Lab mice around...

...but this time to feed the snake.

I got the job. I still don't have a contract signed but i started working 2 weeks ago. I did my month's notice during the summer break that i, once again, had to endure with little else to do but to feed the fish.

First, the summer.

One of the teachers at the school where i worked at asked me to take care of his fish in his apartment, and so i did. As compensation, i asked him to bring me a FujiFilm finepix s1000fd camera. My plan was to pay him of course. The camera cost like $215US through amazon, pretty good deal for an amateur 10 megapixe, megazoom digital camera and came with a free 2gb sd card. Although the 3 tetras got eaten and the snail died, all other fish survived. Of course, i also watered the plants, aired the place out twice a week and swept the place twice, not to mention the fact of having someone checking the apartment daily... so he gave me the camera as payment, which was a very generous payment.

Then there were the other 2 tanks at the school. One was the biology one, which i've known for years. The other was this large goldfish tank with a guppy and a gourami. The bio tank did fabulous, the guppies reproduced. The other tank was different, the guppy got eaten and the gourami went belly up one evening. The goldfish on the other hand did just fine.

I also did a little of everything for the labs, but nothing out of the ordinary. Microscope repair, equipment calibration, inventories and helped out the IT guys a little.

The last week of july my notice ended, and that was that for the other school.

I took a few days between jobs, 4 to be exact. It was kinda relaxing.

Friday, August 1st was my first day at this job. As i stated in my previous post, still a lab tech but now i'm going to teach a little.

So far, here's the score.

- bigger and better office. A whole chemistry lab for myself.
- my own desk, computer and resources.
- WINDOWS! my previous office only had tiny windows high above and even if they had been large, they would've just looked at the building in front. Here i have massive windows and a killer view of the mountain to the north and the hills to the south.
- no air conditioning! my sinuses are happy. Nice airflow through the floor, though.
- i'm a little higher up the food chain here.
- nice people to work with.
- the labs were pretty organized
- fridge in my office

- struggling not to be come the teachers' secretary
- slower computer (but soon to be fixed with more ram)
- lots of older equipment, and a lot of it doesn't work, is almost fubar or is missing pieces.
- last time an inventory was done was 8 years ago.
- one of the teachers is younger than me...
- department head is a mathematician. This is a bigger issue than most people would think, hopefully this person does not become hostile.

In other news, it seems i've traded fish for a rabbit, several budgies and a medium sized python. The snake is by far the most interesting animal. She gets white mice a few of times a year for meals and she generally just rests in her glass terrarium.

Yeah. That's it.

I will miss working with some people, like the bio teacher at the other school, she was kinda nutty but she was always a good person. The admin staff as well, they were all cool.

But i admit it, i'm by far better off here.



Found a new job.

Our school's science department has a spoken agreement with a competing school to trade materials when we need to. It is common for us to trade organics for inorganic acids and that.

The boss of the science dept over there is a neighbour of my parents so i have known this guy for a good 2 years, nice guy. In one of those many opportunities when i went to trade something with him he and i sat down for a little while and discussed teaching. At the time i hadn't even thought about it because i was still trying to go corporate, so i told him it'd be nice but that i wasn't interested at the time.

So a year went by and about 3 weeks ago i went to trade some butyric acid for some acetone. He brought it up again.

Things have changed since he and i spoke last about teaching; i got approval from the bosses here to start a master's program that was provided through the school at a minimal cost to me. But the program was riddled with IFs. If i was accepted by the university to do the masters, if there was space in the program, if the teacher wanted a class that big, if there's nobody with more priority that needs to take it (teachers get priority) etc etc etc.

The university accepts a class size max of 25, but gives teachers the liberty of taking more students if they want. Right now the profs are allowing 35 max. I'd be #34 in the class. but not all of the classes will be taught by the same profs, some will have other profs coming from the states, and if these guys want 25 only, everybody from #26 to me is fucked. That and if there's a couple of new teachers that want in, i'd also be bumped out because i don't have priority. Too many ifs.

Also there's the issue that the masters is at least 2 years long, and that's if i do all classes on schedule and pass all courses and produce a decent thesis. Then there's the fact that i'd have to pay for a great deal of the courses, not to mention plane tickets, certification exams etc etc etc.

And then there's the little thing that this master's is not directly conducent to getting certified.

I could take cert exams after finishing the masters... but what good is that to me if i have to wait so long to do that and dish out so much money? The school's not going to help me much with that because i'm just a local hire, so essentially I'm not going to slave away at this school with no chances of growth while i could be doing something of myself, faster and more efficiently.

So back to that conversation 3 weeks ago. He asked me what about teaching and if i had changed my mind. I told them my school was willing to pay for a little bit of the masters and that i'd have certs in 3 to 4 years.

He asked what if i took a job at his place and got certs through a fast track program with the school paying for the courses (and me paying for room and board). We sat down, discussed a little bit how it'd be. The entire science team of that school was moving out due to contracts that end, so a new crew is coming in and some don't have a lot of experience and not one of them had ever used vernier classroom technology or smartboard. I'm sort of an expert with both.

So here's what they offered.

- The fast track course
- The student teaching hours
- The praxis test
- The possibility of being department head once i started teaching full time
- The possibility of getting prepared for IB, AP and some other curricula.

What does this entail? That, with 99% certainty, in 5 years i could be at an ISS fair getting a job in a different country. Where i am at, the certainty is more like 50% and i'm looking at at least 8 years to be there.

I'd start doing the same job, lab techie, but for a little bit more money and a lot less time in traffic everyday. Next summer i'd start the fast track. In the 09-10 schoolyear i'd do my student teaching hours and in the summer of 10 i'd do my second summer i'd finish the fast track and get certs.

Then i commit to a to 5 year contract at the school, get heaps of experience and (with the kids i haven't had being about 3 to 5 years old) move to a different country.

So i got the call today with the offer and i said sure why not. Nothing to loose, everything to gain. They'll write the contract up and have me sign it sometime soon. Then, once school ends, i'll send in my resignation and be done with it.

Still a lab tech, just not going to be one at this dump anymore. :)


Glowstick solution

Here's a small and somewhat innacurate how-to. It works, not very well, but it's a start.

In one 1L beaker:
1L distilled H2O
~1g ammonium carbonate
0.5g Copper sulphate
~4g Sodium carbonate
0.2-0.4g luminol

In another beaker:
20 vol H2O2 (5.7%v/v)

Dissolve the carbonates, the sulphate and the luminol in the dH2O to make the "glow solution".

Then in one 150mm test tube have 10mL of the glow solution and in another 150mm test tube have 10mL of the hydrogen peroxide (H2O2).

Pour the H2O2 into the test tube with the glow solution. You shall see a pretty luminescent blue light emitting from the mix for about 2 seconds.

As i said, it's not a very good demo, but it's guaranteed to fascinate the shit out of students.

Always follow proper lab techniques and safety, and read the MSDS for each chemical used. This information is for reference only, if you do this it's because you want to, and are prepared and knowledgeable in the fine arts of chemistry. If you get hurt somehow it's because you're stupid and shouldn't have done it in the first place, so don't go blaming me for it.


Making pH 7 Buffers

Considering you have the necessary chemicals:

250mL of 0.100M Potassium Phosphate Monobasic KH2PO4 (3.4022g in ~250mL dH2O)

250mL of 0.100M Sodium Phosphate Dibasic Na2PO4 (6.7017g in ~250mL dH2O)

Mix in 500mL container, add colour key preservative if you have it.

- Obviously, use proper lab techniques. Don't just measure out 250mL of water and mix. Pour the amount in a beaker, add roughly half of the volume of water, dissolve, then dilute to 250mL in a grad cylinder.
- Solutions must be of exact concentrations, use an analytical balance if you have it.
- Water should be freshly distilled (deionized too if you can), do not use old stock dH2O as it tends to be acidic and it may cause the pH to shift a little.


Note on managing a science lab inventory Part I

Managing a lab is complicated work, especially when it comes to keeping a stock and track an inventory of equipment, glassware, chemicals and other materials.

It gets more complicated when your equipment and glassware is mostly for the use of highschoolers.

Let's take for example glassware. There's lots of brands, qualities and prices of glassware you can buy. You can go high end and get everything pyrex, VWR and the like. Or you can go low end and buy ML, some Chinese glass or any of the other cheapies.

High end glassware is expensive, but it's sturdier, it doesn't break as easily in heat, when falling or when exposed to mechanical forces. If one puts it under enough pressure sure, it'll break, but what it takes to chip a high quality piece will certainly smash the low quality one. And that's the thing about low end glassware, sure it's cheaper, but it's more delicate than your grandma's

I've broken ML 100mL grads by just flicking them with my middle finger.

So comes the dilemma. I have X amount of money so i can either go with less of the good quality stuff, or buy tons of the cheap stuff.

If you work in a school, you will have teenagers whose brains are still adapting to their rapidly growing bodies and are natually clumsy, and your glassware will break, high or low end.

But consider this, by buying more expensive glass you will ensure a lower rate of breakage. If you buy cheap stuff, you might run out of glassware due to breakage before year's end. By my estimation, annually we spend more in replacing cheap glassware that broke from simple accidents (like hitting it against the tap of the sink when washing, which is quite common) with more cheap glassware than we would in replacing with good quality glassware, since they would last longer.

It's just not cost effective, considering that even the cheap glassware is not all that much cheaper than high quality glass, and is a little more expensive each year that goes by.

If you have a small budget then by all means get the cheap stuff so you can have enough stock to operate, but then you must instruct, and enforce, proper handling of glassware.

But if you have a large budget, don't keep a large stock of cheapies. Keep a small one of good quality ones. Just because they don't break or chip when hitting the tap.


Simple changes

My buddy, the physics guy, will be leaving in the summer to teach in europe. They haven't found anybody to replace him yet, so it's possible one of the math guys takes it and they get a new math teacher. If they find someone for physics, then it's a new neighbour for me, a new work relationship to establish.

Everybody else stays.

The labs have been quiet lately, havent done anything very interesting so far. Coolest thing recently was working with halogens. Getting chlorine gas via concentrated HCl + KMnO4... the green gas just reacts straight out and can be collected in a gas cylinder for show or to react sodium to make salts and such. It's tricky because the 37% HCl is needed and chlorine gas is deadly, but if done with the necessary fumehoods and safety measures, it's cool.

Same goes for the bromine. Made bromine water to replace the fading and almost depleted stock we have. Simple enough, some 0.5M sodium bromide solution and a few mL of sodium hypochlorite (household chlorine bleach, NaOCl). Also very dangerous, wouldn't want to get this stuff in contact with skin, but the recipe is cheap, simple and it works for the kind of science i prep.



They called me again the second monday of february, had a final interview with the head of the department. It went well, can't say i did anything wrong. The boss did tell me that there was another candidate that was a little more qualified than i was, having worked hardcore microbiology before and living closer (wouldn't have to move and such). Whereas i had the languages and the worldly education.

And i didn't hear from them for 2 weeks. I finally had it and found and sent an email to the human resources people. The human resources girl that interviewed me first called me up the following day and told me the other guy got it. She didn't have to call me at all, i could've remained in limbo for a little while longer, it was nice of her.

Though it may not be true, i'm going to take this as a didn't get hired because they were afraid of my skills.

The hunt goes on.

I had sort of a phylosophical epiphany this morning.

But first let me get this out of the way. My boss is pissing me off again. He comes in at 9am to request a complicated setup for 2pm (setup requests have to come in at least 24 hours in advance, no the morning before), and then has the balls to tell me off because i had some dirty bottles in my sink. Man i wish i could plow that guy over.

Ok epiphany.

I'm not religious, i'm a self declared atheist. Yes, i finally know the difference between atheist and agnostic, i do deny the existance based on the impossibility of formulating substantial, scientifically testable proof, as opposed to declaring the possibility unknowable (but possible) and keep it in question.

But being an atheist i sometimes think about death. Religious people think of death and depending on their religious outlook they see different things. Most see an afterlife, some think they'll be immediately reborn, and there's a few other ideals but that's for the theists to discuss.

To me, death has always been the ceasing of brain activity and subsequent decay of our molecules into more elemental forms due to bacterial, environmental and hopefully animal action as well. Yeap, rotting mush filled with bugs, worms and bacteria. Yum. But this leads me to a few thoughts of why other people see afterlives and gods and reincarnations.

The world we live in is the way it is because it's how we perceive it, right? I mean, everybody has a different outlook, that's why artists see "beauty" in what another person might otherwise consider "ugly". Same works for me, i see death as material cause with material effect.

And here's my realization. Since there's nothing anybody can do about dying, might as wel dying thinking that the second your brain shuts down, you will become something else, go to a metaphysical sacred place or something like that. I mean, it doesn't matter right? Because once you're dead, there's nothing you can do about it, so might as well die happy.

I guess this is why people, as they get older, become more and more spiritual, and thus try to force this spirituality onto their young early on. And the implications on the world's religions... monstrous.

Afraid of death? Look into the different streams of faith, i'm sure you'll find one post-death experience you may find enticing.

No, i'm not about to go seeking sainthood now. Death is death so enjoy life.


And then there was nothing.

Nothing is the new new. Not good news, not bad news, just no news. In most circumstances no news is good news, but when you're looking for a job, no news means... what exactly is beyond me.

I thought things were going so well, i thought i nailed it. But they haven't called. So yeah.

There's a number of things to think about tho. The whole interviewing process was november and december, everybody stopped working around the 20th of december, and most don't return untl january 15th. So it might be a matter of waiting.

Then there's this, they told me the job would start at the end of january. But i told them i'd do my notice at the school first and then start there, my notice by law has to be a month, otherwise i don't get paid my full benefits because of that month i would not work.

But whatever, if they decide to buy me out, that's fine as well.

I just hope they call me.