Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Whale, whale, whale, what do we have here?

The miracle of birth.

Beluga style.

Click the link. Click it real good.

Wrong Number

Me: Hello?
Caller: Sara?
Me: Excuse me?
Caller: Is this Sara?
Me: Do I sound like Sara?
Caller: No, not really.
Me: This isn’t Sara.
Caller: May I speak with Sara?
Me: Sara isn’t here. I think you have the wrong number.
Caller: Is this 555-1234?
Me: Yes.
Caller: I’m looking for Sara.
Me: You can call me Sara if you’re looking for someone to talk to.
Caller: You won’t do.
Me: Why not?
Caller: Sara is a model, and she’s very pretty.
Me: You assume I’m not very pretty?
Caller: Not as pretty as Sara.
Me: You may be right. But I can model.
Caller: I don’t think so.
Me: All right, then. Good luck finding Sara.
Caller: Thanks for chatting.
Me: Anytime. You have my number.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

RIP: Cell Phone Yahtzee Deluxe

Longtime readers are familiar with my addiction to cell phone Yahtzee Deluxe. For newer visitors, feel free to check out my earlier Yahtzee-centric posts.

* Not for the faint of heart
* Addiction
* Yahtzee Deluxe Update

I’m not proud of what cell phone Yahtzee Deluxe has made me: a mere shell of the dice roller I wished to be. I thought that I could be a recreational player, but I found that it consumed my life, superseding my commitments to work and family. In my dreams, I would perpetually roll four-of-a-kind, one tantalizing die away from the elusive Yahtzee. I lived from roll to roll. I was always in search of my next Yahtzee fix. I would steal away to the restroom during the workday so that I could whip out my cell phone in the privacy of the men’s room stall, struggling to contain my enthusiasm for good rolls below the volume of normal men’s room activities.

I had on multiple occasions committed to deal with my problem. I just kept forgetting (rather, neglecting) to bring it up with my therapist.

Readers, I regret to inform you that the unthinkable happened. The cell phone up and died. Died.

Well, it didn’t really die, but it broke. It would, without rhyme, reason, or warning of any kind, shut down spontaneously. This made it really difficult to answer incoming calls. Then problem began about six months ago, when about five months remained on our warranty. I knew that exchanging our phone for a replacement meant losing Yahtzee Deluxe and all of the hard-earned high scores associated with it. Rather than trade the phone for a non-defective unit, I decided to live with the inconvenience of intermittently not being able to receive calls from my wife or boss.

I knew, though, that my cell phone Yahtzee Deluxe days were numbered. I was wise, I would have prepared for Doomsday. I should have implemented a phased withdrawal of cell phone Yahtzee Deluxe such that the pangs wouldn’t overtake me when the game was ripped from my stubby little fingers.

I did not plan. I denied that the end was near. In fact, I played with greater frequency and intensity than ever before. “Yahztzee, Yahtztee, Yahztee,” I’d catch myself chanting under my breath, walking down the halls, brushing my teeth, riding the bus. My workday gameplaying was no longer limited to the men’s room; I was indulging during lunch, while reading scientific papers, while conducting experiments at the lab bench.

And then the end came. Warranty expiration was merely days away. I knew what had to be done. I could not continue to ignore the unpredictable crashing of my cell phone. I could not afford a new phone when what I knew to be inevitable would ultimately transpire: the final and irreversible sleep of my Sony Ericsson.

I called the warranty center. “Sir, you’re really lucky,” the chipper service specialist informed me. “You’re warranty expires in just three days.” She had wrongly assumed that this problem had just begun, barely before the warranty’s expiration. She hadn’t understood my carefully calculated buzzer beater. We exchanged pleasantries and agreed to exchange phones. A new cell phone arrived at my door the very next day. The old cell phone with Yahtzee Deluxe had to be packaged and sent away. It was if I was losing my best friend.

I dropped the box in the mail and examined my shiny new phone. Ordinarily, I’d be excited about the replacement of an aging electronic with a brand new model. I turned the phone over and over in my hand. “What do you think?” my wife asked.

“It’s just great,” I lied.

It wasn’t great. The next day, I drove to work with no in-ride entertainment besides the radio. My experiments were no longer punctuated by Yahtzee quickies. The worst was in the men’s room. I sat down and, out of habit, whipped out my new phone. My thick thumbs immediately entered the memorized sequence of buttons that used to bring the dice to my two-inch screen. This time, though, there was no Yahztee Deluxe…

I flipped the phone shut, and slipped it back into the front pocket of my shorts now resting on the floor around my ankles.

What to do. What to do. I fumbled around my pockets and found my wallet. I read my driver’s license. I memorized my credit card numbers and expiration dates. I tried to invent a new game to keep me occupied: I would stare at the shoes in the stall next to me and spend the rest of the day trying to find the person who wore them. Nothing cut the mustard. Bored, I stood up and flushed.

I wish I could report a happy ending to this story. There are positive outcomes, sure: more quality time with the wife and dog… clearer focus at work… safer driving… but these all come at the cost of a Yahtzee Deluxe-shaped hole in my heart that can be filled by nothing other than the five digital dice.

For the skeptics of previous posts, I have included a screen shot of my high score list, taken just before I sent the phone away.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A funny thing happened on the way to the fieldhouse.

I’ll continue this leg-injury-themed string of posts with a Yajeev flashback.

I am often asked about the bright pink six-inch scar on my left knee. I usually brush off the question with a short, technically correct response: “wrestling”.

I had decided to join the wrestling team in the seventh grade. I cannot recall what it was that made me think that this sort of thing was up my alley. It may have been my stellar performance in the KWF (Kids Wrestling Federation), the WWF-mimicking imaginary wrestling league founded by my childhood friend, Ed. My best friend Justin (ring name: White Tiger) and I (ring name: Black Panther—I swear I came by the name honest—I had no idea there was an organization by the same name) dominated the other wrestlers in the federation (most of whom were younger or smaller than we were)… my brother was the Texas Hillbilly… Ed was the Executioner… Dave was The Wavedog (he was truly a legend in his own mind… he moved away to Detroit. When he returned to Youngstown to see old chums, he insisted on keeping his visit a surprise, revealing himself to his friends by sprinting into a makeshift wrestling ring in our backyard to his very own theme music, Eye of the Tiger). Ed always told us we’d lose to the wrestler whose ring name was the same as his birth name: Jesse. Justin and I never met this kid, and, to this day, I believe Jesse to be a figment of Ed’s imagination.

I digress.

For some reason, I thought I’d like the non-professional variety of wrestling.

I made it through a couple of hot, sticky practices and quickly learned that my eminence in the pre-pro wrestling circuit in no way translated to success in the fieldhouse. On the third evening of wrestling practice, I was walking to the fieldhouse with a few of my co-wrestlers (they refused to be called tag team partners), when I stepped on a patch of black ice. My leg twisted, I felt a pop in my knee, and I was down.

The next day, I was on crutches. People asked me how I hurt myself. I tried to give the one word answer indicated above: “wrestling”. It didn’t work, however, when other wrestlers were around to hear me being asked. They relished the opportunity to describe my embarrassing non-wrestling-related injury.

That was the end of my wrestling career and the beginning of a string of non-sports related knee injuries that culminated in surgery my freshman year of high school. The most humiliating injury came at a church youth group event. We were playing an icebreaker game called “Mingle.” The rules were simple. Everyone had to mill around in the crowd of youth repeating the words “mingle mingle mingle”. At his whim, the youth leader would call out a number and the mingling youths would have to immediately form small groups of that number. For example, we adolescents would be milling about, mumbling “mingle mingle mingle mingle mingle ming-“ and the youth leader would shout “THREE!” Immediately, frantically, the youths would attempt to cluster into groups of threes. Any leftover kids who couldn’t find two other friends to cluster with would be eliminated. And on we would go until the group was winnowed down to two lucky young souls.

Well, we were two or three rounds into a competitive game of Mingle when Pastor Rich yelled “FOUR!” The next thing that was heard is normally not a part of the Mingle game: a blood-curdling yelp from a pained 15-year-old: “AHH, MY KNEE!” And I was down, my knee dislocated, the first Mingler in the history of the game to suffer an injury requiring medical attention.

I had surgery that fall. I’ve got a big red scar to show for it.

The doctors fixed my knee, but they could do nothing to prevent the multitude of unprovoked falls and injuries I would experience the rest of my days.

It is my lot.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Not for the squeamish.

For all those naysayers and accusers of embellishment.

This is my ankle, 9:00 PM EST.

But wait, there's more to blog about!

So last night, I was in the middle of composing a new blog post entitled “In Praise of Rulebreakers” thanking the anonymous fellows who were illegally driving down the road marked “authorized delivery vehicles only” (think: UPS, FedEx, singing telegrams) when I (birthday cake in tow) took the now infamous ankle-spraining tumble (see my previous entry). These two Samaritans stopped their car, thereby increasing the risk of being spotted and apprehended by campus law enforcement officers, and insisted on driving me to my lab.

Mid-blogging, the wife and I decided to go out for ice cream. I saved what I had written so far, and (with some pain) put on my shoes and socks. My wife and Watson (our faux labradoodle) were the first to go outside. By the time I had made it to the door, Watson had found the neighbor dog, and they were frolicking by our front steps. I reached down to pet the neighbor dog, when my uninjured ankle did a little wobble wobble. I kid you not: I sprained my second ankle in two days. This time, I fell the distance of two steps to the grassy lawn in front of our house.

“Are you okay?” my wife asked, rushing to help me up.

“Yes, yes, I’m fine. Let’s just get to the car,” I replied, hurrying to my feet, embarrassed by my most recent collision with the ground. Our neighbor hastened to the scene of the crash, but I quickly brushed off the dirt and grass, and darted (as best I could on two swollen, unyielding ankles) to the car.

This morning, I have two bruised ankles, and an ego to match. I probably won’t be leaving this couch for a while.

Friday, August 24, 2007

“Then at least I’d have something to blog about.”

Those were my penultimate words in the cell phone conversation I had with my wife moments before I got out of my car with the birthday cake she had finely crafted for a fellow lab member.

The cake was a culinary sensation. It was bi-layered and chocolate, stuffed with a vanilla-pudding-based banana cream filling, topped with delectable icing, and drizzled with chocolate fudge. A sight to behold, painstakingly assembled with meticulous attention to every last excruciating detail.

The night before, she had spent literally hours preparing and putting the finishing touches on the dessert. Opting against a standard Tupperware-style container for cake transport, she carefully packaged it within an optimally sized special cake box to prevent accidental contact with container edges, preserving detail along the confection’s perimeter.

I typically park about half mile from the lab. “Couldn’t you park any closer?” she had asked, fearing the distance was too great a span she could expect me to traverse without incident.

“Not unless I pay ten dollars. Relax, I’ll be careful.”

As I turned into the parking lot this morning, cake in tow, my cell phone rang. It was her. She wished to remind to me exercise extreme caution when transporting the precious cargo from door to door.

“Be careful,” she repeated. “You never know when a little mouse will trip you up and send you to the ground.”

“Ha,” I laughed, insulted by her doubt in my agility and coordination. I then uttered the dooming words at the title of this post and bid her goodbye.

Amused and slightly irked by her skepticism, I carefully gathered my belongings and the chocolate delight. Through the parking lot, down the steps of the garage, around the corner, I walked, gingerly, even daintily, watchful for curbs, mice, and distractions of all varieties. “Left, right, left, right,” I uttered to myself, concentrating alternately on the forward motions of each foot.

I must have been thinking about the wrong foot, or maybe it was a tiny mouse that scurried around my feet outside of my peripheral vision, because all of a sudden, I know not how it began, but I was falling— no, hurtling— forward. The pavement-aimed descent seemed to occur in slow motion. One thing was certain, though: I was not going to release my grip on the cake box. I began to lift the box (lovingly marked “this side up” to preempt careless transport or placement) over my head to prevent it from crashing to ground in front of me when—crunch—an intense pain exploded in my ankle. The rest of the plunge occurred in shaky-cam fast-forward as my limbs flailed uncontrollably and the box burst forth from my hands. It must have experienced about 2 seconds of weightless air-time before it crashed and rolled.

Before the falling object that was my person came to its final rest, my body parts strewn unnaturally in three dimensions, I realized what had was now happening: I had ruined the cake and fulfilled my own prophecy—I now had something to blog about.

For those interested in the rest of the story:

* My lab mates still happily devoured the dessert formerly known as chocolate cake. Fortunately, my ever-creative spouse, in unaccounted-for prescience, had separately packaged little signs that said: “Happy Birthday!” attached to popsicle sticks. Before serving the cakeslop, I neatly inserted them into the pudding/cake/banana amalgam.

* My ankle is sprained. I could place little weight on it after I fell. Tonight, it can bear almost none.

* Both my wife and the birthday girl forgive my misstep. Pretty hard to hold a grudge against a hobbling mess such as myself. (My wife insists: “Give us more credit. Even if you hadn’t hurt yourself, we wouldn’t have been mad.” She pauses. “Although, hurting yourself doesn’t hurt your cause.”)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Blogworthiness (or, The family that blogs together...)

If you want to hear what it's like to live in a blogging family, check out this insightful commentary by Julie Zickefoose from NPR.

This audio clip pretty much sums it up.

It's about three and a half minutes in length and dead on from the heroin to the comment craving and counter watching.

I thought I'd invented the term "blogworthy". So, probably, did a lot of people.

You may have to copy the link into your browser.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The (in)Complete Idiot's Guide to Interviewing

Every now and again, as a service, I like to provide my readership with useful advice. I’d like to take this opportunity to do just that. In this installment of Blogger Knows Best, I am sharing a list of Interview Dos and Don’ts. You would be wise to consider these tips when next seeking gainful employment.

1. Memorize ALL Nobel Prize winners who have worked at or attended the office/workplace/institution to which you are applying so that when your interviewer tells you that, say, Milton Freeman worked in the same office she now occupies, yours won’t be the deer-in-headlights blank facial expression. “Milton Freeman… Ring any bells?” “Uhhh…” “Won a little something called the Nobel…” “Oh, that Milton Freeman.”

2. Avoid sweating at all costs. This may involve turning down an outdoors walking tour in 100°F plus heat. It may involve not wearing an undershirt beneath your dress shirt.

As a corollary, if you do plan on sweating or will be unable to prevent sweating, do not, I repeat, DO NOT, wear one of those newfangled water-repellant dress shirts such that when a drop of sweat rolls down your face it won’t bounce off your shirt onto the desk you’re sitting in front of. Trust me, once you see the first few sweat bullets skid down your front side, they will only flow faster; before you know it, you’ll have veritable rivers of unabsorbed sweat balls cascading down your torso. “Are you okay? Can I get you a glass of water or a towel?”

3. Don’t drink more coffee or water than your bladder can contain for the expected duration of your interview. “Why are you dancing?”

4. If your interview involves eating at a restaurant and you are asked what type of food you like to eat, be honest. Don’t say you’d be happy to eat anywhere if you really wouldn’t. If there is a type of food you just can’t stomach, no matter how obscure (Lebanese, Ethiopian, Antarctic), speak up. Better you share your opinion earlier than later. “Great, Middle Eastern cuisine it is, then.” “Oh, um, great. I love me some shwarma.” “What?” “Nothing. Sounds great.”

Listen. Trust me as you would your fortune cookie. Once broken, I issue great wisdom. Follow my advice, and you will go far. The job of your dreams awaits you.

As with any fortune cookie worth its weight in flour, here’s your complimentary Chinese lesson.

“shish kebob”

Monday, August 20, 2007

Here we go.

I put little stock in horoscopes and palm reading, but cookie fortunes are another matter altogether. These are indubitably the real deal. For example, when a cookie once told me that I’d soon be receiving a call from a special friend, lo and behold, not 12 days later did the representative from the local newspaper call asking if I wanted to receive the Sunday edition! On another occasion, my fortune declared, “Success will follow your patience”; the following year, I was given a raise. I especially treasure those fortunes that help you learn Chinese with translated words on the reverse side of the sage advice. With the help of these crispy, wisdom-laden cookies, I’m mastering piecemeal the Chinese tongue. For example, “湿鸟不在晚上飞行。” (Translation: “Wet birds don’t fly at night.”)

After a sumptuous helping of General Tso’s chicken, the friendly southern Chinese waiter brought us our fortune cookies. I was perplexed when I read mine:

“Here we go. Moo shoo cereal with duck sauce for breakfast.”

My wife then read hers aloud:

“Here we go. Whole grain low fat green tea.”

Clearly, these fortunes were some sort of mistake. I imagined some multitasking wise Chinese philosopher simultaneously spouting off two lists to his scribe: one of novel menu items, the other inspired fortunes. I can hear the old man thinking of new menu items off the top of his head, uttering, “Here we go” before each new culinary idea. The sure-to-be-fired scrivener must surely have gotten his lists confused, scribbling verbatim the “Here we go”-prefaced food items on fortune slips.

Somewhere, I am sure, there exists a menu with my wife’s and my fortunes in place of Chinese breakfast foods and healthy beverages. My misplaced fortune, perhaps, “Better things are yet to come”, will be printed in the left hand column (where the food items are normally found, below Mongolian beef and above chicken and broccoli), followed by the “$12.00” price tag. In the drink section, after hot tea, sweet tea, and raspberry tea, will be printed the fortune rightfully belonging to my wife, now costing $2.00: “Trust your instincts. They will take you far.”

Until I can be sure, though, that this was in fact a simple mix-up, I carry the fortune with me in my pocket, vigilantly searching for how and where I can apply “moo shoo cereal with duck sauce for breakfast” to my life. Until then, I will continue to practice my Chinese.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Poll Result: 22% correctly find Robert DeNiro funnier than a barrel of monkeys

Which leaves the remaining 77% (where does that extra 1% get off to???) voting for the barrel of monkeys.

Readers were asked who was funnier: Robert DeNiro in The King of Comedy, Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation, Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber, or Will Ferrell in Anchorman.

Tied for first place with 33% of the total electorate were Chevy Chase as bumbling but usually well-meaning family man Clark W. Griswold in Christmas Vacation (sequel to Vacation and European Vacation, prequel to Vegas Vacation and the cousin-Eddie-centric Christmas Vacation II) and Will Ferrell as the illustrious San Diego newsman Ron Burgundy in Anchorman. 22% of my readers (you must be related to me, I’m sure) selected Robert DeNiro in his little known role as aspiring comic Rupert Pupkin (“often misspelled and mispronounced”) in the King of Comedy as the funniest (“Rupert Pupkin, ladies and gentlemen, Rupert Pupkin!”). Surprisingly, only a single voter (comprising a substantial 11% of respondents—every vote counts) deemed Jim Carrey’s portrayal as Lloyd Christmas worthy of the funniest designation.

Thanks to all (n=9) who participated, and congratulations to the two of you who responded appropriately.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Warning: Spoiler Alert

I have given in to the craze and been consumed by Pottermania… I’ve just finished the much-anticipated seventh and final installment in poor-single-mother-turned-megazillionaire-no-longer-single-mother-author J.K. Rowling’s magical pubescent wizard series: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It’s been a thrill-a-minute page-turning adventure. The ending was truly shocking, yet wholly satisfying. I must admit, I had my own pet theories, but I did not see the finale coming. Harry and his faithful sidekicks Hermione and Ron broke into Voldemort’s (cursed be the name!) supporters’ headquarters. After an exhilarating battle with his followers, the fearless trio burst into the lair of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

All others, scroll down for the conclusion of the synopsis.

Inside the dusty, candlelit (though quaintly decorated) chamber, Potter et al found the Dark Lord, back to the door, hunched over his desk, laughing vigorously. What captured You-Know-Who’s attention was not immediately clear to our boy hero and his peers. The lighting-bolt scar above Harry’s forehead burned, and, as usual, this sensation was accompanied by a glimpse into the soul of his evil archenemy… Harry’s point-of-view shifted from his own to that of Voldemort leaning on a writing table just feet in front of him. Harry (as Voldemort) was overcome with maniacal laughter, his vision at first blurry with tears. Voldemort’s pale hand wiped away the tears as the object of his amusement became imminently obvious. It was a computer—an iMac with the new Intel processor. Voldemort was scrolling through the archives of the Land of Yajeev blog, chuckling with each new post, occasionally muttering to himself, “I don’t get it, but it just makes me laugh.” Seeing though Voldemort’s eyes, Harry caught the reflection of himself standing behind the desk, darkening the already mostly-darkened doorway.

Harry felt Voldemort turn toward Harry as his point-of-view returned to that from his own two eyes. The burning of his scar turned more to a tickle. As if his wand had illuminated a long-hidden corner of his soul, it finally became clear what it was that had bonded these nemeses together: it was not their intermingled magical/muggle (non-magical) lineage nor even their great supernatural abilities, but rather it was their mutual love for the Land of Yajeev blogsite. Harry whispered, “You read this too?”

Voldemort, swiveling back and forth in his desk chair, hissed, “Only every single day. And I vote in the polls.”

From then on, Harry and Voldemort (who came to be known to Harry and his crew as Voldy) were fast friends, their years-long rivalry (“a simple misunderstanding” as Voldemort would later describe it in the wizarding newsrag, The Quibbler) now a matter of mutual amusement. They continued as faithful readers of the Land of Yajeev blog and even opened a store together selling candles with novel scents, calling these Wizardly candles “wandles” (Harry’s favorite wandle was Butterbeer-scented; Voldemort preferred the basilisk venom wandle).

Harry and Voldemort now more closely resembled Abbot and Costello than Skywalker and Vader. They would bicker (over such trifles as how much to charge for a wandle or over who would work the late shift at their wandle shop), and, every now and again, their skirmishes would elevate to the intensity of raised voices and drawn wands, but just a mention of a Land of Yajeev punch line (sometimes by their assistants Ron and Hermione) was all it ever took to diffuse the tension and return the duo to their wandle-peddling antics.

Potter fans had long wondered how Rowling would bring the story to a neat and tidy endpoint, and she managed to accomplish just that with the highest dignity. While this marks the end of the literary adventure for Harry and Voldemort, Rowling has graciously passed the baton of enchanted storytelling to your humble blogger.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Guess I'll just have to stick around

I was recently making a mortgage payment when I had something of a morbid thought: If I were to pass on, my wife would have to pay the bills and take care of the paperwork that I normally do. In our division of household labor, it has fallen on me to be the keeper and organizer of all things paper: paying bills, managing our homeowners’ insurance, keeping our birth certificates and passports in a safe place, maintaining the order of our filing cabinet, balancing the checkbook, and so on...

Thinking of my wife having to deal with all of our paperwork after my untimely demise made me sad. However, I couldn’t decide which would be sadder: her having to take over these duties and being totally overwhelmed and confused and wishing I was there to sort things out OR her having to take over the bills and realizing that, hey, this is pretty easy, and after all this time I’d complained about our confusing paperwork, it turns out that my chores had been way less demanding than hers had ever been.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Poll Results: Science, alcohol favorites among Land of Yajeev readers

Thanks to all who took part in the survey on this site. This time, you were asked: "What is your favorite aspect of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae?"

Perhaps the most significant result is that votership was up nearly 70% from the last survey (n=10).

40% of respondents reported their favorite aspect is the service of yeast as a model genetic organism, allowing researchers to unravel the mysteries of eukaryotic biochemistry at the level of the single cell. Scientific discoveries originally made in yeast have contributed to our understanding and, in some cases, the treatment of complex human conditions like diabetes, cancer, aging, and Alzheimer's disease.

An equal lot selected yeast's ability to ferment sugar to alcohol as their favorite.

That these two options were tied for first among those surveyed shouldn't surprise me. I've never seen as much science discussed or alcohol imbibed as when I attended the yeast genetics and biochemistry meeting last summer. Not nearly as much bread was consumed as beer at the convention, and this is consistent with half as many selecting how yeast "makes bread rise" as their favorite aspect of the multi-talented unicellular organism.

Scientists often refer to "TAPOYG": The Awesome Power Of Yeast Genetics. Based on these survey results, I'd like to amend the acronym to: "TAPOYGAFASMBR": The Awesome Power Of Yeast Genetics And Fermentation And Sometimes Making Bread Rise.

In any event, for a good time, BYOY: Bring Your Own Yeast.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

In the strain 2000...

I had no idea that fame and glory were on the line.

As you have almost certainly gathered from previous entries, I work in a yeast genetics lab. It’s very fascinating; I’m sure you can imagine. One of the things we do on a routine basis is generate new mutant yeast strains… strains with mutations in genes we hope to study and understand (the former is easy, the latter rarely occurs).

As new strains are created, they are given systematic names: MAYxxx, where the prefix MAY is constant and the xxx represents the strain number, increasing by one with each new strain. Permanent stocks of the yeast strains are stored at -80°C until they are needed for future analysis, and the pertinent information is entered into a central lab database. When I joined the lab in 2004, the group was up to about MAY800.

In the past few weeks, I had noticed that we were approaching MAY1000. It turns out, in fact, that Daksha happened to be the one to create MAY1000. Could’ve been any of us: me, Rhonda, Annie… even Pavol. But, fate smiled on Daksha. Oh, I thought, how nice: the thousandth strain of the lab. It was a nice yeast name, a nice round number, but that was all. Not thinking much of it, I carried on with my western blot.

A few days later, at a lab lunch, my advisor revealed an “official” certificate he had manufactured with a gift card to Panera Bread. He announced, “We have reached an important milestone in the lab: our thousandth strain. And, Daksha, bless her heart, is the genetic engineer responsible for MAY1000. I now present her with this certificate acknowledging her achievement and this gift card to Panera Bread in recognition of what she has done for the lab.”

I was floored. I had no idea that there was official recognition or a prize up for grabs. Had I known, I would have toiled at the bench day and night, generating new mutant strains like gangbusters.

Outwardly, I was calm, serene, even congratulatory. But on the inside I was fuming, insanely jealous. It was at this moment that I committed never to be scooped like this again. I committed in my heart that I would be the Frankenstein to MAY2000. I would be the object of lab-wide adulation. I would have the points.

Here’s the catch. The lab has been in operation for over a decade and a half. I’ve been in the lab for about three years, and, if all goes as planned, I will be gone in less than a year. At the present rate of strain creation, MAY2000 will be created and maintained at -80°C in suspended animation by the year 2015. Give or take. By that time, I (and likely the other current lab members) will have moved on to better (or at least different) places, and a whole new complement of minions will be about my advisor’s business.

Thus, I hatched a plan and executed it today. In a recent burst of baby strain making, I had four new yeasts to add to the collection, which were named (in order): MAY1009, MAY1010, MAY2000, and MAY1011. Did you catch it? Read the list again, slowly. That’s right; now you see it. I have engaged in preemptive straining. I don’t anticipate this subtle tactic to be detected any time in the near future. However, in a dozen or so years, as the lab nears the creation of its 2000th strain, my advisor will almost certainly make a startling discovery: I’d already made the 2000th strain. Right after I made the 1010th. He’ll find MAY2000 in the database and will finally be forced to give me the respect I deserve (or at least crave).

I can’t wait. I will be in my late thirties when I eventually get the call. He will tell me that he is near retirement and has hit a landmark event that he couldn’t have reached (or at least didn’t reach) without my contribution: the 2000th strain. He’ll invite me to the lab lunch. I’ll graciously accept the offer (I’ll request that we eat at Spice Island Tea House). Over pad thai, he’ll give the speech about my accomplishment, this important milestone. He’ll reach across the table, shake my hand, and present to me the certificate and gift card. I will give some small speech, overcome with surprise and humility, just as Daksha was after she’d made MAY1000. I might also be heard uttering to the then current crew of jealous lab underlings: “Scoreboard!”

In the game of life, how many points is the 2000th strain? I’d say at least ten, since that is how many years this sort of accomplishment typically takes. I just took the accelerated course.