I stood in my new office and looked around. Everything was big. The room was big, the white board was big, the bookcases (and their number) were big, my desk was big and my desktop computer was big.
Then there was me in the middle wearing jeans and a baggy 'grape Fanta' sweater. Ho hum.
Until last week I had been sharing an office. While slightly unusual for a faculty member, I had not minded the situation. My office mate was friendly, spoke great English and --perhaps more to the point-- was never there. He was involved in the design and construction of astronomical instruments and spent most of his time at various observing sites preparing his mechanical off-spring for their deployment.
Unless observational astronomers are vastly different from their theoretical counterparts, I could see why getting a new instrument to the stage it could be safely left was a prolonged process.
The previous owner of this office had retired. In academia speak, this meant he had accumulated the addition of 'emeritus' to his professor title and moved to a different building. As I examined what had been left in the drawers and cabinets, I wondered if retirement happened through choice or was something that was foisted upon you once your office contained a critical number of floppy disks. By the time it is my turn, that unit of measurement will probably be USB thumb drives.
In addition to the large box of floppies, I discovered a collection of astrophysics books in Japanese and a variety of small magnets of the type used to pin cards and notes to metal surfaces. I picked one up and attached a card to my white board. There. Much more homely.
Most of these magnets were a standard round shape in a solid colour such as blue or red. However, two were shaped as pink hearts and four were miniature lady birds. I raised an eyebrow.
When a couple of students rolled into my office, I pointed out these surprisingly aesthetic additions. The ladybirds were promptly stacked on top of each other and attached, pointing outwards, to my board. It looked like an erect org--- Well, never mind.
"In Japanese, we say 'tentoumushi'. 'Mushi' means 'bug'." I was told. "What are they in English?"
"Ladybirds," I supplied. "In UK English, 'Ladybird' and in US English 'Ladybug'."
"Bird?" came the surprised retort. "But they are not birds, they are bugs!"
I opened my mouth and then closed it. Then I scratched my head and examined the magnets. "Look, " I said at last. "It doesn't happen often, but sometimes the Americans get it right."
"And why lady? They are not ladies!"
I scowled. "Because ladies are pretty and delicate unlike boys."
Sometimes, even professors need to resort to school-yard insults.