Rice Husks and Video Games

I was dehusking some rice seeds today in order to sterilize them.
I was dehusking some rice seeds today in order to sterilize them.

Rice seeds grow with a husk around them. After the husk is removed they look like the rice you buy in a store.

Sometimes the seeds from a particular strain don’t grow right.

The lack of growth often happens because a fungus infected the seed from the start.

The fungus is removed by washing the seed.

The husk needs to be removed first to ensure the seed is fully cleaned, just like you have to take off all of your clothes to ensure your body is fully cleaned when you shower or bathe.

While I was washing the seeds in diluted bleach I talked with one of my friends in the lab about streaming Hearthstone.

The oldest member of the lab besides the professor (I sometimes call him the lab fossil) overheard us and was curious about what streaming was.

We described it to him and he was a little surprised that people would want to watch others play video games.

He’s seen his son play first person shooter (FPS) games and he dislikes them, but not for the usual reasons.

The lab fossil dislikes FPS games because they don’t match reality.

He feels they teach people that if you die/fail you can just get a do-over where you try again.

The real world and the real battlefield doesn’t work that way. If you die in real life, you’re dead.

You can’t respawn, you can’t start over from the beginning. It’s over.

He told us about when he was in the army for two years.

All the time they would do drills and the drills were about staying alive.

Not about shooting and killing others no matter the consequences to yourself like in FPS games.

One of the first things the lab fossil learned is that if you hear gunfire, you should immediately drop to the ground (something people in gang neighborhoods already know).

He told us that the way you survive a battle is by finding cover, not shooting your gun.

He said bullets are heavy, you don’t want to waste them, you might need them later to survive.

My past experience with army veterans is that they never want to talk about their experiences.

Out of respect, I’ve never asked them to recall memories that might be painful for them.

This was one of the first times I actually got to talk about war with a soldier, even if he’d never been actively deployed.

It was a good learning experience.

-Mister Ed

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Disposing of GMOs

The rice we grow in one of my lab's greenhouses.
The rice we grow in one of my lab’s greenhouses.

Yesterday I was working out at the greenhouse for my rice genetics lab.

I was getting rid of some old rice plants that we’d collected the seed from and no longer needed.

If a plant got to this point in a garden you’d normally throw it in the compost so it would be useful next year.

That’s not allowed for the rice we work with in my lab because it is an untested transgenic line.

Some members of the public dislike altering the genetics of food crops to create genetically modified organisms (GMOs). There are a couple of logical reasons for this and a couple of illogical ones.

Logical reasons include: religious objection, lack of crop diversification, cross-species allergens, and the strengthening of agribusiness monopolies that often accompanies GMO crop use.

Illogical reasons often have something to do with safety or not knowing what is in a product when you purchase it at the grocery store.

I could go on about this a lot. GMOs are a complex topic with a lot of ground to cover, but that wasn’t why I was writing this post today.

Because of the fear of GMOs, they need to go through extensive testing before they are declared legally safe. This testing can take up to ten years.

We don’t do that for every strain of modified rice in our lab, so certain precautions need to be taken.

Yesterday I cut off all the excess seeds on the old rice plants. The seeds go into a plastic bag.

The seed bag and the leftover portion you can see above both go into an orange dumpster at the center of the greenhouse complex.

All the stuff in the orange dumpster then goes into a special oven that ensures the modified crops won’t somehow get into the wild and start growing there.

After the special oven, called an autoclave, has destroyed the genetic material in the rice it can go into a normal dumpster or be used for compost.

Just another little glimpse at my job!

-Mister Ed

Exhausting Day

Really long day at work today.

I got to work today to count some germinated rice seeds.

Rice grows best if its put into water to sprout before planted in dirt.

My lab puts the rice seeds into petri dishes in an incubator and waits a week before transfering them into pots at the greenhouse.

I checked to see which seeds had germinated in the incubator and two out of the hundred I put there last week had failed to germinate.

I redid those two for next week, then I set out for the greenhouse.

I wasn’t planting those germinated seeds yet though. First, I collected seeds from one of our older crops of plants.

Then I came back to drop of the collected seeds and grab the germinated seeds.

I went out to a different greenhouse in a fenced in area.

I’d set up the pots to plant them in earlier this week, but the watering system hadn’t been set up for them.

I don’t know how to set it up, so I called my boss and he sent over someone to help me with it.

He helped me put it together and taught me how to set up the dripper water system myself next time.

I realized I’d forgotten to bring labels for my plants, so I asked that guy to go bring them for me.

I started planting the rice and he came back later with some labels, but they were the wrong ones.

I apologized for not being specific enough about which labels I needed and sent him back to get the right ones.

He found them and brought them back around 5.

I stayed there until about 6 to finish planting all the seeds.

The gates for the fence around the greenhouses close at 5.

I called my boss for the combination on the gate lock, but my cell reception was bad and he kept cutting out.

I ending up lifting my bike over the 7 foot fence and then climbing over after it.

I got home with my back side covered in water from carrying the germinated seeds around in their petri dishes full of water and extremely tired from working in greenhouses for about 6 hours.

Gonna sleep like a log tonight.

-Mister Ed

Lab Construction Work

The new shelves where rice seeds for the sequencing project I work on will be stored.
The new shelves where rice seeds for the sequencing project I work on will be stored.

Yesterday I got home pretty tired after work.

The picture above is what I did at work. I made some shelves and put some boxes on them. That took all day.

The shelves came in five different cardboard boxes.

The lab manager and I put the shelves together in the hallway because there isn’t enough room for it on the floor in this room. That took about an hour.

We pushed the shelves in after putting them together. Everyone laughed thinking that we couldn’t fit them through the door. SHOWED THEM DIDN’T WE?!?

The shelves are seven feet tall. They’ll be holding the thousands of different varieties of seed in those boxes on them.

Next, the lab manager wanted to construct another set of shelves for other lab storage.

This other shelf had to fit into a space taken up by even more shelves.

The lab manager, another lab guy, and I spent half an hour shoving the other shelves around until there was just enough room to squeeze the new set of shelves in.

The lab manager started putting together that other shelf while I and the other lab guy worked on those boxes you can see in the picture.

Each box holds more than a hundred varieties of seed. Some hold close to 600.

These seeds were stored in ordinary cardboard boxes previously. Like the kind that you pack your stuff in when you move.

This storage was pretty unorganized. Our job is to sort them out and put them into the new boxes which will be much more organized.

So I spent all day taking envelopes of rice seeds from one box, writing down what the envelopes said on an Excel sheet, and putting the envelope into a new box.

It is WAY more ordered now. Previously, it’d take 5 minutes to find a particular variety of seed. When we’re done it’ll take 5 seconds.

I worked my way through one cardboard moving box and was on my second when the day finished.

The other lab worker and I got through about 1,000 seed varieties each. Lots more boxes to go through though!

This taste of the more mundane side of lab life was brought to you by the talking horse.

-Mister Ed