Archive for the ‘work’ Category

This Week I Have Been Mostly Reading …   Leave a comment

 

I don’t have many people at work I consider friends and one of them left the labs for good, yesterday, frustrated by the nonsense in the University, the Department, the lab and his research group.  He lasted nearly 2 years before The Great Funk (not the good kind, either) set in.  The brightest burn out the quickest (while a dim bulb like meself carries on toward the 10 year mark).  We didn’t have many conversations but every one of them was engrossing, intense, and completely free range (not free ranging, but free range, like chickens pecking at the soil).  During one of these, an offhand comment about acid during a longer discussion of one of my frequent head injuries (the one where I was struck by a falling tree whilst running in a snowstorm near Athens, Georgia) stuck with him; not a tripper himself but open to it, he applied his freakish eidetic memory to a choice of parting gifts and presented me with Michael Pollan’s How To Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics.  I am touched by this unusually thoughtful gift and I hope he knows how much I will cherish it (not least because I was going to buy it for myself when it comes out in a trades/paper edition).

I have also been reading my twit feed fairly regularly and recently added Existential Comics to list of followed accounts.  This is a recent one, typical of the genre:

 

 

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Group Christmas Dinner, Exeter College Oxford   1 comment

 

The enforced jollity of the office Christmas party is worth avoiding but I feel obliged to show up at least every other year.  There’s always the opportunity for the Dutch farewell, the Irish goodbye, the French leave … pissing off before the games get started, essentially.  This year, I pulled more of a Northern Irish goodbye: this is where you tell a few key people in advance to limit any loss of life.

 

This year, our research group had the do in Exeter College which has one of my favourite chapels at the University.  Since this is almost certainly my last Christmas at Oxford, this was a nice surprise and blunted the edge of the generally shit situation.

 

 

Our Professor’s P.A. chased up our RSVPs diligently and also checked for any dietary requirements or prohibitions.  I replied, “I don’t like things with mayonnaise in them. Other than that, if you consider it food, then so do I.”  It was more a joke than anything, but as the starters were doled out one of the servers stopped by my assigned seat to ask, on behalf of the chef, if it is because of eggs that I don’t want mayo. “No, I just find mayonnaise an abomination.”

 

 

So, the assigned seating resulted in bespoke treatment from the kitchen.  Fantastic attention to detail, there.

It was surprising, then, that I was seated only one space away from the shithead who’s continued residence in the lab has prompted my efforts to find other employment (which has, finally, come to fruition albeit delayed until the early Spring while the folks at the new site write a position for me).  This particular dickhead is a complete sociopath and unwilling to take a hint, a request, or a direct order to shut his fucking mouth and leave someone the hell alone.  It isn’t a secret that I wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire, so this seating arrangement is especially egregious (or, maybe the boss just wants to hurry me along — this is the sort of move to encourage it).

As a result, I cut the evening even shorter than planned and skipped coffee and pudding.

 

Just as well, I reckon.  The next item on the agenda would be the distribution of Secret Santa presents.  I find the joke gifts insulting and tiresome so I only ever give these to people I find loathsome.  One year, I drew the name of an especially arrogant sack of shite and bought a presentation-style wine box and stuck a bottle of Buckfast in it.  The box was more valuable than the bottle, and his disappointment at the contents was worth going over budget.

 

 

 

But, generally I try to give thoughtful treats even though I have never received anything useful, beautiful, or even slightly amusing.

I plucked the name of one of the new DPhil students and did a bit of cyber-stalking to find that he is a classical music buff.  I really don’t know anything else about him, so I decided I’d just get him some music that I would like for myself.

The record store I went to had a really limited classical music selection so my first (the recent re-release of Glen Gould’s Goldberg Variations) and second (Beethoven’s 7th, especially for the 2nd movement) choices were not in the bins.  I settled on Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony (#7) as a piece of music with a moving story of its premier performance.   Besieged and starving, under relentless Nazi bombardment in Leningrad the musicians — drawn from troops and the citizenry — broadcasted the piece from a bombed out hall to loudspeakers across the city and down the defence lines.

An appropriate piece for the start of any doctoral programme.

[UPDATE: Someone dropped off my Secret Santa gift and I re-gifted it to a colleague.  “Don’t you want to know what it is?” he asked and started to open it.  “Get that fucking thing out of here.  I mean, ‘no, no thank you.'”  I am quite sure it was shit, figuratively or maybe even literally.]

 

 

Posted December 13, 2017 by Drunken Bunny in work

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Edward VIII Postbox #6 and other Birmingham stuff   3 comments

 

I went to Birmingham for a job interview because I am sick to my fucking gills of one individual at Oxford who will neither fuck off nor die.  Announcing my intention to leave was supposed to encourage our boss to get him to do the former.  He’ll have to go to the wrong (or right) part of the States for me to have any influence on the latter.  But, a job I could do came up and I put in a half-assed performance today in case neither preferable opportunity arose.

I was also pretty sure the trip would mark my 2000th pub and, while walking toward #1999 I glanced over and spotted the most pristinely preserved Edward VIII pillar I have yet seen (that’s 6, so far).  This MUST be an auspicious sign (but of what?).

 

 

I really think I would like it here, too.  From the massive market between the main rail stations to the University was about a 30 minute stroll along the canal.

 

 

Obey!

 

 

The job, which I have serious doubts I will get, is in buildings either side of the walk from this sculpture to the tower in the background:

More Brummie stuff in the pub write-ups when I get to them:

The Anchor #1999

The Woodman #2000

The Square Peg #2001

The Peaky Blinders #2002

 

Posted November 28, 2017 by Drunken Bunny in Tourism, work

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Work loos, stifling innovation   Leave a comment

Following a history of work loo stories (most recent, here), the urinals in the main lobby of our 10-year-old building (the huge cracks in the basement walls that leak copiously during heavy rain despite burial 15 feet below paved surfaces first appeared at least 8 years ago) have been marked “Out Of Order” for all but yesterday of the preceding 6 weeks.

 

The signage returned this morning.  Insult added to bladder injury came by way of the signs prohibiting an engineering remedy involving the sinks:

 

 

Posted October 10, 2017 by Drunken Bunny in Made Me Laugh, work

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William J Simonsick, Jr   1 comment

I was forwarding a job advert to a bunch of people for a postdoc position here in the lab and Bill Simonsick’s email bounced back. I did a search for an updated email and eventually stumbled across this FaceSpace Memorial Page. Awww, shit.

 

Some people I meet think I must be immortal for having survived far more trauma far too frequently to generally be believed; but, I could give you endless stories about how I found Bill indestructible. That makes his passing that much more unnerving … if he can die, where does that leave the rest of us?  Instead, I just have this for you:

In 1997, my PhD adviser took the research group to present their work at the ASMS Conference in Palm Springs. He left the flight bookings to me and the senior PhD student at the time and we found flights into Las Vegas the day before and the day after, rooms at Circus Circus for each of those bookend days, and a rental van for the week for less than other travel options.

As a result of these travel choices, I was standing in front of my poster on no sleep for the previous 3 days with some Chinese graduate student who misunderstood everything on the publication and babbling incoherent questions. I was on my best behaviour and patiently trying to explain that he had his head up his ass without saying it explicitly.

 

 

Across the herd of suits and ties and slightly more casual business attire I spotted a guy in flip-flops, dripping Bermuda shorts, a ragged tank top covered in the most rudimentary fashion with a Hawaiian shirt, and a couple of gigantic glasses of rum and Cokes — not highballs, but short and very wide diameter, wading pools of liquor. He spotted me at about the same time and ambled over in an idiosyncratic walk I would become very familiar with over the next 10 years or so.

He stepped in front of my inquisitor and, over his shoulder, said, “you can fuck off now. We’ve got shit to talk about.” Then, to me, he handed the drink in his right hand and then shook mine; “I’m Bill. Your boss told me you had some cool shit to see.” I was now madly in love with this man.

He reached for his extra beverage and I pivoted on my hips to protect my newly found refreshments.  “The fuck you call this? No backsies, bitch.”  I had assumed this glass was meant for me, anyway, because the other one had a little umbrella in it and, since I was “working” I needed the more professional looking vat of booze.

His grin at this was enormous. “Tell me what you got, here,” he demanded, pointing at my work (such as it was).  I started to go through the practiced presentation and he stopped me. “No. TELL me about it.” The resulting conversation swerved recklessly across a wide range of things we could do with small tweaks to the techniques we could each bring to the table.  Along the way, others tried to speak to one or the other of us and — if they met his criteria — he would include them for a while. At one point, he sent a student — who was working security at the conference and had told us we couldn’t be drinking in there — to get us refills; these appeared without charge about five minutes later.

“We should do more of this,” he suggested. “I’ll meet you in the hot tub after the Hospitality Suites close.” Over the next several years, I got most of my good ideas smoking and drinking in ASMS Convention hot tubs with our Bill.

Rest in peace, buddy.

Posted June 22, 2017 by Drunken Bunny in Obits, work

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Lyme Bay Garden Mead   1 comment

lyme-bay-garden-mead

The day after I bottled the Winter Solstice 2016 Mead, I had scheduled a day after Burns’ Night lunch with some fellow offalteers from around the labs.  Two of them had just returned from a group retreat in Devon where they, when not brainstorming how to push back the frontiers of science, went on a winery tour.  From this, they brought me back this bottle of professionally made mead (unaware that I was making mead at all).  Hooray.  So, now I have the baseline of our immature mead tasted at bottling AND this bottle to tell us how it actually should mature.  Exciting.

And, intimidating.  This one is very crisp and clean and slightly sweet with a hint of fresh mint.  It would be great with a splash of club soda and, while I expect our run to mature to something like this, ours is much drier and may benefit from a shot of simple syrup along with that fizzy water spritz.  We’ll see.

For the next couple of days, though, this is our dessert beverage.  Yum.

 

Posted January 27, 2017 by Drunken Bunny in Booze, work

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Colonel E. H. Taylor Small Batch   1 comment

taylor-small-batch-bourbonAt the end of a logistical note from a former visitor to the lab who was returning after a few years to gather some data to answer reviewers’ concerns, she asked a dangerous question: “Do you need anything from the States?”  At the end of my reply, I took a punt with, “No, nothing from the States, thanks.  I like decent bourbon, but I can get that here.”  Then, I hoped for the best.

And, very nearly the best came out of it: a bottle of Colonel EH Taylor Small Batch.  No complaints, mind, as a bottle of Evan Williams (even the green label) would have made me quite happy … I can GET decent bourbon here, but it costs a fortune (factoring in the exchange rate, I could buy more than 3 bottles of this in the States for what only 1 would cost here).

And, it IS remarkable booze.  Bottled in bond, 100 proof, and evokes wisteria, magnolias, kudzu, and the heat…the glorious, Southern heat.  I try not to review things that deserve a proper review.  Here is a lovely one if you really want to know what an expert thinks.

I, on the other hand, love to have something like this around for when a doubting visitor asks what I mean by ‘good’ bourbon. I can then hand them a glass, neat, and stammer over the words, “well, this one is all right…see what YOU think.”

Posted January 25, 2017 by Drunken Bunny in Booze, work

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