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It's all because teaching at The Institute has got into gear after the Christmas break and I'm back in charge of Third Year Food and Fermenation Microbiology aka F&F. We've got 5-6 weeks of isolating and characterising the bacteria that impact on our lives. After a month of food-spoiling Pseudomonas and another of food-making Lactic Acid Bacteria LABs, we're now getting down to Enterics - including Salmonella, Escherichia, Vibrio cholerae. All of these have a tendency to induce runs-in-the-family. The first day in any such venture is devoted to preparing petri-dishes [plates] full of colorful gloop that will either support or not support the growth of particular bacteria; or change colour in their presence. Ten students in the room, 5 media to prepare, 5 batches of plates for future use: work in pairs, so.
With two years of Institutional experience, I'm getting less terrified of the autoclave - the industrial pressure cooker that sterilises the media and so I make a point of handing off responsibility for loading, setting, timing and stopping it onto the students. Indeed I formally appoint each student in turn either Autoclave Liaison Officer ALO or Assistant ALO AALO; sounds like a sit-com. Everyone wants to get through this infrastructural plate-pouring necessity as quickly as possible - the exciting stuff happens next week when we start streaking samples out and analysing the results. When the autoclave has been through its 15 minute sterilisation cycle, the bottles of agar are ready to pour but still piping hot, so you need gloves to lift the bottles out . . . or wait 30 minutes for the cool-down. There is drawer in the lab marked [heat-resistant gloves] and there are 6 or 7 hefty industrial-quality leather gloves in there but only one will fit a right-hand. Our students are no more cacky-handed than the general population, so this asymmetry of supply is not to accommodate them. It's because the right-hand gloves of each pair bought has been worn-out through use, turned ragged and thrown away. That's about right: 10% of people are southpaws, citeog, лівша, sinistrorso [It. note the similarity to our sinister], gauche [Fr. another loan-word in English with neg. assoc.]. Indeed, almost all languages diss the left-hand of darkness and associate left-handers with clumsiness, stupidity or consorting with the devil; except Greek where αριστερόχειρας means elite-handed from the same root as our aristocracy. Hmmm, that's interesting.
ANNyway, if you, Dr Left, have a drawer full of surplus-to-requirement right-hand heat-resistant gloves, don't put them up on e-bay. We'll swap as many left-hand gloves for your righties and we'll pay the postage . . . both ways. It's going to be easier than I thought: there is a trade where the left-glove wears out quicker that the right - welding. So much so that you can buy a left+left pair of welding gloves [L!]. It's going to be much easier to find a welder than a left-handed microbiologist.
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