This blog is my attempt to reconnect with the world of chemistry. I have a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry and make a living doing research for a large company in Michigan. As times have changed, that company has changed its focus and I no longer have as much chance to do the basic, fundamental research which I most enjoy. Through this blog, I am hoping to recapture the magic which I felt during my graduate (and undergraduate) days in college. Expect topics on chemistry and alchemy along with some non-chemistry related items which I think might be interesting.

"The chymists are a strange class of mortals, impelled by an almost insane impulse to seek their pleasure among smoke and vapour, soot and flame, poisons and poverty; yet among all these evils I seem to live so sweetly that may I die if I would change places with the Persian King."

Johann Joachim Becher (phlogistonist)
Acta Laboratorii Chymica Monacensis, seu Physica Subterranea, (1669).

Monday, July 14, 2008

Cell Phone Rant

Warning: this is a non-chemistry related rant.

Last year, I switched from a monthly cell phone plan (Verizon) to a fixed rate per minute plan (AT&T). My wife had been tracking my cell phone use patterns and had convinced me I would pay less on a pay per minute plan. So far she has been right, although as more and more people at work are beginning to call my cell, that advantage is beginning to disappear. The increase in work related calls is not totally unexpected since I am currently existing in a hybrid state, as I resonate between 3 different locations and the cell is often the easiest way to catch me.

Pay per minute plans tend to make you acutely aware of the length of your calls, especially since AT&T graciously sends you a note after each call telling you how much you just spent. These plans are also the source of much aggravation as you notice all the little things the phone company does to drain your phone card of money as quickly as possible. I don’t mind that AT&T rounds calls up to the next minute, but how do they manage to make sure my calls always last X minutes and 1 second? Slightly more annoying is the phone’s user interface, which is designed to maximize the number of times one can accidentally sign on to the AT&T web store (for which you are charged). And nothing is more annoying than hanging up the phone, seeing the “call ended” message, and then a second or two later seeing a “call resumed” message as the timer begins counting again. WTF? The other party has already hung up. Why is my phone reinitiating the call?

However, these minor annoyances are not why I am writing today. My rant is directed at the callers themselves -- in particular, two people at work that are most responsible for my phone card drainage. It’s not just that they constantly call with no real purpose in mind (Hello! The company does have email, you know?). The real problem is that these two guys simply don’t know how to end a phone conversation. Seriously, phone calls that should barely last a minute drag out for 5 or 6 minutes because they can’t bring themselves to say goodbye.

Cell Phone Drainer (CPD): “Ken, I’ve got those samples you wanted.”
Me: “Great, I’ll come on over to pick them up.”
CPD: (Pause……) “I didn’t have any trouble making them.”
Me: Were you expecting any trouble? You’ve already made dozens of them.”
CPD: (Pause…..) ”No, I just wanted you to know that I didn’t have any trouble.”
Me: OK, I’ll come on over right now.”
CPD: (Long pause……) “Anything happening over in your area?”
Me: “Uhhh, no. Thanks for making the samples. I really need to start working on them.”
CPD: (Pause…..) ” Do you want to come over and get them now?”
Me: “Yes, I’m on my way. Thanks.
CPD: (Long awkward pause….) ”I’ll be at my cubicle.”
Me: “Yes, I know.”
CPD: “Have you been enjoying the weather lately?”

I start watching the timer on my phone.

Me: “It’s been okay. OK, I’m leaving now.”
CPD: (Pause…..) ”The samples should all be fine, I didn’t have any problems.”
Me: (Coworkers in nearby cubicles begin to notice my desperation) “Ummm, I really need to use the bathroom, so I think I have to go now.”
CPD: “You want me to leave the samples at my cubicle?”
Me: “Yes!”
CPD: (Longer pause….) “How do you think the project is going?”
Me: “I think I just heard an explosion coming from the lab. I should really go.”
CPD: (Pause…..) “Do you want a printout for the samples?”
Me: “I’m sure I hear screaming. I should really go now. Talk to you when I get there.”
CPD: “OK….If there’s nothing else…I’ll be at my cubicle….with the samples. You can pick them up anytime. Are you coming over right now?”
Me: “Bye.”
CPD: (Pause….) ”Uhhh… bye…. I’ll… I’ll talk to you later."
I hang up and my cell phone tells me I've been on for 4 minutes and 1 second. Damn!!!

I tend to ignore his phone calls now but then he just leaves messages which require me to call my voice mail (for a fee) to erase. Anyway, thanks for reading. I feel much better now.

For all those analytical chemists who managed to make it through that rant, here is a link to a music video for those interested in automated pipetting. Woo hoo!!

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