12 December 2005

Planes, traffic and saving The Precious

This has been a marginally remarkable weekend. I spent almost all of Friday at the Exclusive Books in the duty-free mall at Johannesburg International Airport, helping out behind the counter while the regular staff have some version of a Christmas Party. Initially, I was quite concerned about the procedures, but got the hang of it in the end. It's quite something to touch a business class boarding pass for a Cathay Pacific flight to somewhere exotic. It's also quite something when a customer wants to buy a newspaper with a $100 bill and you have to give them change in Rands... Denise and I helped the head steward of Tanzania Air carry bags of magazines to his plane, which was interesting: we could look directly out from the ramp at the rainy runways and the shiny new Qantas 747-400. Denise is airplane-crazy and a great source of information at the airport. She's hinted several times that she'd love to work there. I'm not so sure that I enjoy the throngs of people bringing their diseases from all corners of the globe.

Afterwards, Wendy, Denise and I drove to Bryanston by mistake to drop by Rowan's new place for tortillas and Karen's famous chilli. I am not implying that Rowan and Karen aren't excellent hosts, but the fact is that it took us hours to get there from Kempton. I'll never understand traffic jams in the middle of the night without any visible accidents or roadworks. Surely all those people can't be going to Montecasino? If that's the case, gambling is much more prevalent than I suspected. (The chilli was delicious, by the way.)

Today I've been spending my hours sifting through the University library's collection of electronic journals, looking for new articles published on plant disease resistance and gene expression profiling. I've now given up on the idea of finishing any labwork by the end of this year (you need accurate pipettes for that) and decided to source some holiday reading. I was actually having a good time, my mind awash with signalling pathways, cysteine proteases, kinases and PR proteins. But as I was walking to the lab from the computer room in order to get more paper for the printer, I noticed that the -80°C freezer had gone up to -45°C. I was then informed that the freezer had been on the carbon dioxide back-up since early this morning and that we'd have to move all of the samples boxes to other freezers! My first (admittedly selfish) thought was of my precious RNA, which I immediately archived in an open spot in the -80°C freezer in Lab X (yes, that's really what it's called). We then spent about a century putting sample boxes in random spots in the freezers of other research groups; I don't think we will ever see those boxes again now that they're spread across the whole faculty. Should I care? The people those boxes belong to aren't even here this month and equipment always breaks down in December. I suppose that it's serendipity that I managed to salvage my Precious today, as I was not planning on coming in to the lab again this week. That box with 20 tubes of RNA is the first thing I'd save from the building in the event of disaster. Strange how discriminate your priorities become when you've spent so much time on little vials of biological material you can't even see.


Karen Little said...

Glad you liked the chilli :) It was quite a nice evening as well, though, wasn't it? Don't know if you checked some of the older comments on my blog: ing looked at your blog and likes your flowers a lot.

Later alligator

ing said...

Hi. I hopped over here from Karen's blog. I'm a bookseller in San Francisco.

Those airport bookstore jobs are the worst, or at least I'm guessing they are. Everybody's crabby and they just want something easy to read.

But oh, to go on a trip! Where would you go, if you could go anywhere in the world? Do they have orchids there?

Unknown said...


Glad you enjoy the photographs! They make the page a little unwieldy, but I think I'm getting better... I'd love to be able to go on an expedition of sorts - if I had to choose right now, I'd probably go for Madagascar. It's just such an alien place, with its giant baobab trees and funky lemurs. It also has some of the planet's most endangered orchid species, because it's isolated and farmland is so limited. When you're a poor nation (sorry, developing nation, how un-pc of me), nature conservation is always low on your list of priorities. So I'd want to go before all the wild places are slashed-and-burned, the beaches are turned into tourist traps and all the topsoil ends up in the Indian Ocean.

ing said...


Yes, in this gay gay city, Brokeback Mountain * is huge. So huge, that I've been putting off going to the theater, as the lines are too long. But this Friday, after we attend a publisher party, a posse from the bookstore is planning to see the movie.

*A.k.a., in certain gay circles, "Bareback Mountain," which is somewhat epiphitic-sounding, isn't it?

KMK Web said...

Awesome bllog you have here