Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Graphic Essay on Professor - Student Relations

I know you have all read this on PhD but I still think this graphic essay shows alotof depth and I intend to use it when students attempt to "friend" me on Facebook ...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Chemical Workers Song

A local band called "Great Big Sea" has a song about industrial chemistry worker relations. I taught on Newfoundland for five years and sometime I will have to tell you tales of the Long Harbour Phosphorus Plant ... it always makes me think of this song.


And its go boys go
They'll time your every breath
And every day in this place your two days near to death
But you go

Well a process man am I and I'm tellin' you no lie
I work and breathe among the fumes that tread across the sky
There's thunder all around me and there's poison in the air
There's a lousy smell that smacks of hell and dust all in me hair


Well I've worked among the spitters and I breathe the oily smoke
I've shovelled up the gypsum and it neigh 'on makes you choke
I've stood knee deep cyanide, got sick with a caustic burn
Been working rough, I've seen enough, to make your stomach turn


There's overtime and bonus opportunities galore
The young men like their money and they all come back for more
But soon your knocking on and you look older than you should
For every bob made on the job, you pay with flesh and blood


Well a process man am I and I'm telling you no lie
I work and breathe among the fumes that tread across the sky
There's thunder all around me and there's poison in the air
There's a lousy smell that smacks of hell and dust all in me hair

[Chorus 2x]

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Little Love for my American Cousins

I understand that you are all engaged in an economy saving frenzy that will max out all your credit cards so as you tuck into your turkey leftovers consider this seasonal note ...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Neverending Argument

We are having a re-evaluation here at Liberal Arts U. about safety apparel. I am reminded of a discussion I had with a British professor who had come to Canada just after the Second World War as part of the large contingent of second tier academics that came to teach the North American boomers. In a comment to me he said (referring to Canadians) “We first had to talk them out of the trees and teach them to wear clothes before we could teach them chemistry”. Lovely sentiment that, Rule Britannia!

Anyway, I cannot convince the Biologists that wearing safety clothing is like wearing a car seatbelt … 99% of the time it is an unnecessary inconvenience and 1% of the time it is the only guarantee that there will be a next generation of Liberal Arts Biologists. And the cavalier way they handle chemicals like acrylamide and ethidium bromide makes me despair. I have persuaded them to wear disposable gloves most of the time (but I think CSI convinced them more than I ever did that someone could look hot, do science and wear gloves).

In any event the current argument is over goggles and I am seriously thinking of making a pragmatic retreat on this one. The uber-safe, clamped to the skin, scuba goggles just will not fly with the Biologists and we have agreed that we will not make the students purchase separate safety gear for the different Science labs so it looks like we are heading towards a lightweight, polycarbonate clear vision safety goggle that does not touch skin around the perimeter.

The convincing argument that the Biologists gave me was that if we went for the safe goggles the students (actual meaning: the Biology professors) would not ever wear them but if we go for the second option there is a good chance that they at least would wear them propped up on their foreheads or dangling on lanyards. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

This Is Not My Lab

This is an image from the recent National Geographic (I would link to it but I cannot find the image in the online version of the magazine). It is described as a chemistry lab in a Detroit school that was abandoned to vandals after a fire in the school.

I don't know if Detroit vandals are more polite than the vandals around here but there is far to much intact glassware in the picture. In fact, who walks away from this amount of functional equipment? There are alot of useful items still in useful condition left in this abandoned lab. Give me an hour to clean it up and I could teach most of first year chemistry with chemicals from the grocery store and the equipment that I see.

In any event I found the image striking.

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.