Monday, 28 November 2011

07:02 – Barbara arrived home in the early afternoon yesterday. As usual, Colin and I did our happy dance. One of us was so excited, he peed. I’m not saying which.


I was working on the fungi/lichens chapter yesterday when I nearly took leave of my senses. The “standard” stain for fungi, which also serves as a mounting medium, is called lactophenol cotton blue or LPCB for short. It’s what I would use for staining fungi, no question. There are other stains that work, but not as well.

So, I decided I needed to include LPCB in the biology kit. I actually started tracking down sources for the chemicals and pricing everything. One of the components–phenol, AKA carbolic acid–is tightly regulated by DOT for shipping, so I made sure that I could ship under the small-quantity exemption, which indeed I could. Then I finally came to my senses. Phenol is truly nasty stuff, and LPCB is essentially a 20% solution of phenol in glycerin and lactic acid, with some water and a small amount of dye added. Phenol is highly toxic, absorbed through the skin, and corrosive. Making matters worse, phenol is a local anesthetic, so you don’t even feel it as it eats through your skin and poisons you. Not something I or any sane person wants an inexperienced 15-year-old student messing with.

So, turning lemons into lemonade, I decided to have students test the various other stains already included in the kit to determine their effects on fungi. Safranin O is actually not a bad alternative to LPCB, but I won’t tell them that. Let them find out for themselves.


14:05 – Yesterday I linked to a YouTube version of The British Grenadiers. The Grenadiers were and are scary guys, no doubt about it. Over the last 350 years or so, they’ve helped Britain win more than a few battles. But for some really, really scary guys, check out the Biochemist Grenadiers. These guys and their colleagues in the other sciences win wars and topple empires. You want these guys as friends.

If you’re not a scientist, you may find the lyrics incomprehensible. Don’t worry. It’s not just you. Here a few lines of the lyrics:

The moiety of glucose, in the succeeding phase
Is transferred to a ketose by an isomerase
Phosphofructokinase now, acts on that F6P;
Fructose 1,6 bisphosphate is the product that’s set free.

The kinase is effected quite complicatedly
And as you’ll have suspected it uses ATP;
FBP by aldolase is split reversibly
To phosphoglyceraldehyde, also DHAP.

It’s good to be a geek.

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6 Responses to Monday, 28 November 2011

  1. Miles_Teg says:

    RBT wrote:

    “One of us was so excited, he peed. I’m not saying which.”

    Nothing to be ashamed of. Starts happening at about your age.

  2. BGrigg says:

    Nothing to be ashamed of. Starts happening at about MY age.

    There, fixed that for you.

    Yet another Canadian invention for the convenience of the incontinence set.

  3. SteveF says:

    Thanks, BGrigg. I just suffered an inversion.

  4. BGrigg says:

    No worries, Steve, we have the tools for that as well!

  5. Jim Cooley says:

    LOL — love it! Reminds me of this old classic which I recently found buried in a byte crypt:


    Gilbert & Sullivan Online

    I am the very model of a Newsgroup personality.
    I intersperse obscenity with tedious banality.
    Addresses I have plenty of, both genuine and ghosted too,
    On all the countless newsgroups that my drivel is cross-posted to.
    Your bandwidth I will fritter with my whining and my snivelling,
    And you're the one who pays the bill, downloading all my drivelling.
    My enemies are numerous, and no-one would be blaming you
    For cracking my head open after I've been rudely flaming you.

    I hate to lose an argument (by now I should be used to it).
    I wouldn't know a valid point if I was introduced to it.
    My learning is extensive but consists of mindless trivia,
    Designed to fan my ego, which is larger than Bolivia.
    The comments that I vomit forth, disguised as jest and drollery,
    Are really just an exercise in unremitting trollery.
    I say I'm frank and forthright, but that's merely lies and vanity,
    The gibberings of one who's at the limits of his sanity.

    If only I could get a life, as many people tell me to;
    If only Mom could find a circus freak-show she could sell me to;
    If I go off to Zanzibar to paint the local scenery;
    If I lose all my fingers in a mishap with machinery;
    If I survive to twenty, which is somewhat problematical;
    If what I post was more mature, or slightly more grammatical;
    If I could learn to spell a bit, and maybe even punctuate;
    Would I still be the loathsome and objectionable punk you hate?

    But while I have this tiresome urge to prance around and show my face,
    It simply isn't safe for normal people here in cyberspace.
    To stick me in Old Sparky and turn on the electricity
    Would be a fitting punishment for my egocentricity.
    I always have the last word; so, with uttermost finality,
    That's all from me, the model of a Newsgroup personality

  6. Miles_Teg says:

    Bill wrote:

    “Nothing to be ashamed of. Starts happening at about MY age.

    There, fixed that for you.”

    Boy, first our host admits to it, now Bill does too. And he’s younger than me!

    I guess I shouldn’t make light of the situation, this might be in my (distant, I hope) future too.

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