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ALL THIS SPACE

, , , , , | Friendly | March 19, 2022

I was loading up my groceries after my weekly shopping trip. I was in the space behind my car, loading them into my trunk, when another car suddenly pulled up to pull into the space, immediately slamming on her horn.

Now, this was unusual, because the parking lot was half-empty. In point of fact, the spots on both sides of my car and both sides of the space I was standing in were all empty. There were also at least a dozen spaces further down the row, closer to the store, that were also all empty. So, this lady ignored all of those empty spots, deliberately drove up to the spot I was in, and then honked her horn at me.

No, I’m not playing that game. After glancing up at her and seeing her waving her arms at me, I turned around and went right back to loading my things into my trunk. She laid on her horn again and then leaned out the window.

Woman: “Ya need to move!”

Me: *Firing back* “You need to f*** all the way off!”

She jerked back like I’d walked over and slapped her. After a few moments of her just sitting there, she pulled back and then sped off down the row, fishtailing a bit as she went, before sloppily pulling into one of the spaces further down the way. She climbed out of her car, hiked up her purse, and then turned as if to stomp over toward me.

However, she immediately spotted me pushing my cart toward her. In truth, I’d finished loading up and was pushing my cart over to the return stall, which just happened to be in the direction of her car. The moment she made eye contact with me and saw me approaching, she practically tripped over herself spinning around and scurrying toward the store.

Good Thing You Had Another Basket To Put Your Eggs In

, , , , , , , | Healthy | November 27, 2021

We keep backyard chickens. One day, we find that our hen Emma has been savagely attacked — we believe by a raccoon — as she was brooding on her nest. Emma is a big chicken; she probably got the injury because she stood her ground and fought the raccoon rather than letting it have her eggs. And since two small Silkie hens have disappeared, presumed dead, we credit Emma with saving the lives of the other two hens that are still safe.

We take our war hero to a vet that we use a lot, not because we like them, but because they are close by, open twenty-four hours, and treat birds. Emma is indignant and unhappy and obviously in a lot of pain, but she is feisty and pretty energetic for a hen with a giant piece of flesh torn out of her backside.

Immediately, I start to see red flags. They warn me that Emma might have to be put down because, if she was bitten by a raccoon, she might have rabies. Chickens get rabies so rarely, I don’t believe it’s ever happened in the US; the CDC claims chickens can’t get it. Because they don’t have saliva, they can’t transmit it if they do get it. Then, they tell me that there is nothing they can do. They can’t stitch her up. They strongly recommend that we put her down because chickens don’t survive injuries like this. They tell me she is “dumpy” — meaning withdrawn and low energy, seen in dying birds but also in ones that are just in a lot of pain — and that she cannot recover from this.

I have seen many chickens die. Emma does not strike me as a dying chicken. My husband and I agree that we cannot leave Emma with this vet. They’re quoting me $1,400 for an overnight stay, which is bad enough, but they’re recommending euthanasia so strongly that they make me sign paperwork saying that I am refusing the recommended treatment against medical advice. We both feel that if the vet there feels so strongly in favor of euthanasia, Emma will not survive the night.

There’s another vet that takes birds forty-five minutes away from my house and they’re not open twenty-four-seven. I demand my bird back. She has had no treatment aside from her wound being washed. They give me antibiotics and painkillers to give her but they have not given her anything for pain or wound treatment themselves. And by the time they finally hand her over, it’s fifty minutes until the other vet closes.

I drive like a bat out of h*** to the other vet and show up minutes before closing. They check her in and take her back immediately for wound care and painkillers. After about half an hour, the vet comes to see me. He wants to do surgery on her in the morning. He says that chickens are one of the toughest birds out there and he’s seen chickens live through worse. And the cost of surgery and an overnight stay is going to be like $350.

Emma has a long and tedious recovery, penned in our house because other chickens will attack a bloody wound. We have to give her antibiotics and painkillers by hand for twenty days, and she has to go back three times for dressing changes and once for an additional surgery, but for a sum total of around $600, I end up with a healthy if cranky chicken whose feathers have grown back so you can’t even see her wound, who is still laying eggs despite the injury to her butt, and who is once again Top Bird in the pecking order around here.

I’m never taking a bird to the first vet again if I can help it.

Some Coaches Are More Hands-On Than Others

, , , , , | Friendly | October 11, 2021

One fall Friday, I took my two-year-old Dalmatian — named Coach, for obvious reasons — to watch my seventeen-year-old son’s football team play another local team. The game was played in the afternoon, so Coach and I easily found first-row bleacher seats near midfield. My son was a defensive back, and with constant player substitutions, I sometimes had trouble figuring out where he was on the field, but not Coach.

In the game’s third quarter, [Son] fielded a punt and started to run upfield before being gang-tackled by opposing team members. Suddenly, Coach pulled the leash from my hand and ran onto the field, literally jumping on top of the pile of players and growling and ferociously protecting [Son]. For a few short moments, it was pure bedlam, with players disentangling from the pile and retreating more quickly than most had probably ever run before on a football field.

I ran, too, straight onto the field, yelling Coach’s name as loudly as I could — confusing all the real team coaches, I am sure. I grabbed the leash and walked the dog back to our bleacher row seat. No one was hurt, thankfully, but a few minutes later, the referee blew his whistle to stop the game and came over to our sideline seats.

Referee: “Mister, you are going to have to move the dog. The other team is afraid to run to your side of the field.”

We watched the rest of the game from the other side of the field, and while it didn’t happen, I truly believe if my son had tried to return another punt, he could have walked the whole way untouched.

There’s Snow Way That’s A Good Idea

, , , , , , , | Learning | September 24, 2021

Every year, my graduate program brings in a crop of new potential students for an “interview weekend.” Knowing that these students are visiting other schools as well, we try to make sure that they not only learn about the program but also have a good time.

One year, we book a banquet hall for a nice dinner on the last night of the interview weekend. It’s a fancy catered meal with current students, potential students, and professors. This particular banquet hall happens to be attached to a major league baseball stadium, though it’s not currently baseball season. From the windows of the hall, we can see the empty field covered in snow while we eat dinner.

[Professor] is the youngest professor in the department, and though he’s a nice guy, he’s constantly trying to show the students that he’s the “cool” professor. After dinner ends, he stands up and taps on his glass for everyone’s attention.

Professor: “I hear there’s been some interest in going down onto the field to run the bases at [Stadium].”

Students: “Yaaaay!”

Professor: “Well, I asked if we could, and they said we can’t.”

Students: “Awww.”

Professor: “But WHO WANTS TO DO IT ANYWAY?!”

He stood up. Immediately, about fifty students stood up, as well, and followed him out into the hall. Admittedly, I was one of them. Hey, if a professor is leading the charge, he’d be the one to get in trouble, right?

He led us on a march through hallways, down stairs, and through doors. At some point, I think we crossed a sky bridge from the banquet hall into the stadium itself, which I had assumed would be locked in some way, but it wasn’t.

During our march, a few of us got cold feet — a passing custodian warned us that we’d get arrested — so we positioned ourselves where we could see the field and just watched to see what would happen.

Apparently, [Professor] and the mob of students were able to make their way right to the double doors that led directly onto the field. A friend of mine says that, in retrospect, he thinks [Professor]’s plan was to get to those doors, show they couldn’t be opened, and lead the disappointed but excited grad students back to the banquet hall.

Instead, the double doors opened. [Professor] turned around, shocked, only to be mown down by a mob of gleeful students that he had unleashed on the empty stadium. From my vantage on the sky bridge, I saw students running the bases, throwing snowballs, and making snow angels in the outfield. Some kind of loud alarm instantly started blaring, and security removed everyone from the field. Our entire department was then kicked out of the banquet hall and told we were banned for life.

I never found out what happened to [Professor]. But I did hear that our wonderful administrators, as soon as they heard what happened, sent flowers and apologies to the staff at the banquet hall. When the following year’s interview weekend rolled around, we were somehow allowed back!

You Can’t Cheat Science!

, , , , , , , , , | Learning | August 24, 2021

When I was in grad school, one of my colleagues in my lab worked as a teaching assistant for a certain undergraduate class. Students in this class were notorious for cheating, and one of the ways they cheated was to collect their graded exams, change one of the answers, and submit it for a re-grade, claiming that that the teaching assistant had neglected to give them full credit for the answer.

My colleague was lamenting to some of us at lunch about how her student submitted a question for a re-grade, but she knew there was no way she had misgraded his answer to begin with.

Colleague: “I know he erased his answer and changed it. I mean, I graded fifty exams, so I don’t remember for sure, but there’s no way I wouldn’t have given that answer full credit. He has to be cheating!”

Me: “But you can’t prove it.”

Colleague: “No, and that’s what’s so frustrating.”

Me: “Can I see the paper?”

She showed me the paper. Right away, I noticed that there was a spot where the student’s pencil mark intersected with the teaching assistant’s red grading pen.

Colleague: “See? I can’t prove whether he wrote his answer before or after I graded the paper.”

Me: “We have microscopes.”

My colleague’s face lit up. She took the paper to one of our fancy lab microscopes, and even at ten times magnification, she could see the student’s pencil mark clearly ON TOP of her red pen. She took a picture using the microscope and submitted it to the professor, and the student eventually admitted to cheating. Science for the win.


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