Friday, February 27, 2009

Done and done

It's all done. As I sit here with an ice pack on my decommissioned babymakers, let me give you a brief recap of my experience.

I showed up at noon and took my single (1) xanax tablet. In the procedure room, the nurse describe how I was going to prep myself for surgery. She told be to scrub with the betadine and then she said, "tape your penis to your abdomen." I said, "you mean my chest? he he he he."

OK, that last exchange didn't happen, but it would have been funny if I had the betadine soaked balls to say it.

The doctor came in (along with the nurse and a resident) and started the procedure. A little numbing, a little cutting, a little pulling, a little cutting, a little cauterizing.

During the procedure we had a pretty good conversation going. I asked if I would be able to go to work on Monday. My doctor said, "Probably." I said, "Good, but I'm sure my Biochemistry students wouldn't mind if they did have lab." That's when the resident said, "Biochemistry!!! I hated Biochemistry. My teacher was a jerk etc...."

Remember, I was sprawled out on a table with my testicles fully exposed and she was armed with sharp things and I had just pulled suppressed memories of an evil biochemistry back into her consciousness. For a moment I was a bit scared. Thankfully, she was able to pull herself back into a professional demeanor and not stab a Mayo scissors into my scrotum.

Everything went well. I left feeling no pain. When my wife got me home I went right to bed and slept soundly until the stuff wore off.

I'm not in too much pain right now. It feels like I got punched in the balls which isn't fun, but at least it doesn't feel like I got stabbed in the wee wee. I expect things will be different tomorrow.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Well, my friends. The time has come. Tomorrow I will begin decommissioning my soldiers... if you know what I mean.

I will be undergoing a vasectomy tomorrow. Unlike last time, it will be done by a trained medical professional. Certainly, not a hack with a saw.

My loving wife has undergone 4 C-sections. A vasectomy is relatively nothing, but I have every intention of spending the weekend on the couch soliciting as much sympathy as I can from the fam. I must take total advantage of the situation.

Thanks to Able Pharmboy at Tera Sig and some friends, I have a pretty good idea of what to expect. Unlike Able, I was sure to shave. I shaved me nethers tonight. There is no way I am taking a dry razor to my scrotum. YIKES!!!!

I may give you an update when I have recovered a bit.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

On the utility of cases of beer (or how this karma is going to kick my ass)

Sorry for the long time away. I have no excuse. I was just too busy working on my bar. I made a ton of progress during the past week. I will update you over the next few days.

While building my bar, I had to cut a lot of wood. Usually one would use sawhorses to facilitate the cutting of said wood. I am no different, except I am. For most of my cutting I used empty cases of beer bottles as sawhorses. Why not? They were just sitting around.

I cut a lot of wood using these beer cases. They worked great. However, I did have one incident. I was cutting some plywood with a circular saw. I didn't pay enough attention to where the case of beer was. This was the result.
I sawed right through the case of bottles without even noticing it. The bottles did not escape unscathed.
I decapitated 8 bottles with a circular saw. That can't be good.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Too close. Much too close.

Anyone who knows me, knows I'm a bit accident prone. I don't know why. Most of my injuries are unusual (ripping a 4 inch gash in the skin on my ankle as a result of spraining my ankle) or have turned into an interesting story (putting a hatchet into my ankle and severing two tendons).

A few days ago, I narrowly avoided the worst accident ever. First look at the picture.
Notice anything? Yup, I almost went Terra Sig on myself with a chisel. I was trying to trim a 2x4 to get it flush with an adjoining board. I was not using a hammer at this time, just my hands. I was sitting on the floor, and I whacked the chisel into the wood. It came free of the wood and my hand, with chisel, swung towards my nether region. It glance my pants and never made contact with any of my anatomy.

Here's the weird thing. I didn't notice the hole until the following day. When I did, I was a bit freaked out.

Of course, it would have made a pretty good (albeit embarassing) story.

Fluff post of the week

I have some really cools pictures to post as soon as I get the chance. Hopefully, tonight.

Until then, check out this guy.

My favorite line: "An instructor from a local modeling agency judged the women on the way they looked, how they sang and how much alcohol they could hold, the Shanghai Daily said."

That's exactly how I picked my wife. Uncanny.

Friday, February 13, 2009

I will be attending

I got this email today:
I'm going. I'll be sure to drink a lot of coffee before I go.

Sorry for the crappy resolution. Blogger didn't want to cooperate.

'tis the season

We are currently deep in a season many of us in academia both enjoy and despise. It is Letter of Recommendation season.

This is the time of year that students are trying to line up internships, jobs, entry into graduate programs, etc...all sorts of things. If it requires an application, it usually requires a letter of recommendation from someone who knows the applicant and can assess the applicants abilities and temperament.

I get asked to write a lot of these. This year I was asked to write over 20 letters for 8 individuals, including 8 for one person. I'm sure more will roll in as deadlines loom.

Over my years of teaching, I have learned that writing a good letter of recommendation is more challenging than it seems. You must accentuate the positives of the applicant without ignoring the limitations of the student. I tell my students that I will try to write a favorable, yet honest letter. Both of our reputations are on the line. I will not lie or say things that I do not believe. Usually that isn't a problem because most of these students are superb and it is easy to write good things about them.

Sometimes, a letter is easy to write for the wrong reasons. I once had a student who was going to fail my General Chemistry course for the second time ask for a letter of recommendation. I don't remember what he was applying for, but it was a science related endeavor. I told him that any letter I wrote would not be positive given his record in my courses, and I suggested he ask someone else. He insisted that it had to be me. So, I wrote it.

I wrote the letter in the kindest way I could so when I wrote the phrase "I cannot in good faith recommend this person for this position" it didn't seem malicious. It was easy to write and it was short. I doubt he got the position.

On the other side of things, sometimes the student is so talented and qualified that I have to be careful not to sound like I'm practicing for the hyperbole championship.

I recently had one of my best students ever apply to med school. I wrote a two page letter describing how great she was and how she would be the best doctor in the world and she would cure cancer in her first year of med school and solve world hunger and etc... I worked pretty hard to tone down the rhetoric into a more sober and meaningful assessment of her abilities. She got accepted to med school. She starts in August. Cancer will be cured by January and world hunger by July. You're welcome.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What would you do?

What would you do if you (or a student in your Organic lab) spilled about 150 mL of solution containing DMSO, DME, water, ~6 M HCl, iron (II) chloride and ferrocene all over your lab notebook?

I dunked it in a tub of water with sodium bicarbonate followed by a dunk in clean water. I'll let you know how it turns out. Wrinkly, I'm sure.

UPDATE: Yup, it's wrinkly. Crunchy too, but legible and perhaps usable. The pages are a little brown from the residual iron which I'm sure has settled into a +3 oxidation state.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A bit of success

I'm feeling less troubled about the organic chemistry problems I encountered recently. I returned the exams today and spent the whole period covering it. I was expecting some weeping and gnashing, but I got a lot of "Oh, now I understand." I also did a fairly in-depth review of what nucleophiles and electrophiles are. I hope it sticks.

I had a bit of success in my Biochemistry class. They are analyzing a dipeptide. The goal is to ID the two amino acids present and the sequence. To ID the N-terminus amino acid they functionalize it with a dinitrophenyl group. Then after hydrolysis under 6M HCl conditions they analyze it by TLC and compare to standards. In years past, we've had modest success for various reasons (usually student error). Today we batted 1.000 (which is really 100%).That made me happy.

On a related note, for any of you teachers, lab TAs or similar folk, have you ever given the entire class the same unknown? I have. They tend to freak out, but it teaches them to have confidence in their lab technique.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Annoying frustration

As a teacher, I occasionally experience situations that make me wonder if I am the worst teacher ever. There are times when, despite what seem to be my best effort, the point I am trying to make never sinks in. Sometimes after a bit of contemplation, I can figure out what went wrong and do something to correct the situation. But, occasionally there seems to be no solution. It is even more frustrating when the topic is fairly simple.

I recently had one of these frustrating episodes. In my Organic Chemistry class we have been covering substitution and elimination.

***disclaimer: To any non-chemists out there, much of this may not make sense. I'm not going to try to explain what I'm talking about, because based on the response of my students, I'd fail miserably.***

I put the following reactions on the board:

Many of you will recognize this as a classic question posed to organic chemistry students since Alexander first described his ether synthesis. One route will work quite nicely as written, but the other route is fraught with failure. Do you know which is which? If you've read this far, I'm sure you do.

Route A will work. Route B, however, will fail to make the desired product because elimination (to form 2-methylpropene) will predominate.

I put both reactions on the board and asked my students which one will work and which one won't.

Dead silence.

I rephrase the questions to something like, "one of these is a valid strategy and one is not. Which one will work and which one will fail to make the ether?"

More dead silence.

I start asking leading questions, but nothing is clicking. I finally get annoyed and ask, "how many carbons do you need to form a double bond?"

A student timidly answers, "2?" I say, "exactly. Which reaction will undergo successful substitution?"


It went on like this for about 15 minutes. I could not get them to realize that in route A, elimination is impossible. Or, if they did, they could not explain it to me.

This has really annoyed me, because if the entire class fails to figure something out, the most likely culprit is me. Besides, the example I describe above is NOT a difficult concept. I spent about half of a class period describing the difference between the two.

I'll find our tomorrow if it worked. This is the first question on tomorrow's exam.

UPDATE: Only 20% of my students got the answer correct. The others chose B. This is preposterageous!!! They will learn.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Brewing, the Doctor, and Netflix

I'm finally brewing tonight. My wife teaches at night and so I play Mr. Mom in the evenings. With 4 children, including 1 baby, it is very difficult to find the time to brew. Tonight I'm making a cream ale. I'm not sure how it is going to turn out. I've been distracted a lot tonight. I've finally reached that happy quiet time. The kids are in bed and my wort is 15 minutes into the boil. Time for a distraction.

I'm a Netflix whore. That's the only way I can describe it. I love Netflix. I especially love the fact that I can watch many movies online, and the only thing better than that is I can now watch them on my Mac!!!!!!

No, wait. Actually the only thing better than watching movies online on my Mac is that they have tons of episodes of Dr. Who available online. I used to watch Dr. Who all the time after school when I was in grade school. I loved it and still do. After years of not seeing it, I'm giddy with excitement that I can once again reacquaint myself with "The Doctor."... and of course, Leela.

Now, enough typing. Time to bounce around the universe and time.........

P.S. Tom Baker is my favorite Doctor.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The never ending beer

Several years ago, a friend and I moved into an apartment together. I had just started teaching and had found myself with more money that I had ever had in my life.[1] We also found ourselves with a nearly empty refrigerator. With the exception of some bottles of ketchup and mustard and other assorted condiments, we had a large cavern that needed to be filled. But, with what?

Stupid question.

I filled it with beer. I went out and bought several cases of assorted beer and filled that fridge with well over 100 cans of beer. I don't remember exactly how much the fridge held, but I do know when I was done, the ketchup and mustard didn't fit (priorities). The following picture is NOT my fridge, but it gives you the idea. Mine was fuller.

I did this before my roommate came home from work. The look on his face when he opened the refrigerator was priceless. I'm sure there was a tear or two.

We proceeded to drink the beer (it took a lot less time than we thought). As the stockpile got smaller, we decided that as long as we lived together, we would have beer in our fridge at ALL times. Therefore, we designated one beer to be THE beer in the fridge, in the event that all of the other beer had been consumed. We lived together for about 2 years until I got married and kicked him out. That one beer stayed in the back of the fridge the whole time. We decided not to drink it. After he moved out, I took custodial rights of the beer and kept it in my refrigerator for the next several years.

Finally, my wife and I were about to move again and I decided it was time for the beer to be put out of its misery. I got together with my old roommate and we shared one can of 10-year old Bud Light.

It was terrible.

[1] That's really not saying much. Even with my first 5-figure salary, things like student loans and car payments turned it into something much less. But, that's life.