27 October, 2009

Language Blathering

I posit that language acquisition is driven less by intellectualism than daily utility. A recent post over at Greg Laden's Blog got me to wondering why Anglophones remain so stubbornly monolingual when so much of the world speaks a couple different languages fluently. Upon ponderation, I believe that Anglophones don't learn second or third languages because we don't need to, not really anyway. This isn't to say that this attitude is right, nor that I condone it, but from England on outward to the United States of America to Austrailia, English-speakers have been very successful at ensconcing themselves in geographical isolation, cultural imperialism, and economic massiveness underwritten by strategic military stubbornness. These three conditions having combined to make English the predominant formal language in the world despite its sillinesses.

We dumb Americans don't learn French, Spanish, Hindi, or other non-English languages because we have no daily use for them. We may take a few semesters of a foreign European language in high school, but because we don't have a need to use them, nor a community, space, or occasion to trot them out, we largely forget them. And when we go to other countries we have the privilege borne out of economic massiveness that leads us to expect, and even demand, that our hosts speak our language even as we remain entirely ignorant of theirs.

This isn't necessarily a good thing, but maybe this is why it is the way it is.

For the record, I speak and read German fluently enough to also make out written Dutch and Swedish and can stammer out just enough Spanish to keep myself fed and housed. I intend to learn French if I ever find time because I think it sounds funny, and Mandarin if I can.

18 October, 2009

Marathon Science

My boss told me that I should factor in that everything will take much longer when I have many samples and that I should plan my time accordingly.

She was very right.

In fact, she was so correct that I wound up pulling 29h in the lab, and 14h the day before, to get Experiment done. There weren't that many samples to begin with, but by the time that I split those samples into cell culture under different conditions and then stained each of those conditions for different sets, I had a couple hundred samples to run on my hands (or, rather, in a tray because I couldn't carry them all at once).

What I found most interesting about this (aside from the Science of it that I can't blog yet), was how all-night science affected me. The entire night was an odd rollercoaster of exuberancy and despondency.

11a - Got to lab, felt guilty about being late but vindicated by 14h there yesterday.
12p - Relieved to see that samples had not drowned in melting ice bath overnight, put into refrigerator to finish staining later because Machine was scheduled out into early evening.
1p - Indian food buffet!
2p - Talk to visiting scientist, then journal club.
3p - Journal club.
4p - Realized that I didn't have enough Enzyme, so I went to go get more from our super-convenient on-site Enzyme Store.
5p - Started finishing staining.
8p - Finished finishing staining, Machine time.
10p - Done with Machine for now.
11p - Pulling cell culture.
12p - Plating for staining, blocking, singing deliberately off-key.
1a - Sandwich and caffeine time.
2a - Primary stains, dancing around laboratory to punk music.
3a - Washes. Laboratory is very cold. Sweater not helping. Note that this parallels drop in body temperature that occurs when sleeping. Turn up lab thermostat just a little bit. At least it's warmer in the cell culture room.
4a - Fixation. I could have gone home and slept at this point, but didn't want to have to come back in later. Arikia and I discuss what we carry around in our backpacks/bags, she rightly points out that the contents of mine would have me on a terror watch list in no time flat. I have my laptop, a zombie comic book anthology, lots of heavily annotated biology papers, a screw driver with a full tip set (even hex wrenches!), a digital multimeter, wire strippers, a soldering gun, needle-nose pliers, gloves, fisticuffs, a gigantic rubber band, a set of Exacto knife scalpels, some faded index cards, cufflinks, a bunch of batteries, and Pepto Bismol. I do not know how old that Pepto Bismol is. Might need to add a crowbar.
5a - My pellets have disappeared. I have become paranoid and cynically convinced that all I'm doing is spending lots of time moving small bits of liquid around even though I know from doing this before that fixation can cause a change in their color.
6a - I found enough change in my pockets for a vending machine Snickers bar. It's dawn and I am shivering even with my sweater on.
7a - Still washing and enzyming, other people start to filter back in (this is Saturday now, right?).
8a - More washes and a brief 30min nap on the couch in the departmental library, which is surprisingly comfortable. Glad my phone can be used as an alarm clock, also glad that protocol has 40min incubation periods.
9a - Still can't see any pellets. Morose about prospects for data. Still washing.
10a - Final stain!!! Just one more wash...the sound that the suction makes when washing no longer amuses me...
11a - Machine time! Crap, gotta restart the machine. Fairly certain that I dozed off waiting for the machine to start up all its pumps and stuff, woke back up when I started to fall out of chair.
12p - Staining controls calibrated.
1p - Running samples, strangely extremely alert, become completely attuned to Machine such that I am already fixing a problem before it pops up a problem-prompt.
4p - Finished running samples, Machine no longer talking to me.
4.5p - Promptly miss only bus home for next hour, decide to walk instead.
5p - I am lost. I know by dead reckoning exactly where my apartment is, but there are all these inconvenient streets and houses in the way.
5.5p - Home.

Truth be told, I still didn't go to sleep until 1a. First I ate a lot of food, drank a lot of drink, and played with the new power tool that finally came in the mail even though I didn't have anything on hand that expressly needed it. I need to find space in my backpack to add this tool. And to top it all off, I even had trouble falling asleep.

UPDATE - Dremel is now in my backpack. Also found bag of 15 2" 30-Ohm speakers in there.