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2005-08-03 - 3:27 p.m.

..."The System"...

This week has been a trip into the world of administration and busy work.

My lab analyses came to a screeching halt last Thursday: After 18 months I've finally got the place up and running... and the PAINTERS arrived!! So I disassembled and evacuated everything. On the one hand this has been rather frustrating. On the other hand, THE PAINTERS CAME! The lab looks clean for the first time! And I've used the time getting "other" things done --> administration.

The first task was to organize my chemical inventory, lab bills, and manuals. MAJOR procedure. I mean, I wouldn't say that I'm UNorganized... there is a certain method to my organization. K calls it the "bag" system. I check the mail. If the paper looks important (a bill, a voter registration card, a visa perhaps...) then I keep it in a pile on the kitchen table until the pile reaches instability. Eventually the pile winds up in a cloth bag with all the OTHER paper that I've deemed too important to throw away. Eventually, I go through the bags. After a long enough time period, many of these papers have happily graduated to being UNimportant and can be dumped. The remaining STILL IMPORTANT papers are filed. It kinda works, in it's very own special chaotic way.

Well...apparently laboratories require a BIT more care than this, in case someone actually wants to identify and locate a hazardous chemical. So I've started a file-folder of lab bills that I can follow. I know what I prefer the BAG method. Organizing two notebook binders took me a full DAY! But at least I'm in compliance with lab safety now - I even have a complete chemical inventory. The safety guys think I'm a girl scout.

I have also dedicated myself to getting my student PAID, which has involved navigating three different levels of university bureaucracy...Poor Melanie has been working like crazy since July 1 and still is not into "the system."

(BRIEF ASIDE: "The System" is the colloquial name for the state liquor stores in Sweden...not entirely relevant to this discussion, but an interesting party factoid nevertheless.)

I've spent the rest of my time finishing up reviews, getting out a paper, starting another paper and a proposal, and then ordering new lab equipment.

One might think that ordering lab equipment would be like SHOPPING. That's a big NO. I have had to call and deal with sales reps - the car salesmen of science. Apologies to any good sales reps out there - there are a few - but most of the time I feel like I need to take a shower after speaking to these guys because they are so slimy.

And then there are the OPTIONS. Yesterday I spent a solid afternoon scouring a well-known lab catalog, trying to find pipette tips that are compatible with my "Pipette System."

"System" is a big word here. Very important, especially with regard to what can and cannot be purchased. A test tube is a test tube. But 6 test tubes with lids, a rack, and a pH meter could be a "water testing system" - therefore making it eligible for purchase on the painfully strict rules of my startup package. I spent today organizing my wish list into various "systems" I've got a "silica extraction system" a "pipette system" and "repipet system" - you get the idea.

It's begun to corrupt my daily life. My saucepan, egg cup, and spoon have become a "breakfast system." My coffee grinder, espresso machine, espresso cup, milk steamer, etc. is now a "rapid caffeine intake system." My shoes and socks? a "perambulatory system."

Well, it's time to get back to my computer / keyboard / journal articles - or "paper writing system.."

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