Looking back at 2011, my first year as a blogger and my new affiliation with OT, I find that I have written 96 blogs. That’s probably 96 more than most of you would care to read, so I may try to curb my impulses a little in 2012 and spare you some pain!
One of the things that struck me about my initiation into the world of blogging, is that like in fiction, it’s necessary to find one’s “voice.” Mine seems to have been all over the place–megaphone-like.
So what IS my voice? Am I first and foremost the serious guy who blogs about life as a PI, or science education for kids? Or am I the anti-religious coercion guy who can’t leave topics of gender inequality alone? Or am I the guy who pulls pranks his students and delights in taking revenge for their having parties at my house when they graduate? The runner-up to Ricardipus in Cath’s Bragging Rights Central?
I’ve come to the conclusion over this past year that I don’t really need to have a stated up-front theme. Unlike everything else in my life, stacked methodically into compartments with ruthless efficiency, on OT I think I would prefer to be less regimented and just let loose with whatever strikes my fancy. I don’t have the time or energy (or perhaps ability) to put together sparkling, highly informative and erudite blogs like a number of my highly respected OT blogging comrades. So you’ll just have to bear with my rambling from topic to topic.
So to start out 2012, I’m going to go back about 17 years to: my very best Ph.D. prank. By that time, I was already a veteran Ph.D. student in Jerusalem, and our lab had just taken on a young (and impressionable) new graduate student. Being the most senior student (and the first to eventually graduate with a Ph.D. from the lab), it often was incumbent upon me to train newcomers. In a number of cases, I was dissatisfied with the work ethics of these new recruits, but in the case of –let’s call him Johnny–there seemed to be genuine interest and dedication. Along with a little naivety! He was a nice kid, but suffice to say that after a while, he began to grate on my nerves. Well, perhaps not enough to justify this…
One day I came into the lab in the morning to find Johnny being photographed–by some newspaper reporter. Holding a pipette at a jaunty angle and examining a column with his white lab coat on. I snickered and was about to say something, when I had a better idea. I allowed the shoot to continue and came back a few minutes after it was over.
“Wow, you must have a lot of special connections,” I said.
“Oh, it wasn’t that. They just wanted to photograph a scene from a lab.”
“No,” I shook my head. “I mean connections to get permission from the Chancellor’s office to have your photo taken in the lab or speak to the media.”
“What do you mean?” There was a bit of a dent in his smile now.
“You know how rigid they are about controlling publicity. I mean it’s great that they gave you permission, but really unusual. They hate this type of thing.”
“But I didn’t get any permission. The reported just walked in and took my picture.”
“You DIDN’T get permission?! Ha! You’re putting me on! Don’t joke with me.”
Now he was beginning to get worried, lines appearing in his forehead. “There was a guy in the other building who interviewed in the paper without permission,” I added. “He’s now a biology high school teacher. A shame, he was really talented–published a couple high profile papers, too. They caught him doing an interview, and—–”
“No way. You’re pulling my leg.”
He definitely looked worried now. “Okay, I’m pulling your leg,” I said. “But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
I let it fester for a few days, and then pulled the big one. I had a fellow graduate student from another lab call our lab and present herself as an administrator in the Chancellor’s office. Poor Johnny took the phone, as she explained to him that he had violated university policy, and that they would have to schedule a hearing for him. He would be allowed legal representation at this or any subsequent stage.
I waltzed into the lab later, and he pounced on me. “They’re scheduling a hearing for me.”
Play it dumb, I thought. “A hearing? What are you going to listen to? Rock music?”
“Seriously, at the Chancellor’s office! Because of the reporter and photograph!”
“You can’t be serious! I wonder how they found out so quickly. Did the article come out already? I hope you didn’t say anything bad about the university!”
“What am I going to do?” He was close to tears now, so some optimism was called for.
“Well I know that a strong recommendation letter from our supervisor/mentor would definitely help. Would you like me to talk to her?”
“Oh thank you–I can’t thank you enough!” No, I thought, I guess you can’t!
Well, cutting to the chase, my mentor was delighted to take part in an additional bit of
bullying foolery (in today’s world, they’d probably arrest me for such a prank!). We went on a bit longer before finally divulging that it was all just a prank!
He took it well, and turned out to be a decent student. But a year or so later, out of the blue, he simply failed to show up in the lab and left his research altogether. No warning or explanation. A new career/life. And I can’t help wondering whether I contributed, ever-so-slightly to pushing him over the edge. But if I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: in science (as in life) one needs a thick skin to survive…
Note the different covers, since the e-book is my own publication. Guess whose house is on the cover of the e-book?