Tuesday, December 15, 2015

a francophile called Wanda

Last night SB and I joined a quiz night at Cafe Scientifique as last minute replacements for a couple of friends who had enjoyed their holiday party a bit too much the night before. The quiz questions were challenging but we managed to pull off third place with our motley assortment of non-scientists. It was the journalist in our group who blew me away with his breadth and depth of knowledge on almost every scientific category from geology to astronomy. After nine rounds of questions, our team was only six points behind the winning table of incumbent science professors. I surprised myself with my knowledge of plants and animals, which won our team a bottle of wine in the bonus round of Hong Kong flowers and fauna, sponsored by the Bauhinia Genome Project. You can read about them here.

Apparently some of the contestants at last year's quiz night complained that the questions did not include enough French information so the hosts bent over backward accommodating them and it didn't take us long to realize that if there was any doubt on an answer, to choose a French one. It was amusing that the French team finished thirty points behind us. Someone said that they missed the question about Jacques Cousteau. Merde!

One of the announcers, an Englishman of distinction, began by sprinkling his French knowledge into his questions, but hours later, likely aided by several glasses of wine, he lost all of his inhibitions and revealed himself to be a raging francophile, waxing on in increasingly flowery language about each minute detail of the quiz's Gallic questions. At some point as he was booming passionately about Fermat's last theorem, I suddenly was reminded a scene from A Fish Called Wanda, where Archie orated in Italian, then Russian, while Wanda writhed on the floor in ecstasy.

Due to veering well off course by the quiz master imparting bits of trivia on top of the actual trivia (fascinating as it was), as well as the ill fated decision by the hosts to allow a room full of know-it-alls the ability to challenge the answers for the price of a small charitable donation, the quiz lasted for almost four hours. SB and I had cereal for dinner at midnight and went to bed too tired to revel in our success. This evening I imagine that we will relive the agony and ecstasy of last night, and of course plot to join again next year. If nothing else, the events of last night have inspired me to resolve to actually read a science journal or two in the next year. After National Geographic became embarrassingly shallow, I lost that feeling of wonder and excitement but now it's back.

Monday, December 14, 2015

3245 years

While scrolling through the internet, I came across this one.

(Source: ViralFHD)

It gave me chills.

Taken in 1922, it is the seal to the door of King Tutankamon's tomb. It remained unbroken for 3245 years.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

if wishes were stampeding horses

There is a manager on another team that is, in my professional opinion, unhinged. The team that I am contracted to behaves well, even if they are not always well coordinated. A little bit of respect goes a long way, and I am often willing to go the extra mile for them. Every day we negotiate land mines, and I appreciate that we can work together to disarm the mines rather than pushing each other into them and running for cover. The manager on the other team has sacrificed so many of his team members that there is no one left to help him solve his problems, or at least take the hit for delays. Last week, one of his two remaining underlings submitted his notice. 

On Monday my manager informed me that the unhinged manager complained about me at the project meeting with the senior administration. Despite the fact that my team is on schedule, the other manager made the rather ridiculous claim that since he hadn't viewed any correspondence from me, I therefore must not be doing any work. Um, I don't work for him so why should I copy him on my work? 

The other manager calls his consultant into hours long meetings where he rants and raves. I have heard him making personal threats to the consultant, who is the third consultant hired this year. The consultant isn't concerned because the manager can't fire him without drawing attention to himself and his team's turnover rate. So now unhinged manager wants to target me, a consultant on a different team and overseen by another manager.

My manager is non-confrontational, to my dismay. He never takes on the other manager but maybe he has the right approach because the other manager can't engage him and is left to froth and foam by himself. Except now he is frothing and foaming too close to me. 

My manager just told me to give the other manager what he wants. Since he is complaining that I am not reporting to him (because I don't work for him!) then I should go ahead and copy the other guy on my tasks to show that I am working. At first I was upset that my manager was capitulating and throwing me into the line of fire but then I realized the brilliance of his capitulation. What unhinged manager wants, he gets. Every day I receive a dozen submissions, queries and proposals. My own manager isn't copied on my replies because it's my job to take care of these issues, but now I am copying everything to unhinged manager. Today he was copied on several discussions debating a dry battery sensor versus DC powered for the urinals. He also received a couple emails discussing why I think that the Highways Department's specifications for friction resistance on tiling is superior to the Housing Department's. By the end of today, he will know everything that I am doing. Everything. I am going to bury him in trivial data until his inbox explodes. And it will be no less than what he demanded.