Grinding Teeth

My day’s focus was to have a long talk with the mass spectrometer and get it to behave properly. As I noted last week, I had taken it apart and had some problems getting it back together. Now it’s running again, but not performing very well. Today was the day to tune it.

So I did.

Tuning the mass spectrometer means having to turn a knob every 40 seconds. For some systems, this process is automated, but for ours, I am the automation.

But you’d be really surprized what you can do in 40 second intervals.

One of the other problems in the lab right now is that we have about 80 very, very tiny samples of tooth enamel that need to be ground down to a much finer powder than they are currently ground.

Before grinding. There's not much in there, and it's all so coarse that it would never react properly for analysis.

Before grinding. There’s not much in there, and it’s all so coarse that it would never react properly for analysis.

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And in the Category of “Naturally”…

Things have been perhaps a wee bit busy of late. And as I enumerate all that’s going on in my life right now, I wonder how I’m even functioning. Big stressors this week are the National Science Foundation grant proposal deadline on Friday (I’m almost ready), the start of my online course on the Business of Craft Beer (I’m a student), and the stupid mass spectrometer deciding to inconveniently blow a filament. All this is on top of ‘the usual’ stresses of teaching, weather, dealing with my son and all his therapies, the dog… oof.

So today I’m cleaning the ion source for the mass spectrometer.

The ion source. Tiny. Powerful. Lots of parts.

The ion source. Tiny. Powerful. Lots of parts. (The stripes in the photo are because the fluorescent light doesn’t like my camera.)

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Must Be Monday

This week is the first full week of classes since the semester began. I knew it was going to be a rough day because I was sick-ish all weekend, and was still feeling less-than-fabulous this morning when I woke up.

I managed to get up and get the boy off to school, as usual. The commute was harmless and I even found a pretty decent parking space. The mass spectrometer was cooperative and I got it tuned to linear really quickly. (I’ll have to explain what that means in a later post.)

So pleased, I took a selfie!

So pleased, I took a selfie!

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Time for a Career Change? No, Not yet.

OK. Don’t panic. I’m not quitting my job. I mean, for crying out loud, I’m a vertebrate paleontologist! I’m not gonna just quit that!

But I do have other interests, other passions.

And I do have visions of one day retiring, and by retirement, I mean being able to do that which I want to do without having to worry about grant funding and the other hoops associated with regular full-time employment.

If I’m going to take risks, I’m going to ride waves of my own choice, not the whims of people and organizations who have to support my salary.
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Coursework – Groundwork

There’s this entirely under-appreciated think that teachers of all kinds do. Countless hours of effort go into the preparation of each class, even when it’s the third or tenth time the course has been taught.

It doesn’t matter how hard you try, there’s this thing that must be done that takes up so much time, yet goes largely ignored.

sad syllabus is sadYup, it’s the writing of the syllabus. And that’s what I spent almost all day today working on: the syllabus, the lecture, reading, and exercise schedule, and all the extra documents that have to be in place before teaching can even begin.

I’m exhausted from the effort, and it’s still not completely done. And classes start tomorrow.