Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Eyes Have It

Homebrew tells an important message to all you kids out there on safety and why only European hockey players wear visors (I added that last little bit for the Canadians out there).

He also posted an extreme close-up of his left eye which got me to thinking that eyes tell alot about a person without actually revealing their identity.

So I changed my profile picture to my eye for at least a day or so to see if the other anonymous bloggers jump on the bandwagon. I do not want to wander into naturopathy and other fringe pseudo-sciences but the eyes do tell a story.

Just for the record I wore prescription safety glasses under a full face faceshield for most of my graduate work (I can still see the column of flame shoot out from a reaction tube I was sealing and feel it hit my faceshield and then wrap around my head, I should have kept that faceshield to scare undergraduates). As a lab instructor my students all wear face-fitting safety goggles and I have a rule of no contacts and an instant grade of 0 in the lab if a students takes a phone call or text message. My heart goes out to those students that get contact dermatitis from the goggles but I don't see any really good options beyond prescription glasses like I wore.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Science Sells: Blue Rage Bullet

One more set of marks to compile and a meeting with the Biology Department and my time is mine to manage. Of course the lab is a tip, I am teaching Biochemistry after the break and my old text is no longer available so I will have to use a new text etc. , etc. etc. By the way, has anyone noticed that the students seem a bit dimmer than usual this year?

Anyway, in the name of work avoidance I have given into something that I have noticed now and then in the last little while. Items that are sold or merchandised using either science itself or the icons of science.

This was highlighted in my mind recently by a second year student who had just won a class assignment contest and I announced that as a prize she could pick out any piece of standard lab glass to have for her own. Now in the past when I have done this students had tended towards beakers (candy dishes, pencil holder) and graduated cylinders (bud vases, window decorations) but this young woman announced that a beaker wasn't "Sciency" and her selection was an Erlenmeyer flask. In my opinion that fits with the idea that an E-flask a higher level icon for science than a beaker. Just by it's shape alone pretty much everyone identifies an E-flask as relating to science.

Now science has been used in the past and currently to sell things. It seems that the cosmetics industry is constantly going through a science / anti-science cycle where one year the hair molecules are scientifically matched to the the amino acid balance in the hair dye and then the next year only ingredients squeezed from some rare root by artesimal means (never touched by a scientist!) are used.

This is what caught my eye recently:Now I have to admit that as symbols and icons go it is indeed possible that there is a much higher level symbol being used to sell this energy drink. But then again isn't that one of the endearing things about the test tube ... just the sheer ... manliness ... of the object?

Anyway, the good people of iSatori who make Blue Rage Hardcore Energize Bullet describe the drink as contained in a "vial" (just like a mad scientist potion). Not only that they say that the container is "virtually unbreakable".
A quick look at the ingredient list tells us that the caffeine dose in the "vial" is 300 mg. Now the amount of caffeine in a cup of commercial drip coffee is about 100 mg so this this pretty much the same caffeine load as two large coffees. The rest of the ingredient list seems relatively unremarkable.
I have to comment on the iSatori website. Could someone please explain to me where the young lady has her right hand and does it have anything to do with the shape of the "virtually unbreakable" container of Blue Rage Hardcore Energize Bullet?

I gotta go finish my marking. Take care people, have a blessed break and I hope the New Year is a good one for you. The economists all say that if you didn't have any investments to lose in the first place and if you keep your job through this period that the financial meltdown should have a pretty low impact on your life. That is my prayer.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Maybe You Have to be American

I was reading "Canada's National Newspaper" The Globe and Mail today and there was this add encouraging Canadians to join the medical research community in Miami. Now the add sort of stuck out to me because it seemed to look so awkward and uncomfortable. It looks like a bad add you would see in Chemical and Engineering News. I mean they obviously have played the diversity card as far as they can (they do not have anyone with a visible disability but if you have watched any action movies from the past two decades you recognize the hairstyle of the white dude as hiding pure distilled and repressed evil). The fact that they are all standing to a kind of smug attention and the guys are all wearing ties (half Windsor knots I would say all tied by the same wardrobe chick) suggests the sort of fixed stock actor assembly.

That said, I went to their website and found pretty much the symmetry opposite picture and not much more. Does anyone know these people? Would anyone want to work with any of these people? Is it just me or does the white guy seem to be standing separate from the non-whites. What kind of message is this? Is it a "yeah we work with the white dude but there are more of us than him so when that evil haircut takes over we will take him down" message or a "come to Miami and you can work NEAR minorities but not WITH them (if you know what I mean)"

And then there is the badly arranged display of "scientific" equipment. Who advises these people? Why couldn't they have gone to a real lab with real people and photoshopped in the palm trees and water?

On the other hand the Asian guy has a clipboard and I was wondering if it had chemical nonsense on it so I scanned it and an zoomed in. If only I had the magic zoom lens that they have on CSI Miami that renders fine detail from traffic cameras but this is what is on the clipboard. I don't recognize it but it looks legit.

Anyway, I am avoiding marking final exams. I have miles to go before I sleep ...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Legalisms That Knit the Wounds of Liberty

There are times when being Head of the Science Department in a small university are less fun than other times. The endless meetings are one thing ... why is it that the default debating philosophy of most faculty is "I am so brilliant that if you disagree with me you must not have understood what I said so I will repeat what I just said ... only louder"?

This was a new one for me though. I got a call from Security at 1o:30 last night. It seemed that there were students in the Biology Lab that refused to leave. The end of semester is now on us and the students are confusing necessity with permission again. The Botany professor had told the students in her course that they were required to submit their plant herbariums (is that an aquarium for Herbs?) first thing Monday morning. The students interpreted that as not a call to arms to get the things done before the due date but somehow the professor giving permission for them to be in the lab at any hour they pleased. It turns out that one student signed out the lab key and it simply got passed around from one student to another until finally we ended up with non-Science students in the lab at 10:30 on a weekday evening with the professor of record having no clue that the students were there. The students even got uppity with Security because they were securing the building and the students wanted to be able to continue.

It would appear that our well articulated policy on handing out keys to students was in fact pretty much ignored and they were following more of a honour system in the Biology department. And they wonder why we have thefts in the building.

So now I am crafting a bulletproof, shoot-all-offenders policy that also includes discipline items for faculty. It is hard to do this because as an Honours undergraduate I had complete 24/7 access to the Chemistry Department and it meant a lot to me. To my eyes it is the faculty that are the problem but I am at a loss to teach them anything approaching common sense. Most of them are eat-the-rich-socialist, pot smoking hippies to start with while I like a little structure to my chaos.

Oh well. If I can plow through my mountain of marking, end of semester department meetings and set my exams I might be able to put my hand to a paper I have half written before New Years. That would be nice.

About Me

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For a while it was all about research and then it was all about teaching and now it's all about trying to find a balance while teaching at a small liberal arts and science university.