Archive for the ‘work’ Tag

Ironside, RIP   Leave a comment

Over the last 25 years, I’ve been incredibly lucky to work for — often with — a couple of dozen eminent scientists, able to honestly call most of them friends.  During my short tenure at Cambridge, I never met Stephen Hawking (unsurprisingly), but one of my bosses there who is now what passes for ‘head of research’ at the University told me a couple of amusing stories about him while we were out for a long jog in the fens.

Yesterday was busy at work and it slipped my mind that he finally slipped the coil.  I headed home and, as I passed University College, it took a moment to realise why the College banner was at half mast.

Loads has been in print these past 36 hours about his Pop Culture importance like his appearances on episodes of The Simpsons and Big Bang Theory (among other tele programmes).  People forget about his brief tenure in the early 70’s replacing Raymond Burr while he was in prison for smuggling heroin across the border at Tijuana:


Posted March 15, 2018 by Drunken Bunny in Obits

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The Locker Room, Northwood Hills, Middlesex   Leave a comment


Pub #2067:

Lightly raining and windy out, I got lost in the fading light and veered northwest from TJ’s Sportsbar (when I should have had bearings of WSW). Powering through the climb to Northwood Hills Station whence I could easily find my way home, light glinting on a raised beer glass inside the Locker Room distracted me. Of course, I went in.

The only other pub in the area closed down several months back so this new venue is a more than welcome addition. Instead of “Locker Room,” I’m getting more a sense of a West End playhouse version of an industrial site: chain linked fencing to define zones and furniture fashioned from scrap lumber and metal. They seem to mean well, they have at least one ale on (although I went for a lager), and the short track speed skating from the Winter Olympics was on tele. Result.



Posted February 26, 2018 by Drunken Bunny in Pubs

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Let’s Talk About Running   Leave a comment


I’m not close to many people I work with in the labs but most of the support staff are fantastic. I was having a warm beverage with one of the guys from the mechanical workshop and this conversation ensued.

“Did you make any New Year Resolutions?”
“Same two as every year: don’t talk to non-runners about running.”
“Why’s that, then?”
“It would be rude to bore the shit out of them like that.”
“You said there were two.”
“More of a corollary, due to the ethical implications of the first.  I intend not to talk to other runners about running.”

The wry smile told me he gets it.

[I know this diary technically violates both of those rules; but, I can’t stop people from listening to me talking to myself.  The shoe is from today’s jog and has nearly 1100 miles on it and will stay in service until the sole on it or those on the left ones of the twin pair transmit light — probably another 500 miles or so.  The tweet, below, is what everyone should take home about resolutions, running, or anything else that might occur in these pages…I wish I had written it.]


Posted January 9, 2018 by Drunken Bunny in Made Me Laugh, Running

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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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The Cherry Tree, South Norwood, London   2 comments


Pub #2016:

Fully dark enough that I had to break out the supplemental lighting, I was only one stop away from completing this part of the days running as I turned from snapping the evidential photo of Norwood Junction StationThe Cherry Tree was there, gorgeous, and open so I nipped in for one final nip before the last jog and the long ride home.

The fellows next to me were bitching about work, but it sounded like they were just having personality conflicts of a minor nature in their respective offices.  Offices, I repeat, as there was a palpable working-class vibe in the bar.  I must have been smiling and a little too obviously eavesdropping.  I looked up and one of them asked, “thoughts?”

“It just begs my favourite work-related question, doesn’t it?”  I took a sip and they both leaned forward, probably not expecting the American accent.  I continued, “Here it is: what is the 2nd worst job you’ve ever had?”

Second worst?”  I nodded and held up a halt-hand.

“Yeah.  Everyone thinks their current situation is the worst, but if you stop and have to rank things…” I took a long gulp, “…it can give you some sense of perspective.”

“Okay, then, what’s yours?” asked the guy having problems at his job.  Normally, I would point out that I asked first but I figure they had some crappy job training for the crappy job they currently have and before that, maybe, some retail.  I decided that perspective I suggested they needed was what they should get.

“Ooooo, I think 4th or 5th down the list of shit jobs would be working on my Uncle’s dairy throughout most of my early teenage years.  This deep,” I illustrated by putting a right-karate-chop on my mid-thigh, “in cowshit every morning before and afternoon after school and, as the smallest-armed person in the family, I got to do all the artificial inseminations.”  I gave it a second’s pause but interrupted the next inquiry by putting my left-karate-hand-marking-device on my extended right arm at the deltoid; “I spent my youth stuck this far up cows’ cooters.  Hey, do you want to hear how they harvest semen from bulls?  Hogs are funnier,” I added, honestly, “but we tended to buy pigs on-the-hoof.”

“Aw, mate, I don’t know what to say to that.”  Of course you don’t, I thought, and shrugged before focusing on Man City v West Ham for a while.  They changed the topic, anyway, and didn’t include me anymore (which was fine).



Posted December 4, 2017 by Drunken Bunny in Pubs

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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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