Sunday, March 26, 2006

How big a nerd were you?

When I was in the seventh grade, I sat on my glasses while getting ready for school and snapped the arm right off. I suffered through the day with a pair of glasses that were a prescription out of date, and my mom took me to the eyeglasses store right after school. Unfortunately, the store no longer stocked my particular style of glasses, so they were unable to replace the broken arm with one that matched my glasses.

Here’s the thing. I was due for an eye examination in about three weeks, so buying an entirely new pair of glasses would have been foolish, because I would probably get a new prescription from the eye doctor. The only other option was to replace the broken arm of my thin, light beige frames with a thick brown arm – the closest match they had in the store. Since my parents weren’t made of money, this was the option we had to choose, and I was stuck sporting a thick, dark brown arm on my pair of thin, beige glasses for three weeks. In the seventh grade.

Now, I’m not saying that having to wear extremely dorky, temporarily-repaired glasses in the seventh grade made me a nerd. What made me a nerd was that I was in the seventh grade, and I didn’t care that I had to wear extremely dorky, temporarily-repaired glasses. Because nerds are very practical people.

Who are “People who should still have moustaches”?

Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of Jeopardy! I don’t know when Alex Trebek shaved off his moustache, but am I the only one who mentally fills it in when looking at him?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Maybe “Nazi” wasn’t the best nickname to give myself…

Of all the people in the lab, I used the most glassware. As a result, I was the most inconvenienced when other people didn’t wash their glassware. This caused me problems both because of the lack of clean glassware and because it was difficult for me to wash my own glassware when the sink was crammed full of dirty beakers and flasks. At first, I used to just wash all the glassware, even the ones that weren’t mine. But eventually, I began to resent this. “Why should I have to be the one to wash other people’s dishes?” I grumbled to myself, bitterly.

I decided to try to get people to clean up after themselves by leaving a message on the whiteboard next to the sink. I figured I would make it cute and funny in the hopes of amusing people while appealing to their sense of decency. So I paraphrased The Princess Bride and wrote, “To whom it may concern: Those of you who leave their dirty dishes in the sink will be challenged to a duel to the pain. Signed, The Dish Nazi.” I think I was subconsciously copying my mother’s old system of leaving notes around the house for me and my siblings that said things like, “Those who do not put their laundry in the hamper will be forced to wash their own clothes. – The Management.”

Yeah, it didn’t work for my mother either. Although my message did manage to amuse a few people, it did not so much succeed in inspiring my labmates to wash their dishes.

My frustration with the dirty dish problem unabated, I tried a new tack. I asked people individually to please wash their dishes when they were done with their experiments, as I was unable to use the sink thanks to the pile up. This actually worked for a few days on everyone but Smelly Lunch Guy who left his 15 test tubes in the sink for about a week after my plea. In a fit of anger, I confronted him, and he said, defensively, “Someone will wash them!”

“Yeah, ME!” I said. “I do them! What, do you think we have magical dish fairies* who come around and wash all our glassware? It’s me!”

I became more and more fixated on the dirty dishes. Looking back, I think this period must have coincided with a peak on my bitterness curve. And you know what I found out? I found out that no matter how bad cute and funny notes may be at inspiring people to do their dishes, becoming a nagging, shrieking harpy is even worse.

Eventually, I had to resort to apathy and when simply moved the dirty dishes out of my way, used the sink, and put the dirty dishes right back in. I stopped with the nagging, and people were my friends again.

*Not to be confused with the microscope gremlins who misaligned the lamps every night. They were real.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

What's a p-value again?

Guess what? I have a B.S., M.S, and Ph.D. in engineering, and yet, at no point during my many long years of higher education did I ever take a class in computer languages or statistics. Nope. Not a single statistics class. Not even in high school.

Ha, ha, Suckers! You can’t take my degrees back now!

The Network Administrator

The Husband is a techno-geek. When my wireless connection acts up, a window pops up telling me there is a problem and to contact the person who manages my network, and I shout, “Husband!” When my sister had to reformat her entire computer and hit a problem while reinstalling the operating system, she called The Husband. When my mother-in-law has difficulties with the computer that The Husband built for her… well, you get the idea.

So that’s why it was unusual to hear him struggling with the cell phone charger last week. Our cell phones are old, and the batteries are starting to act up, and he couldn't get his to start charging. “Stupid piece of… charge, dammit!” he cursed.

“What’s the matter?” I asked him from the living room.

“The stupid cell phone won’t charge! I hate this cell phone! We need to get new cell phones!” he answered.

“Can I help?” I said.

“Sure, if you can get the stupid thing to charge,” he said, but by the tone of his voice I could tell that he was pretty sure that if he couldn’t get it to charge, I certainly wouldn’t be able to. Then he gave up and walked into the office. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to at least try to fix it, so I went over to the outlet where he had been trying to charge the phone and took a look.

About fifteen seconds later, the cell phone was merrily charging away, and I went into the office. “Husband,” I said, “in order to charge the phone, you have to plug the charger into the wall.”