Day: October 14, 2011

Friday, 14 October 2011

09:22 – Here’s the working cover that we’ll use for marketing materials and so on.

Mark Paglietti, the cover designer, commented, “Far be it from me to suggest filling in some white space, but there is a huge hole in the middle that could use some additional items… But, it works fine for our immediate purposes.” I was trying to come up with something to fill in that white space. I thought maybe a hand-drawn and labeled DNA molecule would be a decent background when it finally hit me. Duh.

My actual microscope workstation is a large desk that makes an “L” with my main office desk. Sitting at the back of that microscope desk is a wooden shelf organizer that’s full of bottles of stains and other reagents, spare slides and coverslips, a microtome, and other microscope accessories. So I just shot a quick image of that to send to Mark and Brian to ask what they think. If they agree, I’ll set up that organizer as a background for the microscope and other stuff in the current image, positioned to leave white space for the “Includes” column down the left side.


11:09 – Someone asked me what’s in the tubes stoppered with cotton balls. They’re broth culturing tubes. Ordinarily, they’d contain some sort of nutrient broth, such as LB or diluted beef broth with sucrose or glucose added. In this case, they contain a special culturing broth made up of tap water to which I added five drops of red food coloring and one drop of green. The advantage is that it doesn’t need to be autoclaved; the disadvantage is that nothing actually grows in it.


Barbara went out on the front porch for a few minutes after dinner last night. While we were out there, Melissa and her husband drove by and waved. She was about due to have her baby, so I walked down to see if she’d had it yet. She did, on October 5th, a little girl to go with her pair of very active little boys. I was quite proud of myself because I went through a mental checklist of things women always want to know about new babies. Name? Scarlet Gray. Check. Sex? Female. Check. Dimensions? 6’8″ and 18 pounds. Check. (When I told Barbara, she said it was highly likely that I’d confused the dimensions, which she thought were probably 6 lb. 8 oz. and 18 inches.)

While I was standing talking with Melissa, she asked what I was up to with the biology book. (She’s a biologist.) I told her I was working on a group of lab sessions on bacteria culturing, and the conversation went something like this:

Her: Oh, what species are you culturing?

Me: I have no idea.

Her: Well, where did you buy them?

Me: I didn’t buy them. I just used environmental bacteria.

Her: (horrified) So you have no idea what you’re growing?

Me: No, other than from the color and morphology of the colonies. I have one that’s a beautiful golden yellow color. (implying that I might have a colony of S. aureus, a dangerous human pathogen.)

Her: Well, you better dispose of those carefully.

Me: Sure, but before I do that I’m going to use them in some other lab sessions. I want to use natural (forced) selection to develop a multidrug-resistant strain by repeated culturing of the survivors in a broth with antibiotics added.

Her: (really horrified) Which antibiotics?

Me: Well, obviously, amoxicillin, tetracycline, ciprofloxacin, sulfamethoxazole, metronidazole, and all the other mainstream antibiotics. I also have some vancomycin, linezolid, and daptomycin, so I’m wondering if I can develop a strain that’s immune to all known antibiotics, including the last-ditch ones.

Her: (speechless)

I finally told her that I was practicing my straight face, and that, no, I wasn’t going to breed multidrug-resistant pathogens. I actually expected her to hit me (women do that a lot), but she just seemed relieved.

And, speaking of saying outrageous things with a straight face, Mary Chervenak told me that if there was anything at all she could do to help while Barbara was recovering just to say the word. I was going to tell Mary with a straight face that I really needed her to clean our house. Fortunately, I have a finely-honed survival instinct. I feared Mary’s Fist of Death even when she was on the other side of the planet during her run around the world, so I’m certainly not going to risk the FoD when I’m standing face-to-face with her.

Actually, that’s not fair to Mary. If she really thought I was serious, I have no doubt that she’d come over here and clean house for us. Wearing a respirator, because she’s deathly allergic to dogs.

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