Graduated Student Tour

While letting myself into my lab a woman approached me and said, “Hi!”

She had just graduated UC Davis and was looking around all the buildings she hadn’t been in much.

She was a Landscape Architecture major (didn’t even know you could major in that). My building is for biological sciences, so its understandable that she had probably never set foot in it before.

My lab’s building, Briggs Hall, is interesting from an architecture perspective (but maybe not landscape architecture).

The building was built in 1971 when there were a lot of campus demonstrations (still are! Pepper Spray Cop was at UC Davis).

A method of cutting down on demonstrations was giving students no places to gather indoors. Thus Briggs Hall’s layout is amazing confusing and even I get lost in it after working in the building for several years.

Briggs also doesn’t have any staircases inside. All of the stairs are on the exterior of the building. Don’t ask me what lunatic decided that was a good idea for a four story building.

Anyways, the recently graduated student asked if there was anything interesting in Briggs.

I showed her my lab. She glanced around in it, but not being a biologist she didn’t really understand anything in the lab.

I showed her the -80°C (-112°F) freezer which she did like as summer is starting in Davis.
I also showed her my favorite part of Briggs, the back exit by the police station.
wpid-20150617_140515.jpg
The back exit is where all the old equipment is put that no one wants anymore. These are the pieces that are too big to just throw in the trash.
There’s old computers, old centrifuges, old heating blocks, old incubators. Tons of cool science equipment.
It’s this sort of industrial wasteland and NO ONE EVER GOES THERE.
My lab is super peaceful, but if something ever got too stressful and I needed to go outside, this is where I’d go.
Why does industrial junk calm me down? I had an air filter going in my room constantly when I was a kid. That constant hum while I slept made me associate industrial hums and old appliances with peaceful rest.
So now places like this always calm me down.
Course, the graduated student didn’t get any of that business. Shook her hand and congratulated her on graduating after I showed her the junk pile before going back inside to my lab.
-GoCorral
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Fixing the Camera Printer

image
Ancient technology from the long long ago. The printer is the thing on top of the computer tower. The camera is the giant cabinet looking thing to the right of the monitor.

We have something called a “gel doc printer” at my work. It’s purpose is self-evident. It prints documents of our gel pictures.

Gel doc printers are used infrequently and often labs share them. Ours is shared between… probably five different labs? Maybe more.

Taking pictures of gels is important in science. Gels are how we visualize DNA and proteins.

A digital copy is good enough for your own records, but you need a printed copy in case someone claims your digital copy is edited. The gel doc printer provides that physical copy.

Our printer is shared and an issue comes up that when the printer breaks we don’t know whose responsibility it is to fix it.

Usually the breaks are fixed easily. A reboot of the printer or the computer will suffice. Not this time!

This time the printer has refused to print any and all images despite the computer recognizing it as a printer that is plugged in and printing test pages.

Awful looking test pages, but test pages none the less.
Awful looking test pages, but test pages none the less.

I delved into it and realized the printer’s driver’s were outdated. Normally this would be an easy problem to fix. Not so!

You see, the computer the printer is attached to runs Windows XP which is no longer supported by Microsoft.

An unsupported operating system can easily be hacked which means this computer can no longer be connected to the internet. If it was, hackers would have an easy access point to UC Davis’s systems.

What that means is I couldn’t just download an update to the drivers like usual. I had to download the update on my laptop and then move it over to the printer computer with my USB drive.

So I downloaded the drivers and moved them over to the computer. “But wait! You need the driver install program.”

Okay. I get that and move it over. “But wait! You need .Net Framework 4 to use the driver install program!”

Okay… I get that and move it over. “BUT WAIT! You need Windows Service Pack 3 to install .Net Framework 4!”

Okaayyyy… Move that on over. And that one finally installs!

Moving backwards, the .Net Framework 4 installed as well. Along with the patch I got for that.

Then the driver install program laughed at me and said it needed access to the internet after all. I tried installing the drivers on my own, but no luck there.

I researched more on the problem. The printer is able to print out the very first part of all the images. Then it disconnects from the computer, reconnects, and decides the print job is complete.

I found absolutely nothing on how to fix that problem. There were some suggestions that it was a problem with the connection to the computer, but switching the USB port used by the printer changed nothing.

Maybe a new USB cable would do the trick, but I’m unsure if those are available for printers this old or whether it would fix the problem.

For now, all the images are put on USB sticks and printed on different computers.

-GoCorral

Education Graduation

I attended my wife’s graduation ceremony or her completion of her Masters of Arts in Education.

Her mom, dad, and grandma all came to Davis to join in the celebration.

And during the speech given by the university chancellor, the fire alarm went off!

We all had to slowly file out of the building while my mother-in-law helped my grandmother-in-law down the stairs.

We caught up to my wife, her friend, and her friend’s family and hung out with them, taking some “mid-graduation” photos.

After heading back inside we found the seats had shuffled around a little bit and another family was sitting where we’d been sitting before.

I got to sit next to a very well-dressed woman who quietly disapproved of me coming to a graduation ceremony in the same clothes I’d worn to work. Tight scheduling had forced me to do that, but she didn’t know that. Just a little frown out of her though. It was actually kind of funny.

My wife had decorated her graduation hat and we got to see her march on stage and get her apron draped over her or whatever it is.

Bedazzled with tons of stickers, tape, and paint adhesive to keep it all on.
Bedazzled with tons of stickers, tape, and paint adhesive to keep it all on.

There were a few more speeches besides the chancellor’s as well. All the usual stuff about moving forward and making the world a better place. The recipient of the faculty award had some interesting stuff to say about the necessity of being bilingual in California that I liked, but everything else was fairly typical for a graduation ceremony for teachers.

After leaving they gave us one of those little cards if you ever want to grab the official photographer’s photos of the events (Never done it. Way too expensive when we have our own photos).

See! My camera is just fine...
See! My camera is just fine…

After the ceremony we went back to our house for pizza and cake. My wife loved the cake that I picked out!

-GoCorral

Memorial Day Weekend 2015

My parents-in-law visited for Memorial Day weekend.

They’ve been coming up to Sacramento every Memorial Day weekend for ages because my father-in-law plays drums in the Sacramento Music Festival every year.

Look at those hands!
Look at those hands!
The difference for this visit was instead of all of us staying in a hotel in Sacramento, we had them stay over at our house in Davis.

They arrived on Friday night after we’d spent the day cleaning up the house (Things get really dirty when you’re still in the moving in process!).

My father-in-law wasn’t playing in the Sacramento Festival until Sunday, but he did have a gig in Oakland on Saturday night.

We spent Saturday hanging out and taking a tour of the activities in Davis.

Our new house is right by the Davis Greenbelt, a walking path that goes throughout the whole city and connects most of the city’s parks. We went walking on that and showed the in-laws the neighborhood that we live in now.

They got to visit with the cats and see Carma’s injury.

After my father-in-law left for his job in Oakland we went to our old apartment which we are still paying our lease on and swam in the pool there. I didn’t swim because I thought it was still too cold, but my wife and mother-in-law did.

Sunday morning I had an unfortunate surprise of having to do more schoolwork. I’d thought I was done, but it turned out that I needed to redo one of my lab reports. I spent the morning doing that and then we went to the Music Festival.

Usually we go out for ice cream after the festival, but this time we went to our favorite ice cream place, Leatherby’s, before. Ice cream for lunch is great!

The Festival was a lot of fun. The room my father-in-law’s band, The Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, played in was so full that even though we were related to one of the band members it was difficult to find a seat.

After dancing and listening to some 20s and 30s style jazz we came back home and I continued to work on my lab report late into the night.

The next morning I continued to work on my report with a break to chat and talk with the in-laws before they left.

A great little visit from family. Lots of fun!

We figured out we could probably use another little trashcan, a lamp, and some hangers for future guests.

That’s the story from Memorial Day Weekend!

-GoCorral

Home Wish List

All the majesty of note paper made for teachers.
All the majesty of note paper made for teachers.

While cleaning out one of the moving boxes I found an old list of stuff my wife and I made.

The list is of things we wanted in our house and the list was made before we started looking for our house.

So here it is!

1. Two stories Check!
We got this one! Bedrooms and office on the second story. Everything else on the bottom floor.
2. A block or more away from a main road Check!
The reason for this one was to let the cats go outside unsupervised without worrying about them being run over on a main road.
3. A two car garage Check!
We won’t necessarily park both our cars in it (once we get another car), but its nice to have the option.
4. A big kitchen with a counter Check!
Our old place had a tiny kitchen without an island counter. Getting a big place to make meals feels great!
5. A dining room Check!
The old apartment had a tiny little section for the dining table that wasn’t really its own room. Our new house doesn’t have a dining room either, but it has two large places where the table can go (we’re using one of them).
6. Laundry Check! 
We’ve got a washing machine and a dryer! No more lugging clothes 300 feet to the laundry building in our complex or hoarding quarters like they’re more valuable than gold.
7. A backyard Check!
Yep! Got a real nice backyard that’s good for playing in with kids or for having meals during the summer.
8. A front yard Sort of.
We have landscaping in the front but I wouldn’t really call it a yard. Too many bushes and things. We could change it to have a yard though!
9. Solar panels Check!
The solar panels are sort of leased through a company. We don’t own the solar panels. A company does and they sell us the electricity they produce for about the same amount that PG&E charges. We then get reimbursed from PG&E for any excess electricity the panels produce. Odd way of doing it, but we are contributing to renewable energy with the panels!
10. Hardwood floors Sort of.
I’m allergic to dust which crops up in carpeted floors. Hardwood doesn’t collect dust the same way. We’ve got carpet on the second floor, but the bottom floor is tiled. That’s good enough for me.
11. Dance studio Sort of.
Not really present in the house. Instead we have a big mirror in the entrance hallway to the house that serves pretty much the same purpose. There’s plenty of space to dance there with a mirror to look at yourself even if it isn’t an official dance studio.
12. An office Check!
Yep! Writing this post in the office right now.
13. A big bath tub attached to the master bathroom No. 
Can’t have everything.
14. A pool No.
We didn’t get this one either, but that was a conscious choice. We looked at a house with a pool and it took up most of the backyard which we also wanted. Plus, the maintenance on a pool is pretty expensive.
15. Painted blue with white trim No.
We like the colors, but it isn’t blue with white trim. We could still repaint the house in the future.
16. A big tree for a swing or a tree house Check! 
The treehouse is actually a playhouse, but its basically what I wanted. All good!
17. A better HVAC system than our apartment Check!
Our old apartment had wall AC units and a heater that didn’t work (heater wasn’t that big an issue in Davis). One of the rooms never got AC. The new house has central heating and AC that both work great. We’ve also got a whole house fan which is a much more energy efficient method for cooling the house at night.
18. A fireplace Check!
Got a fireplace in the back living room. We haven’t used it yet but we probably will sometime next winter.
19. Big bedroom closets Check!
The closets aren’t as big as the walk-in one at the old apartment, but they’re still big enough for us.
20. Close to where my wife works Sort of. 
The house is about a mile and a half from the school where my wife works, so not as close as we originally wanted. This ended up being a good thing as my wife wanted to avoid seeing her students outside of school. Just a little tough to always have to be “on” as a teacher at the grocery store. We live in a different neighborhood than the school so none of the kids are around here.
21. Space for a garden Check!
There aren’t any planter boxes yet, but we’ll get some.

And that’s it! We got most of the stuff that we wanted and it feels pretty good.

-GoCorral

Giving Blood

Blood Bandage and Sticker
The sticker says, “My reason for donating is ‘My sister’s B-Day.'”

 

As I was coming home from work yesterday I passed by a sign on campus that announced a blood drive.

I’ve always wanted to donate, but a few things worried me about it.

I take antihistamines for my allergies, so I’m constantly getting a little sick. You can’t donate within three days of being sick.

I used to be freaked out by my blood being inside another person’s body, but the Lego arguement helped me get over that problem. It’s not really my blood once its outside of my body. It’s just blood. And I might need blood someday when I’m in a hospital, so I should give some now!

It’s also a little difficult to schedule when you donate blood because they’re open at the same time I’m working or at school.

So as I was biking past this sign for the blood drive I was thinking about my sister as yesterday would’ve been her 27th birthday. I had some strange compulsion to get her a present. The sign and the present idea lined up and I decided giving blood would be my present to her.

The process was fairly smooth, mostly just a lot of waiting.

I got a card to fill out with my address, name, and phone number. I talked to some people about having them sponsor my donaion or something so they could get a grant for supplis at their student-run clinic in Sacramento.

I then sat in a line or people waiting to go into the five buses lined up along the UC Davis quad.

Eventually one of the buses called me and the exchange student next to me up. I then sat in the bus while they entered my info into a computer and confirmed that everything was right.

After that I went into a tiny little closet (slightly bigger, but it felt like a closet) at the back of the bus to answer questions about my sexual, travel, and penal history. Basically anything that puts you at risk for HIV.

A guy came into the closet to test the hemoglobin levels of my blood and my bsic vitals to make sure I could donate. Everything looked good and he sent me into the main part of the bus.

The bus had several reclining chairs set up all along it. The perfect ergonomic position for holding your arm out and letting people drain blood from it.

One of the two women working in that section explained everything to me, set up the IV, and started taking the blood out. The actual process of being drained took about six minutes.

While the IV is in I didn’t look at it. I find that needles only creep me out if I look at them.

They gave me a little squeeze ball to roll in my arm. Keeping my hand moving kept the blood flowing into the IV.

At the end they bandaged up my arm and sent me to the front of the bus to get cookies, water, and Gatorade. I got the sticker in the picture above as well.

It was pretty fun for a first time. I’m planning on going again in June. I’m sure my sister would’ve liked her present!

-GoCorral

Buying a House

My wife and I have been thinking about buying a house for awhile and over the last few weeks we have set things in motion for us to actually get one.

The first thing we did was to call a real estate agent that had gotten a house for a couple we’re friends with.

The real estate agent set us up on a tour of houses in Davis in what we’d guessed our price range was. We fell in love with the first house we saw and none of the other houses compared to that one.

The house itself has four bedrooms and two full bathrooms. There’s an additional room upstairs that is designed to be an office space. There are two living rooms, a back patio, and a side patio. The kitchen is massive and there’s also an awesome play structure in the backyard. On top of the roof are some solar panels. The house is at the end of a block long cul-de-sac and right next to a park at the back of the street.

Basically, the house is amazing. We fully believe that we could live in the house for the next forty years.

So after deciding we wanted to make an offer on the house we had to go through a flurry of gathering papers and sending them off to the lender to get us a mortgage. Bank statements, loan statements, W2s, paystubs, credit card statements. SO MANY STATEMENTS!

We quickly got a prequal letter for a mortgage and we made an offer on the house.

The house had been on the market for five months, so initially we were going to lowball it. But apparently two other couples had gone to the open house and were going to make offers on the house as well. We went for list price and the current owners snatched our offer up the next morning.

The next step was lining up house inspections to make sure we weren’t getting a dud of a house.

The inspections happened this week. They found a few problems, but nothing major (no walls made of cardboard, no explosives under the floorboards, etc.). We’re asking the current owners to fix some of the problems before we close escrow.

There’s been a steady stream of other forms to sign going back and forth between my wife and I, the real estate agent, the solar company, our insurance company, and the lender.

It’s been an exhausting experience. When I get home I’m often printing off another form to sign, signing it, scanning it back into my computer, and then emailing it off again. The process would probably be even more exhausting 25 years ago when the forms all had to be dropped off in person or sent through snail mail!

But we’ve lined up an amazing house to move in to. Here! Take a look!

The view when you first come into the house.
The view when you first come into the house.
One of the TWO living rooms.
One of the TWO living rooms.
The big ol' kitchen.
The big ol’ kitchen.
I will climb on this thing every day once we move in.
I will climb on this thing every day once we move in.

-GoCorral