Friar Versus The Anti-Christ

Ahhh…the Anti-Chirst. 

Who’d have thought such a simple assembly of Plexiglas and copper could be so devious and evil?  

If you saw it, you woudlnt’ think there was much to it.  

It  was basically a long rectangular-shaped pipe with two copper pieces embedded in two of the opposite walls. 

The purpose of the Anti-Christ was to measure the rates of mass transfer under conditions of forced and natural convection with applied thermal gradients.   

In English, this meant pumping  some acidic copper solution through it, and applying  a voltage across the copper plates.  This would cause some copper to deposit the negatively-charged plate.   

You’d measure the rate of copper deposition as a function of fast the solution was flowing through the pipe, and how hot you decided to make one of the copper plates.

This was my thesis project for my Masters’ degree..

Sounds simple, yes?  

Yeahhh…right. 

The Anti-Christ made my existence miserable for the better part of two years.  

************************************

CHAPTER ONE:   The Early Battles

I wasn’t responsible for the Anti-Christ’s  creation.  It was already there when I started my degree.   

It was a piece of crap and leaked like a sonnavabitch.   I inherited it and it was my job to make it work.

Imagine trying to measure flow-rates, temperatures, voltage, and current simultaneously,  in a way that had never been done before.   From scratch, with 1987 technology.  

With an absentee supervisor who didnt’ give a flying fox-fart about what you did, and who had very little funding to buy any decent equipment.

I can’t begin to tell you the long nights, evenings, weekends I spent scrounging parts, salvaging, begging, borrowing or stealing.   Patching, fixing, drilling, repairing.    Assembling computer boards, thermocouples, flow-meters, writing code and patching leaks with epoxy. 

The anti-Christ fought back.   Acid leaked.  Electrical connections corroded.   Clothes got ruined.   Instruments failed. 

I accidentally destroyed a $1000 immersion heater when it fell in a bucket of water. 

I distinctly remember the acrid yellow smoke when I tried to plug it in again.

Meanwhile my useless-as-tits-on-bull supervisor, Perfessor Finster, was off to Japan or God knows where.   Several months would go by before he’d literally set foot in the lab.  

Sorry about the water heater, though.

(Well, not really.)

******************************************

CHAPTER TWO:  Year One

I was still fighting the AntiChrist.   I had yet to generate a single data point that could go in my thesis.  

And I was starting to shit bricks, because eventually my funding would run out, and I’d be sent home.   

So I put in the extra time, and worked to the point of exhaustion,  putting in late nights and weekends.  

 And I started to make stupid mistakes.    Looking back, some days, it would have been better to just STAY HOME.

Like the time I heard what sounded like a sudden CLAP! and saw smoke pouring from a power supply.    

In my sleep-deprived state, I had hooked up an input to an output, and had inadvertently fried the $4000  sucker.

This was $4000 in 1987 dollars, mind you.

Sheepishly hiding the destroyed instrument in the basement,  I managed to salvage/borrow another cheaper one, and continued to forge ahead.

I dont’ think Perfesser Finster ever found out, to this day.   

But the Anti-Christ hissed with delight.

It was winning.

****************************************

CHAPTER THREE:  Now it gets Personal  

After 18 months, just to make things interesting, I decided to go skiing and tear my knee ligament.    

It took over 6 weeks of lying on the couch and physio to recover form the surgery.  

It was not an easy time.  But I was a good little worker bee, and I returned to work as soon as I could.

At that point, the Anti-Christ turned on me.    The bastard.

One afternoon, a hose-clamp blew, and 50 liters of acid spilled all over the lab.  

 I had to neutralize the mess with an acid spill-kit and spent the next few weeks cleaning up the lab.   Bending on my hands and knees, barely off crutches, and my atrophied leg held in place with knee-brace.

For years afterward, you could still see the footprints of my sneakers in the cement floor, where the acid had etched it.

Looking back, this was not one of the happier moments of my life.

Oh, by the way: still no data points.

********************************************

Chapter Four:   The Perfesser Intervenes

I was now down to just a few months left, before my funding got cut off.  

I basically spent most of my waking hours in the lab, trying my best to get all the widgets and gizmos working at the same time, before they fell apart or corroded with the acid.

So one day, the Perfessor finally decided to grant me an audience, and showed up in person.   

He asked what the problem is, why can’t I get the experiments to run?   

Nothing works, I told him.

Show me, he said.

So I did…I hooked up the connections, and, for the first time, in TWENTY MONTHS…the strip chart recorder jiggled, and I actually MEASURE something. 

For crying out loud.

It figures.

The ONE day this boson finally shows up, now everything works hunky-dory, like it’s supposed to? 

You.

Have got.   

To be.

Freaking.

Shitting Me.

Unconvinced, Perfessor Finster looked at me like I was some kind of idiot, and left the room. 

***********************************

Chapter Five:   The Final Battle

Well, now that all the planets and stars and karma were aligned,  and the Anti-Christ was up and running,  it was time to start some experiments. 

And of course, I didn’t know if the Anti-Christ would run for one day, or one week,  so I treated every day like it was the last.

One of the first things I did was a marathon session, working around the clock, for 22 hours straight, running the Anti-Christ into the ground. 

I generated about half entire data on that one day.

The next month was a blur.  I continued the same pattern:  Waking at 10:00 AM.   Arriving at the lab at noon, and working till past midnight.    Over and over, ad infinitum.  It was my year without a summer.

But slowly, I was generating enough data points.   Though it was a race against time.

You see, the Anti-Christ was not pleased, and it putting up one final fight.   

 The hot acid was taking its toll.   Sealed leaked.   Thermocouples corroded.   Things were threatening to fall apart…but this time, for good.

There would be no second chance, there would be rebuilding and fixing  things.

Not to mention that once I had the data, I only had just two months to analyze it, and write a master’s thesis and submit it.

Who would win? 

Me, or the Anti-Christ?

It was going to be close…

***********************************

Chapther Six:  Aftermath

Fast-forward, a year later. 

I was in the parking lot in back of the Engineering building, it was a bright sunny day.   And I was holding the Anti-Christ in my hand.

Yes…I had won the battle.  

It had almost killed me, but I had completed my experiments, and everything had held together.   Just barely.   

I had submitted my thesis on time, defended it, and now the hard-cover bound copy was sitting in the library.   

I was working for the University again.     But not as a lowly grad student, but as a Research Engineer with another Professor.   With a three-year contract,  a decent full-time salary and benefits.

And one of my first jobs was to clean out my old lab with all of Perfesser Finster’s junk,  because that’s where our new Research Center would be located. 

 Funny how Life’s like that, sometimes.

Of course, Perfesser Finster (who was no longer my boss)  was telling me to hold onto the Anti-Christ, and store it somewhere safe.    Because  he might want to use it again.

Hah!   That piece of scrap?

As IF…!

No.   I had something else in mind.

Hefting the Anti-Christ in my hands to judge its weight, I tossed it into the air. 

For a split second, it hung there, ten feet above me.  

I can still see the shiny Plexiglas reflecting the sun, like dozens of diamond-like gems against the azure sky.

And then, gravity took it’s toll, and the Anti-Christ accelerated to the pavement.

I watched with pure, unadulterated glee as it went  

SMASH!!!

…into a million little pieces.

Ahhh.

It’s always good, when you get closure. .

 

 

 

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10 Comments on “Friar Versus The Anti-Christ”


  1. I had a similar anti-christ that was supposed to degum crude vegetable oil. It was a piece of shit (1989 technology) that I built with some test tubes & the leather runner from a treadle sewing machine.

    If, at breakfast, I poured milk in my glass and orange juice on my cereal, I opted for working in the library instead of the lab.

    Who the hell invented grad school?

  2. Kate Says:

    MOTH, who is also an engineer, read this and stated:
    “It’d be good to do the things you wanted to do and not have to do the things other people want you to do.”

  3. davinahaisell Says:

    Huh? Where’d everybody go? *She looks around & shrugs*; “Yep, this IS the Deep Friar blog.”

    I’m glad you explained the purpose of, the purpose of, the purpose of… the purpose of the Anti-Christ in English. Yes, that made it much clearer for me. LOL, I’m laughing at your typo: Chapther Six. Must have *something* to do with the aftermath. :-) Damn you’ve got stamina. That’s all I can say.

  4. davinahaisell Says:

    Arghhh… the whole effect of my comment has been lost. After my stuttering I carefully inserted the word *slap* and it’s been replaced with ellipses! Oh well. And my darn link isn’t working either.

  5. Kate Says:

    @ Davina, theyth all gone down to the pub and yes, the stamina thing is amazing. Mere mortals i.e. non-vikings, would’ve just got on a yacht to somewhere.

  6. Eyeteaguy Says:

    I had a computer like that once.

    I gave it to Brett and then he lost his mind.

    Shame really.

    Eyeteaguy

  7. Friar Says:

    @Canadian Army Wife

    I think everyone in their life, at one time or another, has experienced an Anti-Christ of their own. It takes on many forms.

    And who invented grad school?…. SADISTS!

    @Kate
    Well, there was a time, that I really WANTED to be a professor.

    Which was hard to do, unless you had advanced degrees.

    Hence the reason I put up with all that crap.

    The jury is still out, though, on whether grad school was a good career move, or not.

    @Davina
    Yeah, I dunno what’s going on. Not too many commenters lately. (Gee, I hope I’m not losing my touch).

    As for stamina, you’re right. Grad school is 80% stubborness…and 20% intelligence.

    @Kate
    I think the mere-mortal non-Vikings someetimes knew what they were doing…

    @Eyeteaguy

    I think Brett SOLD that machine to me!

    Nice, Brett. Really NICE.

  8. Friar's Mom Says:

    @ Wee Friar,

    Hmmm. Not many comments, and you wonder why?

    Your previous blog was about Silence, which inspired many.

    Stop, listen, and enjoy the peaceful Silence of the comments. It’s so loud you can hear it pulsating in your ears.

  9. Eyeteaguy Says:

    Actually the problem is that Friar’s has not mailed me my bonus cheque for the stunning year he had last year.

    And he has not signed the new contract with the new rate schedule and pay structure.

    The comments will return to their glorious levels once these small details are worked out.

    Eyelawyerguy

  10. Friar Says:

    @Friar’s Mom

    I dunno. Blogging is a popularity contest.

    Seems right now, people are more interested in reading tips on how to achieve your goals. Or simplify your life. Or achieve your goals to simplify your life.

    The flavor of the month will change, and I’ll be popular again. ;-)

    @Eyeteaguy

    The contract is in the mail. I assure you.


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