When it rains, it pours...
Anyway. So things were running mostly ok at the beginning of last week. The graphite furnace is a pile of crap either way, so when things are running at all it's a happy sort of thing.
Wednesday I was wanting to spend a little extra time at work because I had to leave early on Monday and I have to work so many hours each week, so when I got in in the morning I pretty much killed time for an hour before I even started prepping the samples. I worked at a pretty leisurely pace all day, and after I finished all my work on the graphite furnace I got ready to do mercury. I turned on the instrument and let it warm up, and then I got set up and started the program and it was all, "No. Not today. I'm not communicating with the instrument. Sucks to be you."
Ugh. The last time this happened it was because the IEEE computer chippy thingie was dead, and it was quite an ordeal to get a replacement, so I was a little worried.
My boss called the repair dudes and they said they couldn't come until the next day (since I had killed time all day and it was actually quite late in the repair man time zone). So, I cleaned up and went home (early, even after all my efforts at being slow).
The next day (Thursday), we had absolutely no idea what time they were going to be able to come out, so I just went about my day normally and got all my other stuff done. I got lead to run normally, and about 1/3 of my arsenic samples, and then the graphite furnace made a funny noise and a clunk and stopped working. So, I took it apart (again) and found the problem and fixed it and cleaned it out and replaced a part and we were back on our way. BUT, then, it wouldn't calibrate. And again. And again. I tried to get it to work for two whole freaking hours. No luck. It was now 3:45, and I was supposed to leave at 3:30, so I decided to give it up for the night and try again in the morning (sometimes this happens and it works inexplicably in the morning with no changes or modifications)(I swear it's haunted). Rod (repair dude) showed up at this time and started fiddling with the other instrument, and I just told him to leave me a sticky note so when I got there in the morning I would know whether it was fixed or not.
You know, it's nice not having to bring work home with me. I can just go home and not worry about anything until the next morning.
So in the morning on Friday I went in, and the sticky note said that there was a part that needed to be replaced, and he would look around and see if he could find one. This was disconcerting, because the instrument is obsolete and parts for it are few and far between, and if this thing kicks the bucket we will have to replace it somehow, and seeing as we just bought a brand spanking new ICP-MS with a collision cell, that would reeeeealy strain the budget.
So I once again went about my day and got everything else started. Just as I predicted, I started up the arsenic samples from Thursday and it worked perfectly. So at least there was something good.
Then, I went to start up my FTIR computer to run a sample on it and the little light came on, but the computer just went whiiirrrrrr, whiiiirrrrr, whiiirrrrr and didn't do anything else.
ARE YOU SERIOUS?
So I made an appointment for Tim to come take a look at the computer around 1:00. I hurried to get everything finished on the furnace before he got there (the FTIR and the furnace use the same monitor, keyboard, and mouse). Fortunately, he was running late and wasn't there until 3:00 so I was able to finish before he got there.
Rod got there about the same time as Tim, and they were actually helping each other with their respective problems. I had extra samples to prep so I was going to be there for quite a while anyway, so I just hung out with them while they were working.
Tim mostly figured out what was wrong, and was running around like crazy trying to find parts and such and in the end he decided he had to come back on Monday morning to fix it.
Rod tried replacing parts and splicing stuff together and was getting really inconsistent results, and he all but gave up unless the problem was a bad cord, and he planned on coming back Monday around noon to see if a new cord would take care of the problem.
So this morning Tim came by and set up a computer, and was trying to get it set up and it just Would. Not. Go. He fiddled around with it for a few hours and then had to leave to take care of some personal stuff and said he would be back again around 1:00. It ended up being around 2:00, and he had it fixed and finished by 3:00 and I was able to run the pile of samples that had accumulated while it was down.
One down, one to go.
Rod was supposed to be there around noon today, but he was late as well, so got there around 1:30. He worked on it for four hours, I am not even kidding. He took it apart, and put it back together, and did it all over again, and did the Hokey Pokey and apparently that was NOT what it was all about and at 6:00 (I was off at 3:00 normally, yay overtime) he gave up and in the morning I have to tell Ryan we are broken.
I talked to my boss's boss today and asked him, realistically, what would we do if it were unfixable. Basically, there is absolutely no way we can buy a new instrument this year, since we bought the new ICP-MS (still being installed, I can't wait). So we will have to wait until sometime next year.
In the meantime we have rigged our ICP-OES with a mercury method so we're not completely dead in the water, but our outside clients might not be ok with this...we'll see what happens.
Every day is a new adventure at work. Oh yes.
Did I mention that the power went out for 45 minutes on Friday and that my hot block stopped working today as well? Yep.