the PI just had a baby, so they’re going to do a phone interview first (presumably because she’s on leave or something).  In the lab was me and two other women.  One of us said, in a joking tone of voice, “Babies are gross.”  Then someone else said, “Yeah, you wouldn’t want to work for a woman,” again as a joke.  This kind of joking went on for awhile and culminated in one of my labmates saying, “Don’t go, you’ll come back with no testicles,” at which point, we all busted a gut laughing.  Because, it’s a completely ridiculous notion that the mere fact of working for a woman causes a man’s testicles to disappear.

The not funny part is that there are obviously people out there who actually think that way.  I mean, isn’t that what they mean when they say men feel emasculated when faced with [insert feminist concept here]?  So, some part of me says, “Hey you shouldn’t joke about things like that because there are people out there suffering because of that kind of thinking.”  On the other hand, I’m sorry, but it was funny.  None of us actually meant any of those things and it was more like we were making fun of that kind of thinking.  I hope this doesn’t make me a bad person.

Scene from a local post office

Backstory:  Innocent Junior Lab Member has been asked by Advisor to please send requested plasmids to Australia.  Advisor would do it but he is leaving town to go to the middle of nowhere Michigan where there is no internet so don’t email him.  Innocent Junior Lab Member prepares two plates of bacteria per Advisor’s instructions and prepares Quarantine Documentation the Australian Government now requires for biological samples.  Quarentine Documentation requires Official Departmental Letterhead which will not be relinquished to a mere graduate student without the Department Chairman’s permission.  Innocent Junior Lab Member receives permission from rather confused Department Chairman who says she could use as much letterhead as she liked and why the hell was she asking anyway?  Quarantine Documentation is put in an envelope and attached to a padded envelope (procured from the Advisor’s Office on the instructions of the Advisor and with the help of Jaded Senior Graduate Student who has no qualms about rummaging through Advisor’s cabinets and drawers) as per Australian Government specifications.  Innocent Junior Lab Member set off to the post office next door, fills out the customs declaration and steps up to the counter.

Post-woman 1:  You can’t have two envelopes taped together like that.

Innocent Junior Lab Member:  But, I need to have these documents in a separate envelope attached to the first envelope.

PW1:  But, there are gaps in between the two envelopes.  It’ll get caught up in the machinery.

IJLM:  Well, can’t you hand cancel it?

PW2:  You have to tape all of the edges so that nothing will catch.  You’ll either have to leave or buy some tape here to do it.

IJLM obediently buys the tape and tapes the whole thing except for the top of the envelope containing the Quarantine Documents and goes back to the counter.

PW1:  You’ll have to tape that top part, too.

IJLM:  I can’t tape the top part.  The Australian postal service says I have to leave that open so they can get the documents out.

PW1:  Look, the Australian postal service has their rules and we have ours and you can’t send it without the top of the envelope being taped.  Looks at customs declaration.  What’s in here anyway?  What’s a plasmid?

IJLM:  It’s DNA.

PW1:  DNA?  What?!  You mean like a virus????!!!

PW2 and PW3 look over in horror.

IJLM:  No, it’s not a virus, it’s bacteria.

Mayhem ensues.  PW1, PW2, PW3 are all now shouting.   IJLM starts backing toward the door.

PW1:  We have to call our supervisor!  You can’t just send this through the mail!

IJLM:  Well!  Okay, thank you for your help, I’ll just be going now!

PW2:  No!  You can’t leave!  Come back here!

IJLM makes a break for the door, goes back up to the lab and tells story to Jaded Senior Graduate Student who shakes her head, “Thank God you didn’t tell them it was E. coli.”  JSGS then suggests IJLM just leave it for Advisor to sort out when he gets back from the boonies.

That was yesterday.  Today, IJLM got a secretary from the office to weigh the envelope(s) and put postage on it and the offending package is being dropped in a mailbox (customs form attached) in a different part of town.  What are the odds that it will actually make it to Australia?  I’m thinking they’re not that good.  I seriously doubt you can just put an envelope with a customs declaration attached to it and “Quarantine Documents on the Reverse” written on it in a mailbox and expect it to get delivered.  Hopefully, the post office won’t freak out too badly.  It’ll be really hard for me to graduate if the lab is shut down due to wanton shipment of plates of harmless bacteria through the mail.