Incomplete Truth

As much as i love my new job, i have been incredibly busy since January – and it’s good to earn my pay!  The combination of frenetic pace and new operational environment has led to some speed bumps.

i am fueled by coffee. Not that fancy girlie stuff – coffee beans harvested by one-armed nuns and orphans, roasted over dried goat turds, then slowly brewed in a recycled art glass urinal.

Folgers. From a giant plastic tub. Brewed thick as oil in an ancient drip communal coffee maker that hasn’t been cleaned or sanitized in twenty years.

This is the kind of brew that i grew up on. Chugged into the early morning hours slamming for final exams, finishing a project, or working details.  This is the kind of brew that fueled Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Jack Kilby.  THIS is what powers my engine.

My new lab is inhabited by so many young scientists and engineers that i couldn’t FIND that communal pot. They grew up with refined tastes. Starbucks, for fucksake!  An espresso machine in the “collaboration space”. Really?  French press, if you’d prefer your coffee to be especially effeminate.


This would not do.

Finally found the dirty, nasty pot in the corner of the building on a lower floor. Where the old and crunchy scientists gather.  And it’s only twenty cents a cup!  Sufficiently cheap and suitably crappy coffee. Score!

So things had been going pretty well until i hit this week – caffeinated and productive. Hosting a visitor on Tuesday led me to a new problem: Where to get HIM coffee?

Not the fancy-assed stuff. Not the dirty pot.

The only solution was to take him to our building canteen, The Ptomaine Palace. While i wouldn’t make anyone eat the food there, it works as an emergency snack bar. Coffee would probably be sort of fresh, and they have all that sugar and cream stuff that people use sometimes.

He was agreeable and we went on about our business, trekking from office to office in a carefully orchestrated series of meetings. Same schtick each time, different audience.

After the fourth tour stop, i started to zone out. Noticing the unusual pattern on the styrofoam cup. What does that say????????????????????????????????

“An average weight paper hot cup with a cardboard sleeve generates 379% more solid waste by weight than a comparable foam cup.”

What? Corporate defensive marketing? Highly specific corporate defensive marketing?

Obviously, because statistics are involved, it must be the truth! But aren’t there a few other salient points left out?  To paint the full picture, perhaps there should be a few more details.

“A foam cup will last over a MILLION years in a landfill, while a cardboard cup only lasts 2 months.”

“Polystyrene cups are made from petroleum – which NEVER degrades – so you can use it once and not worry about finding a recycling bin!”

“Cardboard cups can’t hold heat!  Nevermind that reheating your coffee in a polystyrene cup will lead to styrene leaching into your body!  Some studies suggest that despite detrimental health effects, styrene in food can be a flavor enhancer!”

As we rolled into our next meeting, i found myself in the back of the room while my guest performed like the expensive circus pony i paid him to be… In my hand?  A foam cup half full of cold, bad coffee. And an ink pen…

???????????????????????????????What is an incomplete truth?  It is a lie.

The Telephone Game

Remember The Telephone Game?  You probably played it when you were a kid…  Stand in a line, and the first person whispers a phrase to the next.  The words are repeated down the line, until the last person then says the phrase out loud.  

Everyone is amazed when the first guy says “What I said was….”.

Hilarity ensues.  Laughing at how twisted words become as they travel from mouth, through brain, to ears…

It also applies in the realm of parental communication.  When The Boy was about four years old, he was enthusiastically jabbing The Girl with a fork at the dinner table.  i said “Stop jabbing your sister with the fork, or i will put you in time out.”

The Boy nodded, and immediately turned to his sister and resumed jabbing.  She howled with indignation, making damn sure i noticed.

daisyfae [grabbing The Boy’s arm to cease the carnage]:  What did i say?

The Boy [tearfully]:  You’re going to put me in time out.

We tried again.  i said “Stop jabbing your sister with the fork, or i will put you in time out.”  But this time?  i asked him to echo my words back to me.

daisyfae:  What did i say?

The Boy [pouting]: You’re going to put me in time out.

Eventually we got there, no blood was spilled in the broccoli that night, and i learned an effective communication mechanism for important messages: Ask them to repeat it back to me.  

Turns out, this is also a useful communication method with whiney-assed men with PhD’s in theoretical physics.

daisyfae: i made the decision to install the new x-ray spectrometer in the lab in the other building.  You will still be able to get your work in the queue, but as part of the long-term plan, it better serves the entire branch.  Do you understand?

Whiney-assed PhD:  You’re taking away my equipment and I can’t get my stuff x-rayed. [storms off to write pointed e-mail]

The implications outside the workplace, however, are far less entertaining…

What was said: “I am not interested in an exclusive relationship.”

What was meant: “I am not interested in an exclusive relationship.”

What was heard: “I am not interested in an exclusive relationship because I haven’t met the right person yet…”

What was said in response to this statement:  “I understand.  I don’t want an exclusive relationship either.”

What was meant: “That’s because you haven’t gotten to know me yet!  Let me in, and I can change your mind!”

What was heard: “I understand.  I don’t want an exclusive relationship either.”

Is it condescending to ask a companion “What did i just say?” when delivering an important message?  Or is it better to run, not walk, to the nearest exit at the first signs of crazy?