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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
After the ceremony we went back to our house for pizza and cake. My wife loved the cake that I picked out!
I know! Field trips in a Master’s of Science program? How ridiculous!
It was awesome. We went to the Institute of Regenerative Cures in Sacramento.
I arrived early and waited out front with some classmates. Our tour guide arrived and we waited out front a little longer til everyone showed up.
While waiting the tour guide, who had designed the building we were about to go into, told us about his hobby, early television history!
After the primer on early television we entered the building and got a tour of one of the best facilities for practicing biology in existence right now.
The building itself was actually built a long time ago for the California state fair. It was the “women’s building.”
The brick exterior and columnaic entrance have stayed the same since the building was constructed to maintain the historical site. The interior has been heavily modified.
The building had no roof back in the day and was just an enclosure for a bunch of different events that you usually see at state fairs.
The building was sold to the University of California system. They slapped a roof on it, and used it to store records.
Our tour guide said that he was called in to turn it into a biology facility later on. Half the building is used for bio research while the other half is rented out to other companies.
The researchers in the Institute are working on a number of things. They researched a treatment for the “bubble boy disease” there. They’re working on using umbilical cords to create bone marrow for transplants, using Tal proteins to treat Huntington’s, creating HIV resistant cells, and helping people who can’t swallow to swallow are just a few of the things they work on there.
The tour guide also showed us the section that he was most proud of as he had designed it. A set of rooms for making the actual drugs and proteins to export to hospitals. Making the drugs requires extremely sterile technique to prevent giving someone who is already sick something that will make them worse. The rooms are designed to be extremely sterile.
To enter the rooms you pass through an airlock where you are required to cover every inch of your body in a disposable gown.
The airlock goes to a hallway with access to three separate clean rooms.
There is “negative pressure” in the rooms. That means that air is constantly entering the room from the top and going out the bottom. This is so that if any cells that are worked with in the rooms get into the air, they will be redirected to teh ground and sucked out through a grate in the wall instead of ending up in someone’s medicine.
The air is cleaned excessively to about 3000 times more clean than average air before entering the facility.
There is a lot of electrical equipment in the rooms that will require replacing eventually. To prevent electricians from having to gown up just to replace a lightbulb, all the eletricals are accessible from panels on the second story of the building.
It was pretty cool for a scientist like me to see the best possible place to do research in. The tour guide mentioned that he does tours of the interior of the super clean rooms for smaller groups. I might take him up on that at a later time!
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!
My wife and I went to the NorCal Preview Gymnastics Meet this weekend. The meet was held at UC Davis between the women’s gymnastics teams of UC Davis, Sac State, San Jose State, Stanford, and UC Berkeley.
Cal (UC Berkeley) won the meet. My wife and I had a lot of fun watching the different competitors. She recognized a few people that she knew previously from her time at SJSU and UC Davis. I thought I recognized one of the Sac State gymnasts as one of the people I’d taught last semester, but I ended up being wrong about that.
Here are some pictures from the floor and beam events. Vault pictures don’t look that amazing and we sat too far away from the bar event to get good pictures of that. I hope you enjoy stills of close to Olympic level gymnasts! Stanford is on beam and Cal is on floor.
Sac State has a lot of things that are different than UC Davis.
Smoking is allowed at Sac State. More of the students drive to campus than bike or take the bus. The professors are encouraged to focus on being successful teachers instead of successful researchers.
The student body is a little more diverse as well. There is more minority representation and more LGBTQ people at Sac State than UC Davis.
One of the weirdest differences is in the Sac State bathrooms.
I’m talking of course, about the urinals.
Davis urinals are almost all automatic. You never need to touch anything. Some of them will even beep at you while you’re peeing prompting some funny bathroom graffiti, “Penis Detected!”
Sac State decided that hand flushing toilets were still too unsanitary, but that automatic ones were too expensive (I guess). Thus, we get the foot flushers.
This has been a little weird, but I managed to not shout out, “What the hell is this?” and thus avoided embarrassing myself in front of the janitor cleaning the bathroom at the time I first saw a foot flusher.
Otherwise the Sac State bathrooms are a dramatic improvement over the Davis bathrooms.
Some of the Davis bathrooms are without any ventilation, resulting in them smelling like a stable. Not surprising considering that its an agriculture school, but going into those bathrooms will always be a hideous experience and I’m glad I don’t have to anymore.
One of the bathrooms at Davis has three urinals in a small corner behind the sit-down stalls. This seems fine until you try to leave one of the back two urinals while someone else is using the front one. There is no polite way to push past someone who is peeing. And I can tell you that waiting for them to finish isn’t any better.
The final advantage that Sac State bathrooms have over Davis is the paper towel dispensers. The Davis dispensers have such a tight grip on their towels that you’ll rarely leave with a towel in one piece. Sac State’s dispensers are much better, dispensing one complete towel everytime I’ve used them. No more, no less.
Isn’t that funny. I go to a school for a Master’s of Science degree and I end up talking about bathrooms.