Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Powers of Ten

The always impressive ScienceWoman
delivered a pleasant challenge to start the day:

Thinking Ahead:

In 10 minutes: I will be on my way to the gym.

In 10 hours: I will be sprinting across campus (along with many campus parents-like schoolkids trying to get to class before the morning bell) to pick up my son before his cost inflates to $2/minute. Hopefully I’ll have turned around a paper in the meantime.

In 10 days: I will be celebrating a first-of-prime-number-twins birthday. Celebrating hard.

In 10 weeks: I will have submitted a proposal and (if my totally unreasonable to-do list actually gets accomplished) four papers.

In 10 months: I will either have tenure or a whole new lease on life.

In 10 years I hope I will be: either very Big, or very happy Not Being Big.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Friday night dinner report

So the other week, my postdoc gave me a look that could only mean:

“We’ve all been working hard here in the lab, and have produced some really cool data. You’re the advisor, and it’s your job to have us over to your home and feed us lots of good and homemade food.”

and I know that it was time to have Friday Night Dinner: Special Research Group Edition.

That was last Friday.

Us: EarlyToBed, LateToBed, and BedHater
Usuals: Lor, Nik & Nora & baby Egbert (now a bigger version than before!)
New Department Colleagues: Inge and Alfred
Postdoc, GradStudent and SO.

Assorted middle eastern appetizers with toast not-too-burnt
Chicken Adobo (devoured)
Lamb chops over a hot fire
Whole grain rice
Deconstructed Vietnamese summer roll salad
Wine & Beer (LateToBed and I noticed that not a lot of drinking happened in this group)
S’mores made by BedHater
Ice cream with grape nuts & maple syrup

Such a big group ended up divided in two for much of the dinner, but there was much intermixing. I sat outside with Lor & research group. We talked about politics, Australia, med school, war. We caught each other up on the many seminars we have been seeing: Climate research, wine making, snow. Inge and I chatted about research overlaps and future co-teaching. As always, we discussed nautical equations and the gap between science and art. Postdoc revealed many talents (besides the lab data talent I already know about)—he blew bubbles colored with food coloring for BedHater; helped grill the lamb; and generally had a great time. He also entertained us with some awesome didgeridoo playing, followed by BedHater on the clarinet.

I got to take the afternoon off to cook, it was fun, and afterwards, I slept great.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Ridge Traverse

Over the last several years, between setting up a laboratory teaching/research program at a major university and raising a child, I have had few opportunities to take breaks, and fewer opportunities to participate in a lovely aspect of my academic culture, The Geology Field Trip.

So recently, for the first time in years, I packed my packsack (for two!) and my son and I hopped the ferry to Catalina Island, along with a score of Earth Scientists. It was a really nice field trip of the mellow variety—primitive camping, but the bus allowed us to bring in lots of gear. Dinners were huge plates of grilled meat and fresh salad. Daytime hikes were one-to-two milers, with lots of rockstops, lots of up and downs, and only a little bit of scrambling.

My son BedHater—at my side for three full days--was a microcosm. He exhilarated in the rock scrambles, but on the longer uphills, he drove me batty with his whining and crabbiness and aches. Downhills were joyous romps. On the flats, we conversed—about rocks and the Earth, about the vastness of the universe, about cortical development throughout childhood, about family, fears, friends.

He definitely gets it from me--the whiney uphills and glorious downhills. Being away for a few days gave me an opportunity to see that for many years I have mostly been hiking the uphill climb—sometimes steep, sometimes switchbacks, but always the difficult path.

And then I had one of my camping-trip insights. I saw clearly that my best option is to traverse the contour for a while: my opportunity to see how far I’ve come, to review what I have learned along the way, to see what parts of the path I’ve enjoyed, and what I haven’t. And to give my body and brain an active rest while I focus on evaluating the surrounding terrain.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Three nuggets of minor importance

Interaction 1:
I went to visit a faculty member in another department, Harold Smith. We had never met in person, but we had traded emails, and he had signed his “Harry”. I was looking for his office within the banks of faculty offices, and a person (male, a few years older than me perhaps) asked “Can I help you?” I responded “I’m looking for Harry’s office”. He replied “Do you mean Professor Smith?” “Yes”, I said. “Professor Smith”. Silence. “Sir” I added.

Interaction 2:
I ran into a colleague. We had talked a few months ago, and I have been meaning to follow-up with more discussion. “I wondered what that meant that I haven't heard from you” he said. And then simultaneously I said/he said “It’s just that I’m an oversubscribed assistant professor”/”I figured it’s because you’re married.” Or maybe I misheard, and he said “harried.” I'm more married than harried, but at least little bit of both.

Unsolicited advice for giving a job talk that I learned from a recent seminar
Showing pictures of your smiling (all female) research group, and acknowledging them = Good.
Pointing towards their vag1nas with the laser pointer as you are introducing each of them by name = Hilarious.