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This Stuff Only Happens On TV… And NAR

, , , , , | Learning | April 29, 2022

I’m a biology teacher at a high school. Back when I was a much newer teacher, we had reached the point of learning about genetics and Punnett squares, which are used to show how dominant and recessive genes will be inherited from parents to children. Usually, the second most common example used for these — next to Mendel’s original example with peas — is eye color. However, I didn’t like this because it’s not accurate; eye color is actually controlled by sixteen different genes and is more complex than simple Punnett squares can handle.

Thus, I decided to use blood type as an example for our Punnett squares. It’s a slightly more complicated example, due to A and B types being codominant, but at least it doesn’t require lying to students.

Then, one day, a girl came up to me before the start of class.

Student: “Mr. [My Name], I think I’m doing the squares wrong.”

Me: “What’s the problem?”

Student: “My dad is AB and my mom is A, but I’m O. I can’t make the squares work.”

Me: “Oh, yes, that wouldn’t usually work. Are you certain you have everyone’s blood types right?”

Student: “Yeah, I asked them last night.”

Me: “Oh, I see.”

Student: “An AB parent can have an O kid, right?”

There was a hint of anxiety behind this question, as if she was pleading with me to tell her they could.

The answer — as I found out only after I was put on the spot with this question and Googled it — was that it is possible but exceptionally rare for this to happen. Still, even if I didn’t know that for certain yet, I knew there were usually exceptions to most genetic rules of thumb, so I hedged a little.

Me: “Usually not, but genetics are strange; there are always mutations or unusual recombination happening, so most of the stuff we teach in genetics is how things usually work, not a promise it will always be that way. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are times when AB parents have O children.”

Student: “But how often does that happen?”

Me: “I’m not really certain.”

Student: “But is it common?”

Me: “I don’t think it’s common, but it could happen.”

The student was quiet for a bit while thinking, looking increasingly worried. Eventually, she spoke up again.

Student: “What about eye color? Brown is dominant, right?”

The girl had brown eyes.

Me: “Eye color is more complicated since it’s controlled by many genes; Punnett squares don’t really work with them.”

Student: “So, brown really isn’t dominant?”

Me: “It kind of is. If you have one parent with blue eyes and one with brown, you’re more likely to end up with brown eyes, but it doesn’t always happen that way.”

Student: “But parents with blue eyes can have a brown-eyed daughter?”

Me: “Yes, definitely!”

Student: “Okay, good. Is that common?”

Me: “Well, it’s not exactly common, but it definitely can and does happen. I’m afraid I don’t know the exact odds without looking it up.”

Student: “Oh, okay. Thank you.”

She still looked worried and a bit dejected as she wandered back to her seat. I was not at all happy with how the conversation had gone, but I couldn’t think of anything else I could say or do, other than lying to her, to make things better, so I had to just leave things be and get on with starting class.

The next Monday, I saw the student again. She was looking very upset while looking at me as if she couldn’t decide whether to approach me or not.

Me: “[Student], are you okay?”

Student: “No! You were right!”

Me: “Right about what?”

She looked like she was considering answering, but she glanced around the classroom that was starting to fill with students, some of whom were clearly interested in our discussion in front of the class.

Student: “I don’t want to talk about it here.”

Of course, I respected that, but I found her to talk in private later. It turns out the man who raised her was not her biological father after all. He had fertility issues, and in the end, his brother ended up donating sperm for them to get pregnant, but they had never told their daughter. The blood types not adding up was the thing that made my student start thinking, but ultimately, she had come up with lots of other things, like eye color, that didn’t quite add up, and so she had decided to confront her parents during the weekend. They admitted the truth when she confronted them.

She was very upset at having this hidden from her, especially since, apparently, her biological father had moved to another country shortly after she was born, so she barely knew anything about him. I did my best to reassure her and remind her that anyone who cared for and loved her all her life was her real father, regardless of genetics, but she was less concerned about that and more about feeling like she had been lied to her entire life.

She would eventually come to accept the news, but not until she had time to deal with her feelings and emotions. As for me, I decided that I wasn’t going to be teaching any blood type-related Punnett squares after that year. I’ll still sometimes use the old standard of eye color but only after stressing that it’s an oversimplification. I figure, that way, if I ever have a brown-eyed student asking why their parents are both blue-eyed again, I can at least honestly say that is a real possibility and that I had already warned them we were oversimplifying eye color. I’d prefer not to be the cause of any more children getting unpleasant realizations.

This Is A Game You Are Not Going To Win

, , , , , , , | Learning | April 14, 2022

I go to a university that focuses on art, including fields like visual effects/special effects, game design, concept design, and animation. Two of my roommates are also game design majors and thus attended a forty-eight-hour game jam at my school, which basically means they and a group of however-many-people they wanted had to make a game following a theme within forty-eight hours. 

Usually, for the game jam they participated in, all concepts, characters, and everything from modeling to coding to even a video trailer that is used as “grading” criteria is done within said forty-eight hours after the announcement of the theme. 

However, this year, due to makeup classes that fell during the game jam, the school delayed it by a week but still announced the theme. This meant that all teams had up to a week to at least think of a concept that fit the theme; as long as no assets were previously made, it technically wasn’t against the rules.

My two roommates were in a team of fourteen people and had already grouped up together and taken over a classroom when a different group asked to use some computers in the classroom at the back. They reluctantly agreed, mostly since there were still free computers.

Along came this girl who started asking nosy questions. When they questioned her, she claimed that she was a game jam official and was thus looking around at the games. This was later proven a lie, as she was mostly looking at the concepts and trying to pick and choose a group to participate in the game jam with. This was very short notice, as my roommate, the overall team leader, had compiled the fourteen-person group at least a few weeks in advance.

The nosy girl made her first mistake by trying to kiss up to a guy that she thought was the lead, ignoring my roommate who kept answering her questions as the actual team lead. 

By the time she figured it out, my roommate had already rejected her, as they already had a solid team and my roommate also could not figure out what in tarnation her major was; her answers fluctuated from animator to a user-interface designer. Later, we found out her major was special effects — bearing a passing resemblance to animation but nothing like user interface.

Eventually, this girl (who managed to bother almost everyone else participating in the game jam) joined the group that was in the same room as my roommates, which turned out to be a fairly obnoxious group, as they would do loud cartoon voices without caring about the other people who were working. 

Even worse, at one point, when a professor walked through, they blatantly lied that my roommates’ group had had “weeks of preparation”. (One week. They had one week, with no models done beforehand or even more than the concept discussed and finalized.) The professor attempted to be a diplomat by telling them that while my roommate’s group had better gameplay, but the obnoxious team had better art.

Eventually, the final day rolled around, and the girl walked up to my roommate’s group and commented on how similar their game was to another group’s and how she sometimes forgot it was a different game. 

Not only were the games not similar except for both having the same word in their title and having animals as protagonists, but this was incredibly rude to do, considering she essentially insinuated that their hours of work didn’t matter due to the games “being similar”.

Nobody reacted. This tactful, diplomatic, and absolutely not at all petty girl proceeded to say it louder, and then had the audacity to go, “Oh, oops, I shouldn’t have said that.” Sure.

Eventually, the game jam finished, and all of the groups were tallied up. Not only did the obnoxious group’s game not fit the theme at all, but my roommate’s team won Best Art. (What was that about their art being better, professor?)

What got me about this whole situation was how extremely quickly this girl burned several possible future professional bridges in less than a single weekend. My roommates are pretty well-connected, and a lot of their friends who also participated in the jam complained about this girl. Even I preemptively blocked this girl without participating in the jam or having met her.

We Appreciate You! Like… Ten Of You…

, , , , , | Working | April 13, 2022

The company I work for makes software for car dealership websites. I’ve only been working there for a few months, and I’m not a salesperson, so this is my first time experiencing how it handles New Year bonuses, meetings, and sales contests. In early January, we have a big (online) meeting and the executive officers address all the employees scattered across the country.

CEO: “This has been such a great year. We really want to thank you all and find a way to give back to the employees who made this possible.”

I wasn’t really paying attention, but I lean forward in my chair when I hear this.

CEO: “We would like to give employees a discount on their next car! Anyone who purchases a car this year through a dealership using our software will have $500 added to the following paycheck.”

My wife and I have been planning to buy a new car but are struggling to justify the cost, so I am extremely excited to hear this!

CEO: “This benefit will be retroactive, so anyone who has already purchased a car this year will be included.”

Immediately, the employee chatbox fills with people excitedly posting that they just bought a car last week and are stoked to get the discount funds sent their way.

CEO: “This benefit will be for the first ten employees to purchase a car this year. If all goes well, we’ll consider doing this again next year and expand the number of employees who can receive the benefit. Thank you for all the hard work you do!”

After hearing this, I slumped back in my chair. More than ten employees had already posted about their new cars, so there was no way my wife and I had a shot at getting the discount. I think I would have preferred a normal raffle prize drawing because I would have at least had a shot at winning something. In a company of several hundred, I don’t feel like this was the way to make everyone feel appreciated.

No Clear Deed Goes Unpunished

, , , | Right | March 18, 2022

I am working as a waitress one evening when a young man comes in and sits down. He politely asks for an Arnold Palmer. Since it’s slow, I take a little extra time to make it “pretty.” The restaurant has those generic plastic cups, mostly in red, but a couple in clear. I grab a clear one, add ice, pour half a glass of tea, and carefully top it off with the pink lemonade from the dispenser. The colors sit pretty nicely on top of each other.

I bring the young man his drink. He smiles and tells me his folks will be in shortly; he’s just saving a table before the dinner rush. No problem.

Sure enough, twenty minutes later, the restaurant is in full swing and what looks like Mom and Pop come in and sit with him. I rush over to greet them and get drink orders.

Pop: *Pointing at the young man’s drink* “What’s that?”

Me: “An Arnold Palmer: tea and lemonade mixed.”

Pop: “I want one of those.”

I leg it to the drink station. Lo and behold, no more clear cups. I grab a red one and make the drink. Same process, but because the cup is red, you can’t see the color separation as well and it looks kind of tan/murky but not unlike a normal drink in a semi-transparent cup. I take it back to the table.

Pop: *Eyeing it suspiciously* “What’s that?”

Me: “Oh, it’s an Arnold Palmer like you asked. I’m sorry we ran out of clear cups, but I can remake it in a glass beer mug if you’d like?”

Pop gives me a side-eye before finally sitting back.

Pop: *Grumpily* “I guess it’s fine.”

The entire rest of the meal, Pops glared at me like I was trying to pull something over on him.

Today, On “The World Is Too Big And It Scares Me”:

, , , , , , | Right | March 18, 2022

I work as a receptionist for a healthcare company that often helps people get started with disability, Medicaid, SSI, etc. We have locations across the entire country, with thousands of employees. The phone rings about fifteen minutes to close.

Caller: “Hi, I received this letter that says someone by the name C. [Somewhat Uncommon Last Name] is handling my application. I need to talk to them.”

Me: “No problem, one moment.”

I search by the last name in my directory and find four matches, three of whom have a first name that starts with C. I transfer the caller to the [Customer Service] representative on my list. The other two are in IT and Accounting, so they’re unlikely candidates. Two minutes later, the phone rings again.

Caller: “Yeah, I just talked to you. No one answered; I just got a voicemail. Can you get that person on the phone? It’s C.—” *Spells the last name*

Me: “Ma’am, I have three C. [Last Name]s in my directory, I sent you to the one I believed to be the most likely person. Do you have any other information, such as the department they are from? Is this regarding a Medicaid or Disability appli—”

Caller:Three?! But it’s an uncommon last name!”

Me: “Yes, ma’am, it is, but we have multiple people working for the company with that last name. We have offices across the country, so there are bound to be some similar names.”

Caller: “But it’s such an uncommon last name! It’s [Last Name]!”

She spells it out again.

Caller: “I got this suspicious letter, and I need to find out what’s going on with my application!”

Me: “Let me send you to our general resolution line, and anyone there can at least pull up your information in their system and see what’s going on.”

Caller: “You can’t do it? Or get C. [Last Name] on the phone?”

Me: “I’m a receptionist and don’t have access to any client information. Let me get you over to someone who can help you.”

I transferred her before she could argue. As I hung up the phone, a delivery person arrived, so I left my desk to unlock the door and let them in. When I returned to my desk, I saw a missed call from the same lady. She left a very similar voicemail that I then forwarded to the rep. Sorry that some people within a nationwide company might share a last name?