Strike 4/9/23

Memories with Richard Bleil

The police were on strike.  I was young at the time, so I’m guessing we’re talking mid ‘70’s.  But it was not a walk out.  Instead, they worked too hard. 

It was unlike any strike I have seen since.  They were pulling over motorists for the slightest infraction, and handing out tickets like water.  The goal was to overwhelm the court system, and they did just that.  On the news, every night they would report that, once again, the police used all available tickets.  As they were handing the tickets to the drivers, they would ask them to support the strike by keeping their court dates rather than just paying the fine.  The courts were so overwhelmed that they asked motorists to simply ignore the ticket, as they wouldn’t be held accountable for them.

It’s an amazing story of a cleverly conceived strike.  I guess we see it periodically, and it might well be why I’m not terribly liked when I work.  I have a strong work ethic, and like to keep myself busy when I can.  People who don’t want to work so hard don’t like this because they fear it will make them look bad, and, frankly, maybe it should. 

Speaking of tickets, on one of the large East coast cities, a man was a suspect in a horrendous rape case.  There was enough evidence that the investigators were certain of his guilt, but lacked sufficient evidence to secure a conviction.  Apparently, there was insufficient evidence to even secure a DNA sample, and he refused to give a sample voluntarily.  He moved out of the city to one on the west coast.  Because there was no murder, there was a statute of limitations.

As the statute of limitations approached, the investigators still didn’t have the evidence they needed for a warrant.  One of them looked into the suspect’s criminal records and noticed hundreds of dollars in unpaid parking tickets.  They put together a letter to the man, with a self-addressed pre-paid envelope and a letter stating that they’re simply trying to clear data from their computer system.  They offered to clear all of his tickets for a processing fee of around fifteen dollars.  Well, who could pass up an offer like that?  Of course, he took the deal, and voluntarily provided the police with the DNA evidence they needed to arrest and convict him when he licked the envelope.  I heard this as a true story, but I have no way to verify that.

I remember complaining about a former student of mine.  He was a major in my program, and was approaching graduation when I received a call from a company where he listed me as a reference.  So, I gave him a terrible reference.  I said to the caller that I wanted to give him a terrible recommendation and cannot tell them to hire him, because he’s a great worker, and I am trying to start my own business and want him to work for me.  Of course, he got the job.  Then lost it due to budget cuts.  Then was rehired when the company was bought out by another one.  Then lost that job due to budget cuts. 

Is there a point to this blog?  It doesn’t feel like it.  My mind is wandering as I’m waiting for my house guest to rouse, and I’m just spending time writing a new blog post. 

Another of my students took a job in a brand-new ethanol plant in their quality control lab.  The reality is that most people don’t realize when they need a chemist versus a biologist.  The company hired two students from the university to staff the lab, and figured they needed a biologist because fermentation is a biological process, but all of the instrumentation they used was chemical in nature because ethanol is a chemical.  They hired my student as the assistant to the biology student they hired.  Within a year, my student leapfrogged the biology student, and today she is working as a vice president (I believe) in the corporate office.  The last I heard; the biologist is still in the lab. 

My students were excessively successful for being such miserable failures.  I’ve written a couple of times that I never taught chemistry the way it’s usually taught.  They did receive all of the same information that any chemistry major would get anywhere in the country, but I emphasized understanding and independence over memorization because I’m a terrible teacher.  For example, when we discussed the amino acids that make up proteins, we focused on the properties of the amino acids and how to figure out what its function might be, but I never made my students memorize their names, symbols and structures as they do in other universities.  As a result, when my students took standardized exams, as they were required prior to graduation, they always scored very poorly.  But when they were working in industry, or went to graduate school, they were always incredibly successful.  That was actually my goal.  I always wanted their bosses and supervisors to think to themselves, “wait…where did s/he graduate from again?!?”


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