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Tell an embarrassing story about yourself  RSS feed

Jim Venolia
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My son got married at the beach. During the reception there were plastic utensils at the front of the food line. I grabbed a set and put them in my shirt pocket. At the end of the food line were plastic utensils. I grabbed some and used them.

Every fricken picture of me from that reception has a plastic knife, fork, and spoon prominently sticking out of my shirt pocket. Asked the (ex) wife, kid, bride, bride's family, etc, why they didn't tell me. "I thought you knew, it was typical you".

Ernest Friedman-Hill
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For a year between university and grad school, I was a programmer/lab tech at Yale Medical School. Half-time I wrote data-collection software, and half-time I was a wet bench tech, growing colonies of bacteria, extracting proteins, running electophoresis gels, etc. I was a chemistry major at university so I had some appropriate background, but most of the things I was doing were completely new to me.

One thing I had to do was put bacterial cultures into a centrifuge to extract the actual bacteria. The heart of one of these ultra-centrifuges is the rotor, a big, heavy solid frustrum of metal, with a bolted-down lid; inside the lid are form-fitting chambers for the special disposable sample tubes. The rotor sits in a vacuum chamber, because drag from air would slow it down. These centrifuges could spin at 20,000 rpm or more, so getting them exactly balanced was important. Big heavy stuff, but very delicate.

Anyway, there are a number of different kinds of sample tubes: glass, polypropylene, Nalgene, etc. So one of the first times I did this, I selected a nice matched set of glass sample tubes. I carefully fill them up, put them in the rotor, bolt the top down, put it in the chamber, pump it down, and start it spinning up. I hear


which is really not what you want to hear.

I was unfortunately unaware of one extremely important fact: glass centrifuge tubes can't handle 20,000 rpms. In fact, I don't think they can handle 5,000 rpm. Despite the fact that the tubes were exactly the same dimensions, the glass tubes should never go in the ultracentrifuge -- they are just for the plain old wimpy low-speed centrifuge (there's a lesson in there for software engineers about strong typing).

Anyway, the glass tubes shattered and were pulverized into dust from the force, freeing their contents, as you can imagine. The fragments permanently scratched and destroyed the rotor, and the bacteria contaminated it; thank goodness the seal on the lid held, and the whole machine wasn't contaminated.

Word of my deed spread far and wide. About a month later, at a department meeting, I was presented with the rotor, cleaned up and painted shiny gold with spray paint, along with a certificate: "This GOLDEN ROTOR AWARD is presented to... yadda yadda... blazing new trails... yadda yadda... singular creativity..." etc. From that day on, every time somebody screwed up, techs, students, or post-docs, the Rotor would get passed on. It sat on many a desk that year!

Copied from an old thread here: http://www.coderanch.com/forums/posts/list/440374#1964274

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