Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Advent Jukebox, Day 23...The Eve Of All Eves.


There was a whole avalanche of work stuff to do this week.

For example:

...A last minute seminar that I had to prep and deliver for cameras instead of fellow science geeks because somebody wanted to record it to show to undergraduates about how (or maybe not?) to do 'real' research...Letters of reference that always pile up at term's end but have a hard deadline that cannot be ignored...That damnable behemoth of a paper that I've been babbling on (and on) about that needed a wee bit of final fiddling before going back to the big editorial shop in the interwebz sky over London, England one last time...And, oh ya, there was also that wee matter of exams to mark and grades to submit (a.k.a. my actual job)...


All that meant that I just couldn't get everything done by five o'clock yesterday/Wednesday the 23rd.

Which also meant that C. and E. and e. (and the Whackadoodle and KK[not]Fat cat, too) would have to head for the ferry and Victoria without me.


Because you can't give up one of those Davey Boy Hahn automobile reservation fake fee increase deep skin gouges at this time of the year if you want to make it home for Christmas.

But don't cry for me Argentina.

Because once the decision was made to stay behind for a bit the pressure was off.

So, after leisurely listening to various and sundry versions of Tom Waits' 'Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis' for the 78th time while consuming the last of the pre-Christmas shortbread and mince tarts, I finally got the marks uploaded around 8 o'clock. And because there was no good reason at all to rush home, I turned off my office light and wandered into the lab to see what the kids were up to.

In this case the kids concerned include a former graduate student of mine who decided, after he finished doing a Master's thesis stretching pre-malignant cells to see what happens to their adherens junctions (i.e. the molecular velcro that holds the cells together before they start trying to escape and go to places they shouldn't), to become a computer scientist as well (which is killer croc' combination if you ask me) and another kid who is a really, really sharp undergraduate that found his way to me through a friend I have in the Math department.

So...Given that it is a slow time of year, I'm letting these two have the run of the lab's tissue culture facilities and a funky little fluorescent time lapse microscope we have so that they can make like kids in a candy store while they mix pre-malignant cells (which the old graduate student had already tagged with a green fluor) and malignant cells (tagged with a red fluor) in a tissue culture dish so that they can then watch how they interact. Specifically, they want to see if they can come up with a mathematical model to explain how changes in the molecular velcro of the red and green cells facilitates the movement (i.e. the tumour cell 'invasion') of the bad cells on their journey of abject evilness (i.e. metastasis).

I watched the two kids set up the cells for awhile (it's a fiddly business because the culture dish has to fit into a tiny little temperature/humidity/gas controlled incubator that sits atop the microscope stage so that you can make the movies over a 48 hour period to capture the red/green cell interactions and movements) and offered up a little advice, but they didn't need it. Then, once everything was set up they showed me a couple of movies they'd already made and tried to explain the math, and the software manipulations, behind the modeling of the movements. Now, that was fun I'll tell ya.

When I finally left them to their crazy machinations and headed out into the night, the campus was unbelievably quiet given that exams were all done and most of the students had already left were home. For a moment or two I couldn't figure out the weird feeling was that came seeping in with the misting rain.

Then I realized it was the happiness comes with the best parts of the (not-so-real) job I'm so lucky to do.


This morning I got up and got moving so that I could make the trek out to the ferry by transit.

It's really a pretty seamless trip these days, when things work out as planned.

The #33, which swoops out of the grey on it's trek from 29th St. Station way out to campus, takes me right to the Canada line at King Ted which then gets me to Bridgeport and the big ol' (not-so) fast bus to the Tsawwassen terminal.

All was going well, and I was ahead of schedule when I got to the train station.

And then the curse of the Hatman hit.

The damnable fare gates were up, which held everybody up at the choke point.

And it held me up even more than most because there was no way for me to upgrade my bus ticket outside those bloody gates out there in 'CompassLand'.

Which, in the end, after I'd gotten the attention of attendant to let me in, was fine because I'd given myself lots of extra time.

But then, when I got to Bridgeport, the stupid upgraded transfer I'd paid for inside Compassland wouldn't work.

Luckily, the driver was sympathetic as he smiled ruefully and explained that this just the result of yet another 'upgrade' as he waved me onto the packed (not-so) fast bus to the ferry.

I bit my lip and said nothing about $200 million dollar upgrades that line the pockets of the cronies of Hatmen and Knotty Gordians.

But, despite all that, here's the thing.

The trip on that not-so fast bus was magnificent.

All manner of folks were taking it.

Mom's and Dad's with their kids in strollers.

Older kids too, on their own.

And all kinds of folks with massive bags full of parcels.

And lots of older folks that needed help getting on and getting seats.

It meant that all kinds of folks had to move around to make room for all kinds of folks that really need that room.

And the driver was a magnificent orchestrator of it all.

Really magnificent - clearly he was someone who really likes people and driving. No fuss, no muss - just somebody who is really good at, and really likes, his job.

And then, finally, there was a extra super extra bonus when we got to the terminal.

As a result, after I bought my ticket and hustled up the ramp to get on the ferry I really started smiling.


Because I was boarding an 'even hour' sailing.

And, despite all that, there was not a German Celebration, Lotuslandian (union) shipbuilding industry-killing boat in sight.

Instead, I got on the 'Queen of New Westminster'.

Damn it all anyway.

I love these old boats.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Image at top of post...The view peeking through my office window on a quiet Eve of All Eves-type night...
I'll have today's jukebox tune up later...The Queen of NW's wiffee is just not up to the mp3 uploading... It's up now!
Had an other interesting experience with a former graduate student earlier this week...This one went off to stints in Toronto and the Bay Area after she left me...Now, she's finishing up her post-doc (the final apprenticeship in science geek-land that you do after you get your Ph.D.) and is looking for a real job (i.e. a job like mine)...As often happens to not-so young anymore kids at that stage (usually they are in their early 30's by this time - I was actually 35 because I'd done a bunch of other stuff before I finally decided to go to gradual school), she's starting have a few doubts about her chosen path, mostly because the pyramid you have to climb to land a tenure-track job at a decent place that will help support/facilitate your research program is both steep and very pointy at the top...All of which led her to ask me, somewhat plaintively, if I 'still like my job'...I did my best to convince her that I do but I didn't have the crazy computer/math kids story to pull out of my back pocket at the time...I think I better send her an Email after I've finished typing this...
Is Victoria really my home?...Of course not...C and I left more than 30 years ago, way before we had the two E's and started collecting pets...But at this time of year, especially when we are staying at my Dad's, it sure as heckfire feels like it...
And, ya....Those two evil geniuses in the lab were setting up a 48 hour experiment late on the 23rd all of their own volition... Which meant that they would be coming in, late on the...Well, you guessed it...But they didn't care...They were having the time of their lives...Isn't that why anybody does anything?...Careerism schmeerism, indeed.



Markerbuoy said...

Your best post of the year!
A very enjoyable and heartwarming read.
Have fun in Vicky...
All the best to you & yours - animals too!

sd said...

Merry Christmas Ross!

Eleanor Gregory said...

All the gift shopping is done and all the wrapping. We are having a family evening tonight eating pizza (the frozen kind heated up), raw veggies, crusty bread and homemade shortbread cookies. The Christmas tree is up and has its lights on but awaits other decorations. The pie dough is made and in the fridge for transformation into pumpkin pie tomorrow. Still the ordeal of cooking the turkey, etc. but what would Christmas be without the smell of turkey cooking?

Merry Christmas to you and your family. Enjoy yourselves overseas. We're get to head over there for New Years.

karen said...

This really is a very happy-making post. Happy Christmas to you too, RossK, to you and all of your family.

RossK said...

Thanks MB!

Great to hear from you.

You and yours better have a great holiday too - or else.


Thanks sd--

Hope this is the best first year post-retirement Christmas ever!


EG --

Idyllic I tell you.


(I'm assuming that there is no time for pizza pie dough making when you've got pumpkin pie dough to prepare - have fun in the Westlands of the South Island)


Great to hear from you!

It really was strange how quickly all the happiness came flooding on through.

Back with C, E. and e. now...Everything wrapped and ready...We're watching the pinnacle of all the Capra Corn that anybody could ever want or need right now.

Hope all is well up in the (real) Great White North.