December 29, 2010

Christmas Joy and Terror

Every year I try to write a quasi-christmas story, and I have a fun time doing it. Some people tell me they like it, mostly they just shake their heads and wonder why I'm not locked up in a round white room with padded walls. Here's this years incarnation. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Sorry the pages are so small.

December 22, 2010

Take my breath away (seriously, take it)

It's really late and I'm on a bunch of caffeine because I still have to drive home after I finish here-if I were finished I wouldn't be here any more-so this may be slightly more disjoint than normal. Actually my brain isn't functioning well enough to write about anything that I was going to, so instead you get this.

Nothing like some blank space to make you realize just how inconsiderate some people can be at times whether they want to or not. It's like going to the grocery store and finding out that they only have one more box of captain crunch. The problem is not that there's only one more box, but rather that there's an old person on the other end of the aisle and they've spotted the same thing as you. Normally old people wouldn't go for captain crunch as it can be painful on the roof of your mouth, but more than that, it's known for destroying dentures-some people even use it in their rock polishers or to break diamonds. As you rush forward to beat this irrational old person to the last box of tasty deliciously painful captain crunch you are aware only too late that this old person is not without guile. They have thrown their cane directly at your crotch (I'm writing this from a guys perspective), which if you were unlucky enough to have one of my sisters or mother there watching they would proceed to laugh hysterically, rolling in the aisles as you writhed in pain and anguish with the most horrible five-minute-flu you've ever experienced, and that's not even taking into account the humiliation you feel from it being caused by a very old person you had assuming ignorantly moments before that you could easily handle. As you breath in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth with your knees to your chest, this wily/crafty old person leans over your face so you can see all the way up their large nostrils making out the small children trapped in the jungle of nose hairs that inhabit such a forbidden place. The bend over so slowly you think that you're going to pass out, you can hear the sickening click of their dentures as they mock your pain, the box of captain crunch held close to their body as if it were a small child they were protecting from a pack of wolves, which in other circumstances you very well may have been. I wonder if anyone has tried that approach to fighting off wildlife? If so, they probably haven't lived to tell about it; better not try it. They pick up their cane, making sure to give you one more good tap so as to guarantee you don't follow them, and then drag its filthy bottom across your nice white shirt. Now not only is your back covered with candy corn from the 1970's but you also have a hideous black streak across the front of your shirt. How are you going to try and shamelessly hit on the cashier that has no interest in guys that shop at this place? At this point you decide that your best option is to just leave as fast as you can as never mention it to anyone; also, you decide that a cup is required equipment for grocery shopping from now on, and hope they don't throw the cane at your face next time.

See, I tried to warn you with that large blank space, but no, you just had to keep reading. I'll bet you wish you had those last two minutes of your life back, don't you? Well too bad, I have now taken them and deposited them into the bank of you'll-never-get-it-back-from-me-even-if-it-were-the-US-constitution-and-you-were-the-president-which-you're-not. You don't come back from that. Worse than that, you're still reading, and even worser, worser is apparently a word-well there goes all my hopes of being slightly clever and making up another nonword that people sometimes use without thinking, irregardless of what the mastiff says. But the truly tragic part of all this is that I'm still writing.

My hands don't seem to want to give it up, but I do.

December 18, 2010

Not-so-slowly Getting Dumber

Last night we went out to eat, and when we were paying for our meal they asked us how everything was. I gave my usual response and said, "Actually, our waiter was atrocious." The hostess's response, "Yeah, Nick really is a sweet heart, isn't he." I stood there aghast with my jaw on the floor. It continued, "I'm sorry, he's what? I said he was atrocious." "Oh, that doesn't mean like wonderful?" "No, it means awful, horrendous, Sinead O'Connor..." "Heh, well I guess I just didn't know what that meant..." Not that I can really blame her, I mean like why would you know anyone who like ever had to you know be like something other than like one of those like really smart like people ever have to do like anything other than like, you know, more than the rest? God shave the queen.

December 16, 2010

The End is Beer

Ah, finals week. It's all but over. The tests are all taken and tucked safely in bed. The others were graded with malice and dread, for the students in my class all knew they were dead long before this day came, for p-chem is not their friend. I don't really know of anyone who truly loved/loves p-chem their first time through. I hated the first half, and still do hate thermodynamics in all of its shapes, derivatives and equations-of-state. I must say though that the final exam was not without its moments of humor-at least for me, since I wasn't the one taking it. There was one student who appeared to be more interested in her finger nails and the wonderful polish on them, than in the exam. Later it became apparent that it was more of a nervous habit-that and picking at the nail polish-and by the end they looked like a two year old had been the one to apply the nail polish to both her nails and around her mouth. The lesson to learn is not to study the material and actually go to class so you can pass, but it is not to buy cheap nail polish, otherwise you'll end up with a red face and black mouth. Toward the end another student actually threw his exam at me, and then realizing what he had just done, profusely apologized while I laughed at him. Laughter really does make you feel better. The best part though is after the exam, when the guys are trying to hurry and finish, or make it look like their not finished yet, so they can just 'happen' to finish at the same time as some girl they've been ogling the entire semester but haven't had the spine to talk to her yet, and then try to strike up a conversation in the hopes of an exchange of phone numbers. This might work with other classes. Not with p-chem. By the time most of them were done they were so emotionally and mentally drained that the last thing they wanted was to have to deal with some guy that either/or has no personality and thinks he's god's gift to women. Watching several of those play out were better than the student throwing their exam at me.

I passed at least one of my classes. I missed five points on the final. The stupid part, and the one that almost got me killed earlier today while talking with several other students, was that one of those points should not have been missed. I feel like an idiot, but a happy idiot none-the-less. Now just a fellowship application to finish by tomorrow at 5pm. Thankfully I've already started it.

Pam says it's time to go home, so that's all for now.

December 10, 2010

If words mean things, then all is lost

It's the end of the semester-it's funny how when you're entrenched in academic life, you base things on when semesters start/end rather than on things that really matter, like the new year-and things are finally starting to wind down, I think. The student evaluations are in, so I no longer have to be somewhat nice to them. Actually since moving from Nebraska to here I've been extraordinarily nice to my students. Must be something not in the water. You can tell it's been an especially trying semester as I've found myself listening to blink-182 to unwind in my office-stranger things have happened, though not many. It's probably the sophomoric humor that relates to my not-so-inner child and puts a smile on my face.

Right now I'm applying for a couple of fellowships. Pam and I are really hoping to get one of them, as they are renewable for up to four years and they pay about the same as the fellowship I had last year-it's a lot more than you get paid teaching a class. This will be nice for other reasons as well. Pam wants to go back to school, law school no less, and we do want to have kids eventually before we both get too old and body parts start to fall off, making us look like lepers without a pot of gold. With the fellowship Pam could go back to school and not have to work at the same time, which would help her do better. Plus there's always the fact that if we can save enough money we can withdraw it all in one dollar bills, roll around naked in it for a few days and then return it so that all of those christened bills flow into circulation. After I (eventually) graduate-I really do want to graduate one day, but not get a real job which is why I want to work at either a national lab or a university doing research-fellowships look awesome on your CV (resume) and can definitely help when trying to find a job. The only real drawback to either of these fellowships is...well...there isn't one. I don't have to teach and can focus on research, it looks good on my CV, there's more money and last but not least I don't have to teach.

My lab mate-the one who told me, "We're really lucky you're not a moron"-wants to go see Jackass 3D with me, and I really want to go too. It just shows that because you're working toward an advanced degree doesn't necessarily mean you've grown up (it's not stupid, it's advanced).

Life is good, in spite of all the cold and snow-ha! take that Jack Frost and your biting numbing cold that emanates from your cold cold heart of death into the soul of Michigan.

You can't tell it very well, but this is a picture of me throwing a tire swing at our dogs-they thought it was great fun.

December 6, 2010


There are some strange things at work right now in my life. For starters, I just had the thought of what would happen if you mixed funny + monkey =? Any guesses? That's right, funky. Who knew?!

There's a very strange phenomena here in the chemistry building at michigan state. About 2pm on any given weekday, if you go to use the men's restroom on any floor, you will find that almost every single one of them is completely occupied. The first time it happened to me, I thought it was just a coincidence, but it keeps happening and when I remember, I purposefully go to check to see if they are. They are. I wonder if it's something in the water that someone has figured out how to make men have to go to the bathroom all at the same time and they're testing it out on us, as they can't get FDA or FCC approval. That or, perhaps men that are in the same building for long enough get on the same cycle, kind of like women, but this happens more than just once a month-thankfully.

My only hope is that other people will start to figure this out and adjust their schedules accordingly so that I won't be inconvenienced by their obviously unnecessary need to use the men's restroom around 2pm.

November 22, 2010

I love the rain

It's raining and it's in the 60's today. Who's colder right now, Michigan or say Nebraska? or Utah? It's probably from all of the car plants up here, so there's a greater concentration of carbon dioxide which means there's more global warming up here right now. Don't worry though, the rest of you will catch up eventually.

The other day I was supposed to be studying when I had an epiphelant (a giant epiphany), I needed to get out of the house. The only real problem was that I didn't have the car, Pam was at work with said car. So I went and did the next most logical thing, the dishes. There's something somewhat relaxing about doing the dishes. If I were living back in the days of Attila the Hun and they were attacking our village I would be in a huge panic if I was out in my field and saw them coming. However, if I was in my kitchen, or even out in my yard (I don't think they had kitchen then, but you never know with the Chinese) doing the dishes it would be a completely serene and peaceful scene of massacre and mayhem. Right up until the last moment when I would be run-through or decapitated or taken prison only to be drawn and quartered later, it would be one of the most peaceful moments of my life-current life that is, placed momentarily in life back then. I think it was about then that one of the dogs started chewing on my leg and I notices the dish water running over onto the floor. Peace is not always a good thing-even if you're not republican.

The dish washing reminded me of what I've heard some about-mostly from my family-about the new dish washing detergent not having phosphates in it, unless of course you're willing to purchase it at Walmart (Walmart in Finnish means dirty philandering phish-monger). I don't even know where walmart is out here... apparently michigan is all about the smaller businesses functioning and not the larger national/international-chains (ironic how that went with the whole collapse of the car industry and such). I haven't seen a starbucks anywhere here, though it's fabled there is one on the outskirts of town. There's only one, maybe two, walmarts here and I haven't seen even sign for either one. Mcdonalds is a rarity here, etc. etc. etc. For the large companies it's a good thing that michigan isn't more populous. For being fairly conservative they have some liberal tendencies up here.

But the dish soap, that's what I really want to talk about. I'm supposed to be a chemist so I thought I'd look up what all the hullabaloo about phosphates is. It turns out that they're awful mean and nasty. One official report I came across said that phosphates are responsible for 90% of bullying that goes on not only on the playground but also in the workplace and common everyday life. This just shows how one careless slip of some phosphate and your children will be coming home with black eyes as will your spouse. They also have found that phosphates cause lung cancer in various types of fish (trout, blue gill, pike, submarines and even sharks). This should be alarming since fish usually don't have lungs. Forget radioactive slime monsters crawling up from the ooze of one-mile island to decimate and destroy our world. We have bigger things to worry about like fish that can now breath air and come on land, even if they will die soon from lung cancer and likely can't run very fast due to the same. What if they learn how to use guns though? We'd be in a heap of trouble. Farming communities are the most at risk though of being attacked by lung cancer gun toting fish, seeing as they dump the most phosphates into the environment.

Wait. If we just stopped farming and only used disposable dishes we wouldn't have to worry about the phosphates polutimatizing our ground water and turning our gentle, god-fearing fish into psychotic gun toting psycho maniacs. Life's biggest problems often have the easiest solutions.

November 4, 2010

What are they thinking??

This is a 'conversation' I had with a student of mine recently via email:


Hello Jared,

I have a problem with the last hw #6 correction. I do not believe it's fair for getting marked a point off for just putting problem #9 before #8. I understand you didn't like that but you could have just noted it and I will try not doing it again. But taking off a point for just getting the order wrong for one isn't a big thing.
Sometimes the hw posted by the Prof. is given in the wrong order as well.


The point is taken off because it takes me longer to grade the HW when they are not in order. I have a systematic way that I grade and having to sort through the problems makes grading a more difficult task. The HW that is posted is put in the same order in which I grade it (1, 2, 3, …). If you do not want to miss the point, please put your HW in the correct order. You are at least a junior or senior in college and are expected to turn in work that is of the same level. Not putting them in order is disrespectful of my time and is something I would expect from freshman or possibly sophomores. I have found that without drawing student’s attention to the problem of
putting HW in the incorrect order is only effective when points are taken off, otherwise they see it as inconsequential. It has consequences for me and also for you. I am sorry that you missed that point for something so simple. Please be more careful in the future with your work.



Actually I am a graduate student and haven't had to turn in hw every week like this in a very long time. Sorry for taking so much of your time to notice I mistakenly skipped a problem and did it right after. I am not a freshmen and didn't need you to take off a point for me to notice a note you could have left. And yes the first hw postings the prof put up were not always in the right order. For example HW set #3 has a number of problems in the wrong order. I didn't want to make this a big deal. I was just saying you could have pointed it out rather then deducting a point for something so little when the hw takes soo much time to do.

Other than finding this most amusing and quite ironic, I was also appalled that this person is a graduate student. And here I thought it was mostly the undergraduates that were whiny about having to do actual work to get points in a class-forget the fact that as a graduate student the classes you take are usually ones that you need to know the material in because you're going to use it later-if they're not, you have a crappy committee.

C'est la guerre.