Friday, February 12, 2010

The hazards of being a scientist

As a graduate student, I do a lot of writing. And when I do mathematics, I really like begin able to write in multiple colors; it helps me see different parts of equations, or pick out particular variables, or make clear thought-graphs. My favorite pens for the last several years have been this kind:

I can get them in packs of 5 or 6 different colors, they're great. Lots of ink, they last a long long time. (Tiny caveat/caution - I no longer take these with me on plane trips to conferences, etc, as the change in air pressure seems to cause them to leak more often than not).

However, as I learned the other day, it's a very bad idea to say, absent mindedly place one of the red pens in your pocket without putting the cap on it first. About halfway through the day I noticed a huge red splotch on the side of my pants. (Not being cool enough/well dressed enough to wear a shirt with pockets on a regular basis, and not having found a pocket protector made for pants, I often carry my pens unprotected in my pants pocket). About half a reservoir's worth of red ink had soaked into my jeans. A stack of paper towels later, I was able to absorb enough of it to not risk staining anything else. But I had to spend the rest of the day walking around looking like my leg was gravely wounded.

The side of my leg is still pink, although I've had some success getting the stain out of my pants surprisingly. I let them soak overnight after rubbing in a baking soda paste, and then washed them with some oxyclean. The next time around, I figured that if baking soda paste worked well, then things could only improve if I rubbed in some baking soda paste and then dumped some vinegar on the stain. I mean, who knows, right? That was always the best course of action back when I was a practicing kitchen scientist. And I have vague notions that maybe the CO2 production will bubble through the fabric and release the ink somehow. Probably crazy... but it sure was fun to mix the two together again!

So, the moral(s) of this story:

1) Always use protection.
2) When in doubt, use vinegar and baking soda.
3) Maybe remember to put pen caps on before jamming pens into your pocket.

Theo out.

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