Phage Land

By James Shepherdson

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Did you know that Phage Hunting is a lot like Candy Land?  It’s true.  The first edition board even had soil sample acquisition themes:  in the photo below, little Alice and Bobby are rushing back to the lab, excited to enrich their first sample.  They took these out in later editions – something about being too confusing for the target audience – but purists like myself keep a first edition board handy so they can have the complete, unadulterated experience.

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Over the course of the semester, I had been drawing pretty decent cards and moving through my streaks and titers with relative ease, but I knew that I was going to have to get something to pull me ahead of the pack if I was going to win.  Secretly hoping for a Grandma Nutt card, I worked on finding my max-web plates in order to get an HTL.

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Fortunately, I had a breakthrough.  You see, I managed to get web plates straight from plating my MTL, no calculations required.  I was quite excited – this was just the lucky break I needed to pull into the lead!  If I could skip the web plate calculations, I could shave two or more turns off my overall progress, which might be enough to win.  I quickly made up my HTL, and diluted it to calculate the titer.  This was when disaster struck.

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That’s right.  Plumpy.  Remember him?  He’s that fatso chilling out right at the start of the board.  That’s right.  The start of the board.

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It turned out that my HTL plates were showing signs of two different plaque morphologies:  an indication of a mixed culture.  My MTL was thus also suspect, and I got sent all the way back to streaking.  Which I had last been doing at the START OF THE BOARD, way back in the beginning of October.

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A recent study published in the Journal of the North American Competitive Candy Land Players Association (to which I subscribe, being a member of one of the Mid-Atlantic leagues) showed that the amount of winning decreases dramatically with the amount of Plumpy.  But I haven’t given up.  I’m going to reach that Candy Castle, even if I’m the last one to do it, even if I have to come in every day to make it happen.  What matters is that there’s still a chance.  Besides, maybe I’ll draw Queen Frostine.

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[Editor’s Note:  This is a reworking of the presentation James gave on the day of our “Phage Olympics”, in which the phage genome to be sent out for DNA sequencing was selected.  Because he suffered contamination late in the game, James did not qualify for the Olympics.  By the end of the semester, however, James had reached Candy Castle.]

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