Sunday, January 15, 2006

So my few but loyal constituents tell me they enjoyed the earlier blog entry involving the unhappy combination of bleach and zebrafish...

...and that means it's time I set up a little FAQ portion of my blog to address the vast multitude of questions any of you may have regarding my "profession" as a part-time LTE lab animal technician research caretaker fish-feeding type support staff ... man.

> Matthew, what do you wear while performing your various crucial duties as whatever the fuck it is that you are?

The sensitive nature of my position requires me to wear a fashionable set of light blue, heavily stained scrubs (shirt size XL; pant size LT) that are cleaned on a weekly to bi-weekly basis. This enables me to look far more important than I really am.

> And do you look quite dashing in your scrubs?

You know it, baby.

> Do these scrubs have any positive effect on your intelligence?

Unfortunately, while successfully conveying the impression of a determined, intelligent young hospital resident, my scrubs contain no actual proven intellect-building abilities. Their true purpose, in fact, seems to be to alert other members of the biomedical facility that I am the lowest common denominator in the scientific community, and that great care must be taken when passing me in the halls as I am likely to start drooling and bumping repeatedly into a section of wall.

> What kind of precautions do you take upon entering the lab area?

A brisk, obsessive-compulsive hand-washing session and the donning of an uncomfortable pair of latex gloves (size Large, ladies) is required before any fish handling can be done. The brand of latex gloves favored by our biomedical lab is Evolution One -- chosen, one assumes, to keep uncooperative and potentially disruptive creationists at bay. While practical in theory, I don't think has proven terribly effective as my lab manager happens to be a missionary. In his eyes (I unfairly imagine), all of our rows upon rows of complacent, glassy-eyed zebrafish are descended from the single pair of Danios hauled onboard the Ark. If this were indeed the case, the sheer mind-boggling levels of inbreeding that would have ensued in the years following the Flood might account for the breathtaking level of stupidity exhibited by your simple modern-day zebrafish.

> While we're on the topic of zebrafish, what exactly is its preferred scientific name?

For many years, the scientific name Brachydanio rerio was used in all ichthyological circles to refer to the common zebrafish. This all changed at the revolutionary Zebrafish Meeting of 1993 at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where the world was rocked on its very foundations as a consensus vote suggested that Danio rerio should be used in its place.

That there exists in the world something known as "The Zebrafish Meeting" makes me very, very sad, indeed.

> Who are you to judge? Don't you own a rather extensive collection of Jabba the Hutt memorabilia?


> Right then. So, what is it like to work with actual science-type sorts?

If it is at all possible, find yourself a job which ensures that you will have scientists as your superiors. Polite yet driven, they are never concerned with quarterly sales or the bottom line or "thinking outside the box." They are mostly concerned with things like keeping the water at a consistent temperature and replenishing the vinegar eel stock and er, *ahem*, not bleaching the fish. Despite being ever-so-slightly socially awkward, science types are extremely likable and agreeable folks ... provided you don't fuck with their experiments.

> And what kind of experiments take place at your facility?

I don't know.

> Excuse me?

I have no fucking idea. None.

> No, really. Come on. What do they do there?

I'm telling you, I know exactly as much about what goes on in the biomedical lab as you do. I feed the fish, I clean the tanks, I mix the E2 stock, I change out the columns and pumps, I check the water pH and conductivity, I feed out the vinegar eels and artemia ("brine shrimp" to you laypersons out there) and Paramecium ("Paramecium" to you laypersons out there), and I go home. I have absolutely no clue what kind of studies and experiments they conduct on any of the fish I help take care of. Seriously. I could be the unwitting, faceless henchman for some giant, global, James-Bond-villain type of evil empire for all I know. They could be splicing together the genes of rainbow trout and Dutch tourists in the subbasement while I'm innocently starting a load of beakers in the industrial-size dishwasher.

> Er, shouldn't that go against your code of ethics on some level?

You'd think it would, but I choose to feel that this adds a spice of adventure and mystery to my otherwise everyday drudgery. Also, I don't care.

> What about the poor animals? I thought you liked animals.

I do. But in this line of work, you eventually grow desensitized to the suffering of anything other and including yourself.

> And how long did it take you to get desensitized?

About three hours.

> Why only three hours?

Um, because they're just fucking fish.

> Are there any rooms you aren't allowed to enter?

Yes. Room D. That's "D," as in Dead zebrafish, or Diseased zebrafish, or Dissectable zebrafish. This is ... the Toxin Room [insert bone-chilling music here]. This room is generally kept under lock and key, except when grim-looking scientists are poking about in there. When this is the case, snivelling peons such as myself are warned away from this awe-inspiring sanctum by the use of several well-placed disapproving glances. So effective are these looks of stern disapprobation that I sincerely believe we'd be far better off on the Homeland Security front by surrounding our American borders with humorless geneticists ready to stare down their bespectacled noses at nosy no-goodniks.

> Do you work with any of the Babblers Three?

One Narcissist and one WYBMF. We also have a seasonal WYBMF and another who recently left the facility. All of them nice people. All of them drive me up the fucking wall.

> Soooo ... are they any hot science lady types at your institution?

Believe it or not, there is one uber-hottie who works with our facility... in an Information Technology capacity. Can you believe it? A gorgeous, perfectly-shaped, brunette mega-beauty who works with computers in a fucking science lab. I'm telling you, this is some serious 007-style shit I'm involved in here. Oh, and I just met this cute blonde chick who works for one of our grumpier scientists. This scientist's crotchety demeanor is made all the more perplexing when you take into account the mesmerizing firmness of his assistant's ass.

> Aren't you married?

Well, you asked.

> Okay, any co-workers who stand out in particular?

My good buddy "Grubs." She started at the same time I did and is right around my age and humor level, so we share all kinds of in-jokes and ruthless mockery. She does some eerily accurate impressions of our bosses, too. Oh, and she's single and not entirely difficult to look at, fellas, so let me know if you're creepy and interested, you desperate losers.

> So, about the zebrafish...


> *sigh* What about the zebrafish?

Oh, right. Contrary to popular belief, the zebrafish's common name does not derive from the fact that it is a fish in the shape of a miniature horse. Instead, the zebrafish is named in honor of the stripes it bears.

> Really? So zebrafish are black-and-white, then?

Er, no. Actually, they are generally blue and gold. And sometimes green. Or gray. Or pink. Or white.

> Oh. But their stripes are vertical like a zebra's, right?

Um, actually, the stripes are horizontal.

> I see. Well, at least they've got stripes, though.

Uhhh, actually, not all of them are striped.

> ...

Look, I didn't name them. I just feed the damn things.

> What else can you tell us about zebrafish?

Dealing with zebrafish requires a steady hand and a quick mind. Actually, it requires neither of these things. A pulse is really the only prerequisite when dealing with such monumentally dense creatures. And not even a strong pulse, at that. The first thing you need to know when working with zebrafish is how to distinguish the dead ones from the live ones. For reference, here is a picture of a live zebrafish:


Now, here is a picture of a dead zebrafish:


As you can see, the differences are fairly subtle. In any case, one should always keep one very salient fact in mind when working with members of the Danio species: They are mind-blowing idiots.

Yes, my apologies to all you piscean supporters out there, but I think I'm fully within the realms of reason to state, unapologetically, that fish are morons. Especially these fish. After all, it's not every animal that will leap to its certain doom as soon as the lid to its tank is removed. Honestly, if a gigantic, hyperintelligent alien species ever captured me, placed me in a safe container, and surrounded said container with hydrochloric acid, I'd like to think I'd be smart enough to accept the fact that my escape routes were effectively cut off. But not so with zebrafish. No, sir. The following is what I assume is going through a zebrafish's mind as I approach it during feeding time:

STUPID FUCKING ZEBRAFISH: Oh, boy, oh, boy! Here he comes! Sweet, glorious freedom, prepare to embrace me!

(MATTHEW lifts tank lid and thrusts feeding bottle towards the eager ZEBRAFISH)

STUPID FUCKING ZEBRAFISH (leaping out of tank): So long, suckers!

(ZEBRAFISH falls on floor and gasps for air as he slowly suffocates.)

STUPID FUCKING ZEBRAFISH: Hmm. It appears I hadn't thought this all the way through... _____________________________________________________________

A fun game to play with zebrafish is to turn on the hose that supplies them with fresh, running water full blast. The resultant flow pressure scatters the unsuspecting fish, causing them to frantically leap around and smack into one another. This 'game' is childish, cruel, unnecessary, and very, very funny.

> Jesus, Matthew, how old are you?

Um, a youthful and vigorous 24.

> Bullshit.

Fuck you.

> What should one do if they are ever attacked by a zebrafish?

This is an excellent question. If you are ever attacked by a zebrafish, the very first thing you need to do is consult a respected fish identification manual, because I can guarantee you that it wasn't a harmless zebrafish that bit you, you stupid asshole.

> Does your lab raise any other types of fish besides Danios?

Yes. We also keep a room full of fathead minnows and young lake and rainbow trout. We refer to the minnows as "fatheads" because they tend to be very full of themselves and only by pelting them mercilessly with insults can we possibly hope to keep their massive egos in check. They come in two varieties: the orange, which are pathetic cowards who cower at the rear of their tanks like little fucking babies, and the gray, which consume food like a herd of pregnant women at an Old Country Buffet.

We can tell apart the lake and rainbow trout species quite simply: the lake trout apparently prefer to live in lakes, and the rainbow trout are gay.

> Well, I think that wraps up most of our questions concerning your "job." One last thing... Exactly how many fish have been bleached to death since your starting date at the lab?

That's it. This FAQ session is over.

> Really? That many?

Go fuck yourself.

> Oh, come on. Can't you take a joke?

[Footsteps walking away. Door slamming. Silence.]

> You baby.


In closing, I fully expect to be reincarnated as a zebrafish as punishment for this entry.

CURRENT MOOD: Scratching myself.

SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION SECTION! Are you currently in the southeastern Wisconsin area and anxious to see Matthew appear as a man, a woman, and an androgyne? Well, you're sick, and in luck! Come check out the comedy "Sylvia" playing at Sunset Playhouse through the end of January 2006. More info at

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Blogger jeremyf said...

that was freakin hilarious.

6:58 PM  
Blogger The Fourth Earl of Excelor said...

Good luck with the play Sir!

7:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an incredibly fascinating position of authority you have. All of those zebra fish whose lives depend on you. ?All those lives hang in the balance every day. Not since the times of Caesar have so many lives been dependent on one man. It must of taken a life times experience to achieve this august position. The waiting list must be longer than the waiting list for Green Bay Packer tickets. Who did you have to kill to get it.
But then again, their only zebra fish.

You were great in “Sylvia”. Break a leg.

Sgt Mellors

7:22 PM  
Anonymous Maria said...

Totally loving your ramblings.

4:14 PM  

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