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Post Archive
2020 (0)2010 (27)
November (4)

New strategy for NFL Pick'em Pool
Friday, November 12, 2010

Mentoring - a technician's perspective
Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NFL Pick'em - Week 9 Edition
Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The four words a scientist hates to hear:
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
October (4)

In which I am petty and mean-spirited
Friday, October 29, 2010

XKCD is the awesomest.
Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Just call me "Damn Good Administrative Assistant"
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
September (5)

Observations from the couch
Thursday, September 23, 2010

Observations from the ER
Sunday, September 19, 2010

Oh hell yeah!
Friday, September 17, 2010

A scientific career milepost?
Saturday, September 11, 2010

What I wish I knew before...
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
August (14)

A small victory!
Tuesday, August 31, 2010

DGT and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day
Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Everyone should check their renter/owner insurance
Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Burglaring update
Sunday, August 22, 2010

Well that fucking sucks.
Friday, August 20, 2010

Early birds
Friday, August 20, 2010

Recommendation letters
Tuesday, August 17, 2010

So many meetings
Thursday, August 12, 2010

Another talk?
Monday, August 9, 2010

Mmmm... meme....
Sunday, August 8, 2010

Ah, technology
Thursday, August 5, 2010

Up and running
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Blogger Profile

Damn Good Technician

I'm a technician at a big ol' pharmaceutical company. A damn good technician, if I do say so myself.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Recent Comments

Can't offer much beyond informing you it CAN be worse; the one time the lab I was in moved it was partially due to the fact said lab had been massively flooded over the holidays (we were going t. . .Read More
Dec 22, 2010, 1:36pm

well, I started out strong with 0.... Ravens didn't fly high and mighty. I guess I could go for the fights of the mascots again, since falcons should beat ravens? Anyhow, let's see what the. . .Read More
Nov 13, 2010, 12:21pm
Comment by Odyssey in New strategy for NFL Pick'em Pool

Crap. Nobody told me there was a Thursday night game... DGT, your new strategy sounds about as good as mine, which seems to be working... . . .Read More
Nov 12, 2010, 8:34am
Comment by chall in NFL Pick'em - Week 9 Edition

DGT, I second that hope for a better Vikings week... at least they won ;) I guess I should abstain from my "I'll put them in winning the spread every week" but it feels much easier to face I dreame. . .Read More
Nov 09, 2010, 1:43pm
Comment by Prof-like Substance in NFL Pick'em - Week 9 Edition

Is it just me or is that trophy getting grainier with each week?   Next week there should be a summary of the overall leader board. With only one point keeping me from the top . . .Read More
Nov 09, 2010, 12:44pm
Awesome Stuff
Views: 1510 | Comments: 2
Last by chall on Nov 13, 2010, 12:21pm
Since my performance in the pool last week was so abysmal (three for fourteen!?), I'm implementing a radical new strategy for my picks this week: random coin flip. And, because I was already sitting on the couch at the time and too lazy to go find a coin to flip, I'm using's Coin Flip. I've chosen the Georgia Peach US Quarter for my picks this week - let's see that it brings me luck.

So far, the theoretical coin on the internet is one-for-one. It did pick Atlanta over Baltimore, and since I was using a Georgia quarter, perhaps there's something funny going on with this "random" flip...

. . . More
Views: 1274 | Comments: 0
Becoming a technician does not require a formal education process in the same way that becoming a professor does.  There's no graduate school for technician-ing, and so technicians don't get the student-mentor interaction in the same way that PhD students do (yes, yes, caveats about terrible PIs who are terrible mentors, etc).  In my experience, I've taken "mentoring" to be "learning from the mistakes and successes of other technicians".

A good portion of my mentoring came from the two lab managers who ran the labs I worked in as an undergraduate.  I watched what they did - good and bad - and tried to use those habits to shape my own behavior. The first lab manager I worked with (monikered here as "Shelly") had a lot of crap to deal with.  There were several... let's say... difficult personalities in the lab, demanding infinite access to finite resources, and Shelly handled them with... let's say... varying degrees of success.  Shelly enjoyed being a technician, but didn't really get into the science - she liked doing experiments but didn't feel compelled to read papers, or ask the PI if she could design her own experiments.  From Shelly, I learned that (1) people will dick you around until you make it clear that you are done with their bullshit; (2) it is important . . . More
Views: 664 | Comments: 3
Last by chall on Nov 09, 2010, 1:43pm
As the good Repairman is on a lovely vacation, let me take care of the wrap-up of week 9 pick'em.

Emerging victorious from the crowd: Tideliar! With a measly one point margin of victory over a crowd of hungry challengers! Enjoy your trophy, sir:

Tideliar, basking in the faintly smelly glow of victory.

The best o' the rest:

A jumblefuck at the #2 position, with Dr. O, PiT, Jade and our Overlord all tied at eight.

Another complicated mess for the tie at #3, with Mrs CometHunter, the good Repairman, PLS, Biochem Belle and Chall all having seven correct.

Odyssey is all alone at #4, having managed six correct picks.

Disgruntled Julie and Dr Becca split the #5 position with five correct.


Oh wait, you're still reading down here? That's where me and TJ are hanging out, with four - yes that's right four - correct picks out of a possible thirteen. WTF seriously?!? Next week my picks are being made by a coinflip.

On to week ten! And here's hoping my Vikings can get their shit together - eeking out a win against Arizona is not exactly a confidence booster from a fan's perspective.

. . . More
Views: 1509 | Comments: 16
Last by MadDogMike on Dec 22, 2010, 1:36pm
"The lab is moving."

Oh noes!!!  I've gone my entire scientific career without having to move my lab.  I left my academic lab about eight months before they moved to another building, and I left my last pharma job about a month before (dodged a bullet on that one).  I had deluded myself into thinking I could be free of it forever, but alas, 'twas not to be.  Our department just found out that we're moving a couple floors within the building.  A couple floors isn't the worst thing - I know people who moved across town, and I've heard of people staying with their PI while they move between states.

But still - whine whine whine! Anyone have advice?  Things to keep in mind before / during / after the move?

. . . More
Views: 1246 | Comments: 15
Last by Damn Good Technician on Oct 31, 2010, 9:27am
Oh internets, I try to be a happy, contributing, team member.  I really do.  Most of the time, I'm happy for the experimental success of other people in my group - honestly!  We're all in it together!  Everyone's success contributes to the larger goal!  It's a beautiful Care Bears Tea Party!!!

Ok... so that's not entirely true.

My officemate presented some of his work at our group meeting.   It's really awesome stuff - I mean, I've been hearing about it for the month that he's been working on it, and I've been impressed the whole way, both with the amount of effort he's put into it and the awesomeness of the results - and this was the first time he'd shown it widely.  Everyone lost their shit over his data. People were in and out of our office all day, asking him happy happy questions about his data.

And you know what?  I'm stone-cold jealous.  I sat there in our shared office, feeling sullen, cranky, left out - basically, like a petulant little kid ("Why does everybody think he's so smart?  I'm smart too.  I could have done just as well on his project." [pouts lip, stares at ground, stuffs hands in pockets]). Ever diplomatic, I obviously told him that he gave a great presentation and that the data is great and that his hard work is great and that . . . More
Views: 581 | Comments: 2
Last by David Manly on Oct 25, 2010, 4:21pm

. . . More
Views: 278 | Comments: 0
In thinking about DonorsChoose and the LabSpaces participation in this awesome program (donate here!!), I tried to ask myself, "When was the first time you remember science in school?"

I thought about it, and I could not remember a single bit of science prior to 7th grade. Is that crazy? I'm sure there were science parts of the curriculum in my elementary school, but for the life of me, I can't remember a single bit.

I'm taking this as a personal challenge - I want these elementary school kids to remember the great things their tremendously dedicated teachers put forward! I know these projects can stick with these kids, and I'm hoping to be a bit part of this.

As such: I've set up a Giving Page with DonorsChoose that you can see here, or at the widget on the right-hand side of the page. The donation window runs through November 9th, and I know everyone can chip in a few bucks here and there. Give early, give often!!

I'm sure you're hearing this from a lot of science blogs, and you're asking yourself, "What sort of projects are . . . More
Views: 1053 | Comments: 11
Last by Cricket42 on Oct 08, 2010, 10:38am
We're doing a group post this week (hooray!) on "What would I be doing if I weren't doing science?" I thought I'd frame this question by first giving a little window into why it seems I ended up where I am, and then brainstorm how this whole thing might have turned out differently.

I grew up in the rural northern Midwest.  Our television got three channels, each with varying amounts of static, so growing up, my brother & spent pretty much all our time outdoors.  This was a pretty awesome way to grow up -  DamnGoodBrother & I were always doing exciting stuff.  We were both obsessed with dinosaurs at one time, and decided we were going to excavate the area near the pond to find dinosaur bones (because, obviously, these bones totally lived in our yard, and all we had to do was borrow Mom's gardening tools and we would clearly find them and become famous dinosaur hunters).  We found "dinosaur bones" alright - actually massive boulders that we completely unearthed in our quest for dinosaur glory - and DamnGoodDad had to use his tractor to pull them out of the their holes and away into the woods, since we had become bored of the project and left gaping holes in the yard.  We captured snakes from the woodshed and scared DamnGoodMom with them; we put tadpoles in a . . . More
Views: 507 | Comments: 15
Last by Evie on Sep 30, 2010, 5:02pm
The meningitis is healing, thank you all.  The spinal tap required to differentiate my viral meningitis (the non-terrifying variety) from bacterial meningitis (the oh-god-I'm-going-to-die-I'm-too-young-to-die variety) hasn't healed, and I'm stuck with a hole in my spine.  I am leaking CSF all over the place, giving me some stupendously amazing headaches when I sit up and my poor brain, derived of its cushy pillow of CSF, crashes up against the inside of my skull. 

As such, I have been stuck on the couch all week, eating painkillers and not getting up.  DrDGT has been a tremendous help, staying home from lab as much as he can and fetching me water, and snacks, and whatever else my little heart desires.  I am feeling super guilty about not being in lab all week, even though my boss has said that he understands my brains are leaking out and it's OK for me to be at home.

I am planning to go back to the ER tomorrow and have them do a "blood patch" - in said procedure (if I understand correctly), they draw 20-30mL blood out of a vein and inject it into the epidural space.  This blood applies pressure to the hole, and clots around it as well, forcing it to close.  To this, I said 25 milliliters of blood?!?  Holy frigging shit!  That . . . More
Views: 533 | Comments: 21
Last by genegeek on Sep 22, 2010, 3:27pm
1. Upon registration, I was asked bluntly if I was married. I thought this was weird - shouldn't you just ask who my emergency contact is?
2. Lumbar puncture sucks donkey dick. Or pig scrotum. Our some other horrible thing.
3. Viral meningitis, while vastly better than bacterial meningitis, is still pretty shitty.
4. I'm happy this happened after my bigass talk on Friday. . . . More
Views: 380 | Comments: 7
Last by Evie on Sep 18, 2010, 11:50am
Let it be said that my talk today kicked ass. I got a lot of awesome comments and feedback, and quick remarks from several folks who said that it was awesome. "Never overestimate your audience's familiarity with your topic" was the helpful advice I got beforehand, and I think it really paid off. Plus, my boss thought it was stupendous, making me one happy camper.

Now! Back to science-doing, instead of science-powerpointing. Huzzah! . . . More
Views: 577 | Comments: 4
Last by Tideliar on Sep 13, 2010, 1:53pm
I'm fussing with my talk that's coming up on Friday over the weekend, and I realized I've stumbled across one of those "you know you've crossed a line in your career when.." moments, and it is being able to comfortably give a talk on data you did not generate..

A hefty fraction of the data in this talk is not my own - my boss asked me to give a very broad overview of many activities related to my project, and as such, a lot of the data is preliminary stuff that other people have generated. I know this project - I'm immersed in it, and I know why we're doing all the things we're doing, and what we're hoping to get out of them, and how (most) of them were done, and all sorts of other arcane details.

This is a big step, I think (not just for me, but for any scientist reaching this point). I know the first few small talks I ever gave were only about my own data, and even then, I was shaky and nervous that someone else was going to stand up and yell "What the hell?! That's not how [your project] works! Are you some kind of moron?" in the middle of my talk. I know that back-then-DGT would be crying and hiding at the prospect of having to answer questions about . . . More
Views: 629 | Comments: 5
Last by Tideliar on Sep 09, 2010, 12:20pm
The LabSpaces carnival on work-life balance was so much fun, we decided to do another! Your votes have told us we should write about "what I wish I knew before..."

I think a lot of people are writing about what they wish they knew before they started grad school. Having never gone to graduate school, I have no words of warning there (as a funny aside, my boss & I were talking about conferences, and I mentioned that I had never gone to one, and he said, "Really? Not even in grad school?" and I said, "Umm... I never went to graduate school." "Oh yeah," he says, "I forgot."). My husband went to grad school, and a hefty fraction of my friends went to grad school, so it feels a little like I went to grad school, but I did not and can't speak to it.

What I can speak to is what I wish I knew before starting at a pharmaceutical company. Overall, I've been rather successful in industry, so this won't be a post about things I would do differently (though there is one glaringly obvious exception that I do wish I had done very differently). These are a few things I've learned over the years, and a few things I suppose you could say that I wish I knew before I started. . . . More
Views: 300 | Comments: 7
Last by Lab Mom on Sep 01, 2010, 8:47pm
Apparently there is an upside to having had a very old laptop with a very small hard drive - I remembered that I had burned backups of a whole mess of my pictures to CDs! And they weren't stolen! Now I've got 1452 pictures in my iPhoto library.

It's not all of them, but it's at least a whole mess of them. Yay! . . . More
Views: 463 | Comments: 5
Last by Dr. O on Aug 27, 2010, 7:06pm
Remember way back when I was so thrilled that the Magic Hands! Juju Fairy had visited me?

That was a long time ago. My luck had been good, not outstanding, since coming to my new job: totally fine with me. It's best that the Powers Controlling Luck are largely unaware of your presence, and do not generally interfere one way or another.

This week, and today in particular, has been the reverse of a visit from the Magic Hands! Juju Fairy - sort of like if someone ate all the luck, digested all the lucky bits, and then crapped out the undigestable garbage all over my experiments. Things failed for mysterious reasons; equipment malfunctioned and ate my samples; positive controls changed their positive disposition.

I am quite happy it's Friday, and will be sacrificing some liver cells to the Powers Controlling Luck tonight to see if that helps. . . . More
Views: 285 | Comments: 10
Last by Genomic Repairman on Aug 29, 2010, 9:01am
I'm reading a paper from a group at University College London, and it's forcing me to ask the question: is "Nigel" the most British name in existence? . . . More
Views: 421 | Comments: 3
Last by Lurker on Aug 28, 2010, 7:12pm
We're all busy people. There are dozens of experiments & millions of thoughts bouncing around in our brains every day, and I know I'm prone to forgetting things that I haven't written down. Most of the time, it's a trivial thing - yesterday, I forgot to call a sales guy back about getting a quote & I'll have to do that today, for example.

In the past I've worked with people who use their "forgetfulness" as a cover for passive aggression. They'll "forget" to invite someone to a meeting where their project is discussed. They'll "forget" that they saw a poster at a meeting related to a coworker's project. Because these people are superficially nice, it's easy to dismiss their forgetful nature: I'm sure they meant to say something to me, you think, they just forgot!

Wouldn't it be lovely if there were a simple test to confirm these suspicions? I'd like something like those pH dipping strips, or maybe the pens they use on currency to test for counterfeits.
. . . More
Views: 262 | Comments: 7
Last by chall on Aug 28, 2010, 2:13pm
(I hope this will be my last post about my stupid break-in.)

While speaking to our insurance company, I discovered that our coverages were not quite what I thought they were. Even though we had a large amount of coverage set aside as "Personal Property", that coverage is limited in various categories. For example, we had a $2000 limit on all jewelry losses, a $200 limit on cash losses, etc. Some were more random than others (a $500 limit on tree and plant and shrubbery losses? Really?), but it was rather eye-opening to see what was specifically limited. I had largely thought that (1) we pay for replacement value, and (2) the amount we pay for is at least 4x greater than what we lost, therefore everything is covered.

Turns out I'm probably wrong.

So, I strongly suggest everyone request a copy of their renters/homeowners insurance policy, and determine what they're covered for. It may turn out to be well below the value of what can easily walk out of your house. . . . More
Views: 416 | Comments: 1
Last by chall on Aug 28, 2010, 2:07pm
Thanks, everybody, for the well-wishes. Happily we have insurance, so we'll be able to get replacement stuff. I'm upset about the pictures that were lost on the camera & computers that I can't replace, and my grandmother's jewelry that isn't worth a lot but means a lot to me. All together, they didn't ruin our home so we were pretty lucky.

The detectives were here yesterday and fingerprinted all over our house, finding pretty much nothing. They told us that there were four break-ins on Friday in our neighborhood around the same time, and two already on Saturday, so this isn't what you'd call an "isolated incident".

We asked about alarm systems, and their opinion was that it will take at least five to ten minutes between the time the alarm goes off, the alarm company tries to call you (to make sure it's not a false alarm), calls the police, and the police arrive. These guys were in and out in less than that time, and odds are good the same thing would happen even if we had an alarm system.

When we left the house to get some breakfast on Saturday, we noticed there were a mess of "Lost Cat" posters up all over the neighborhood. I'm guessing these are probably other people who were broken into, and their cats escaped out the open windows. I'm pretty surp . . . More
Views: 1232 | Comments: 21
Last by chall on Aug 28, 2010, 2:04pm
DrDGT & I were at the bank this afternoon for an hour or so, signing documents to refinance our home.

We returned, and found our house had been broken into: our laptops stolen, my grandmother's diamond necklace stolen, among a host of other shit.


This, unhappily, is coming a week & a half after we were in a car accident on the way to work.

Goddammit some more.

. . . More
Views: 489 | Comments: 17
Last by jen on Aug 26, 2010, 4:53pm
Every lab has dichotomies: young, out-all-night grad students vs old, home-at-night postdocs; NPR listeners vs loud music-ers vs iPod wearers; etc. In this lab, the most pronounced split is the early shift vs late shift.

In an academic lab, "late shift" would generally mean "arriving after 10am, or staying past 8pm". I've had lab mates who roll in around noon, and are still here into the wee hours.

This is not the case here. At this job, I'm part of the late shift because I get here around 9:30, and am here past 3pm. The early shift here is wicked early.

So, to you, dear readers: early bird or not? . . . More
Views: 3318 | Comments: 7
Last by becca on Aug 20, 2010, 7:48am
So I watch Mad Men (like all other white people, apparently), and in this week's episode, Allison chucks some ugly-ass paperweight at Don. Without running through the whole sordid story, this event was precipitated by Allison (rightfully) explaining that she was going to move on to another place of employment, and asking Don for a recommendation letter.

Tell you what, he says (I paraphrase), Why don't you just type something up - whatever you want - and I'll sign it?

Cue the paperweight chucking.

I understood the reaction (minus the sleeping with the boss part of the story). While the boss thinks they're doing you a massive favor by letting you write your own recommendation letter (and obviously cutting their to-do list by one item), what they're really doing is making it clear that they really don't give a shit about you and your next job. They can come up with very little that is personal or meaningful to say, and would prefer to say nothing at all.

This is how I've always felt when asked to write my own recommendation letters. I think it's a bullshit practice in science (and probably everywhere else it happens too). Especially in scienc . . . More
Views: 415 | Comments: 5
Last by Damn Good Technician on Aug 12, 2010, 4:58pm
Has anyone in the history of time thought to themselves, "Self? You are not spending enough of your day sitting around a conference table and being bored."

I doubt it. An unpleasant fraction of my working day is taken up by bureaucratic meetings (it sounds redundant, I know, but bear with me) - stockroom committee meetings, lab safety meetings, etc - the type of meetings where no one participant's presence is really that important. These meetings are the killer - they take a lot of time and don't really impact my lab output in a positive way. The person running the meeting also tends to believe that this meeting is the most important thing ever, and we need to keep on discussing whatever the topic is until we have exhausted our vocal chords.

Another big chunk of time is spent at science-related meetings: these meetings are the ones where data is presented, discussed, and decisions about next steps are made. I have three of these meetings today, on the three major projects I'm working on. I spent a reasonable part of last night composing artfully crafted powerpoint decks for these meetings, and making sure I know what points I want to reinforce during the meeting itself.

DrDGT asked what these meetings I have today were about. I present my results, . . . More
Views: 315 | Comments: 6
Last by Damn Good Technician on Aug 10, 2010, 9:07am
My company is having another internal symposium in a few weeks, and everyone in my department was encouraged to submit abstracts for posters and/or talks. Talks were to be selected from the submitted abstracts, as most symposia are wont to do.

I just found out that I've been picked to give a talk! I'm pretty psyched about it - I know there were a couple hundred abstracts submitted, and if the FAQ page for the symposium is accurate, there are only eight talks. They haven't released the whole list of speakers yet, so I don't know how many other techs are presenting. (I certainly hope I'm not the only one...)

Now I've got to work like a crazy person for the next few weeks to shore up my data. . . . More
Views: 810 | Comments: 2
Last by Genomic Repairman on Aug 08, 2010, 9:42am
Biochem Belle tagged me with the current meme going around:

1. Sum up your blogging motivation, philosophy and experience in exactly 10 words.
2. Tag 10 other blogs to perpetuate the meme.

Well, see, I hate tagging others, so I'll just try to do the first part of this -

Industry teching is different from academia; let me tell you!

I started writing a blog because I thought techs were underrepresented in the science blog community, and because industry scientists were also underrepresented in the science blog community. Being both, I figured people might be interested in what I had to say. It's hard to know anything about pharma before you come here, so I thought I could provide some sort of insight to those curious about how industry works.

What I learned, of course, is that industry is both very much like academia (science is tough no matter where you work), and not at all like academia (your HR department can be very interested in what you have to say on your blog). I keep blogging because I value the sense of community that I've found from blogging, and I think that's pretty universal. . . . More
Views: 596 | Comments: 9
Last by Dr. O on Aug 06, 2010, 8:35am
My inability to do bloggy things from work has been a thorn in my side since I started my new job. Why they block sites like Gmail, but not Facebook, is baffling to me.

But thorn no longer!

I have a lovely new smartphone, allowing me access to the scandalous Gmail whilst I'm at work. Moreover, I can access my blog without the worry of someone seeing me do so on my computer. Having this phone doesn't increase the amount of free time I've got, of course, so we'll see how it actually changes frequency.

Immediately after I bought my phone, a friend forwarded this to me:

. . . More
Views: 410 | Comments: 9
Last by Dr. O on Aug 05, 2010, 11:29am
Well, at least "moving", perhaps not running quite yet.

Welcome to my new home at LabSpaces! I'm figuring out some mechanics, but should be back to blogging soon. . . . More