Heading Out

Seeking the winds that help to sail on Shakespeare's tide.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Class notes and Security

Well the morning largely was taken up by folk wandering into my office (the Administrator being ill) for guidance, in turn requiring that I wander off and view said problem, make decision and return to my desk, until I got wise and closed the door. This gave me space to complete the class material for the remaining CD and burn copies of the same. Then I carried the March set out to the outer office to have them mailed.

That was the productive part of the day, the rest was spent in meetings and visits trying to decide if we want to put swipe card access onto a building (or maybe two). Given that this will have to come out of funds I administer I suspect if it is to be consistent all that remains is to get consensus, find a vendor, decide on a system, order it, install it, and find the money to pay for it. On the other hand there has been a recommendation that we go bio-metric, which may be no more expensive.

This has not been a really good day and generally folk around are feeling definitely grumpy with the bad weather and the distant prospect of a break. I must confess to considerable depression.


Sunday, February 27, 2005

Ho, Hum, Ho, Hum

Only having seen "The Aviator" of this years top nominees, we were not all that impressed with the Oscars tonight, and it will be interesting to see if they have retained their attraction to the viewer.

This has been a frustrating weekend, went to the office yesterday to burn CD's for the class and had forgotten my keys, so had to call to be let in. Then, while cleaning up the material and burning the lectures, could not do a whole lot, so that it felt almost as though I had wasted the day. The Actress was at a benefit last night in memory of a local friend who had died, So we did not eat until late. Then I got into "The Compass Rose" by Gail Dayton and read it too far into the night.

Today Mum sounded much better, having been taken out for the first time this year, to shop and eat and have a day out with the Traveller. He, alas, is having severe problems with hip and knee due to our family friend Arthur. With the snow that they have had over there it cannot have been that easy to get around.

Well the needle went as I tried to transcribe the last hour of Parsifal, so until I can work out how to get it out and where I might get a replacement I have to switch from trnasferring LP's to importing the three drawers of tapes that have been amassing dust.

I should have left today for a professional meeting, but I decided to give it a miss this year. Been too often and there is too much else to do. We will be trained on the toy this week, and I need to talk with the Michigan folk about a contract extension, and must attend a meeting on what we are doing for the folk in Ohio, as well as getting some data for the folk in Oklahoma. And there are still two more CD's to prepare and then all those copies to run.

I am working to try and learn Poser and Vue d'espirit, but the laptop was tied up today with the music transfer, and there was just not enough energy in the ethos to get much moving. I think that this has always been a down time as we are too far into the semester to have kept the initial enthusiasm and yet too far from the end to begin to get that sense of relief that comes when the end of semester activities start. Although, speaking of which, I have to account for how we intend spending all the funds in the significant number of accounts for which I sign, by the middle of the week. Well I don't think I will be bored.


Friday, February 25, 2005

The old ferret's meme

Having mischievously meandered through others blogs over the past few days commenting on their "Things I have done. that you probably haven't" including profgrrrl , New Kid and conversely at blogs such as In favor of thinking , there is this itchy feeling to submit one's own list. So being the old ferret that I am, here it is:

1) Running through the snow wearing a Lapp hat and shorts while blowing a trumpet to illustrate a dead-beat’s dream for a film.
2) Having an ex-student promise a case of beer to each of his team if they created a production record during your visit.
3) Drinking six different varieties of Earl Grey tea in 3 months.
4) Drinking a glass of all the vodkas of Poland in a single evening.
5) Having sex under a bush in a public park during daylight
6) Attending the 50th anniversary celebration of the Pope’s ordination at the Vatican.
7) Buying a fake Gurkha kukri in the bazaar in Kathmandu.
8) Having your two kids treated as movie stars in Central China because there were two of them and because they were American.
9) Playing tennis in the snow north of the Arctic Circle in September.
10) Walking through a zoo in formal morning dress.

I thought about adding = wearing a kilt in Times Square at New Years, but that would get into the conversation I had with an adjacent couple about who was wearing what underneath.


Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Oil & Ignorance

I am, I suppose, somewhat surprised and increasingly disillusioned about the knowledge of our stock market advisors, as the oil problems continue to become more evident. I have mentioned before the very negative suggestions that I got when I finally decided to put some of the retirement funds into buying a small amount of oil company stock, from a local broker. It was not until it had gone up more than 20% from when I originally suggested to him that I buy a little, that he thought that it might be better to buy than to sell. Now I see Kevin Drum quoting Morgan Stanley that maybe oil prices will go higher this year, and only get back down to around $35 a barrel perhaps in 2006. Perhaps they can't do arithmetic, maybe they never read Dickens, whatever the excuse I must confess that the word "financial advisor' is very rapidly losing the gilt it might once have carried.

Rumor has it there will be 13,000 folk meandering around the Opryland Exhibit Halls tomorrow. Well I guess with a 3 pm flight and a 9 am start I am going to have to walk fast to see all the exhibits, which also this year have stretched out into one of the parking lots. And given that the couple in the next room are still quite active - even as I write - perhaps I should grab some sleep when I can.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Blue Bandage

After the Admin meeting this morning where we discussed improving PR and ways to better sell our message it was time to get ready for a couple of days elsewhere. However it was not possible to get the exam grades out since one of the class just informed me that it was not convenient to send in his answers. And another fails to respond to e-mails. Ah me, the joys of distance learning. Did not have time to sort it out.

So now I am ensconced at a hotel for a meeting on the morrow and a wander around the halls of the Opryland Convention Center on Thursday. Leaving to go out to dinner I sliced into the end of my finger with my razor accidentally. The hotel supplied a blue bandaid, which drew several comments at dinner. It also makes typing this a right pain, in the figurative sense, since the finger sliced is the left index. Have therefore stopped trying to learn Poser 5, which I had been looking forward to as an evening's entertainment, and will head off to an early bed, hoping that the next room have now got it out of their system. I did get to give a blond a mohawk, so I suppose I passed the first lesson.


Monday, February 21, 2005

Historical Notes

It's strange how unexpected information can give insights on your own relatives. I bought the CD "Gentle Giants" which is an album of songs about Clydesdales. In the notes it comments that Clydesdales required a real man to control them (as opposed to Shires that could be led by a child). It then went on to mention that in the villages of Scotland in the late 1800's the top job in the village would be the plowman. He was the one that controlled and looked after the plowing horses. As a result he was one of the wealthier men in the village and a "top catch" for the girls as a result. This caught me by surprise. On one side my mother's family were of one of the historic blacksmith families of South West Scotland. On the other side my Grandmother's father was a well respected ploughman. I had not realized the stature of the job, and why he might have kept it rather than going back to the family farm. Now perhaps I have that insight.

In our more mundane world I talked to Mum yesterday and she was in the middle of a blizzard. She sounded slightly out of it, and did not follow the thread of conversation well. Her neighbor across the hall went into hospital on Friday, and is not expected to return. I need to get over there before too long.

On another note at a meeting today one of the faculty wives talked about her upbringing in a concentration camp in Poland after the war. Her mother was German and the tale of her treatment (she was 23 when she went in), was disturbing. Eventually after getting to East Germany the family was re-united and came to America. The dry words about sexual abuse and beatings were very moving coming from her daughter who grew from 1 to 5 in those circumstances.


Friday, February 18, 2005

Should we give up such days

For the first time in a fortnight I got back to exercising today, before going in to work. The experiments to support the proposal went very well, though again because we used a digital video rather than the single frame camera. We have a Sony 3 CCD camera that creates single frames of adequate quality for pictures, and it is a no-brainer to connect it into the Mac and download into iMovie. So 5 minutes after a test we can step it through, frame by frame, and see exactly what happened. And today that produced an answer.

Then the other side of the Administrative life, one of the faculty dropped by to discuss a problem. Maybe an hour later we were talked out - its what we do, but get no grade or recognition for. He is a significant asset to our campus, but has problems in his Department. I listen, make some encouraging noises, but in the main let him work out an answer. He just needed to know someone cared, and I showed I did, as I really do. It seemed to be, hopefully, enough.

The caveat to that is that earlier in the week a mentee that is now elsewhere called for similar support. While I gave it, finding an hour in my life for past faculty is a bit of a stretch.

But then our Michigan friends e-mailed to ask for a quote for follow-on work, and we did get that extension from our friends in Canada, meaning two new efforts starting this week.

And home - the Actress played at the wedding of a couple he 93, she 85, in a nursing home this afternoon. Given that he has buried three wives, it is not an example I hope to emulate, but certainly a message of happiness in this Valentine's Week. They are off on a honeymoon at an undisclosed location this evening.


Thursday, February 17, 2005

The (oil) plot thickens

There is an interesting article in The Houston Chronicle dealing with a possible way forward on oil supply and refinement. It may initially seem as though its a good deal, but it carries a caveat.

The Venezuelan oil company PDVSA owns Citgo which operates refineries along the Gulf Coast that can refine the heavy crudes from Venezuela. At present the Venezuelan Government would like to sell more of its crude to China. Concurrently the Saudi oil supply includes about 1 million barrels a day (mbd) of a heavy crude that they are having problems marketing since it requires special refineries, such as the CITGO ones that are currently fully committed to the PDVSA. So if the Saudi's bought the refineries they could displace the South American crude with their own and sell a problem asset. The Venezuelan oil could then be sold to their more politically correct customers in China (providing they can produce the refineries of the right type). So it could be a win-win situation. The alternative, as the article points out, is for the Saudi to build more of their own refineries in country.

Lest you think this might get us off the hook, unfortunately it merely provides a way of absorbing and using the "sixpence" that is the last remaining 1 to 1.5 mbd of oil that sits between available supply and rising demand. There seem to be more articles pointing out that it is unlikely that oil will drop below $40 again. And OPEC are still talking of reducing supply in a couple of months. It should be noted also that since those refineries are currently running at about full capacity, and are not increasing it, there is no net increase in oil supply to the US, the increase ends up going to China.


Following Instructions

Courtesy of Dr. Crazy.
1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don't search around and look for the "coolest" book you can find. Do what's actually next to you.

The, ah, expedition to the Capefang Mountains leaves in a week, so we should have more than enough time to have you riding like an old hand by then.
from "Glass Dragons" by Sean McMullen.


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Not a typical day

Still feeling groggy, but the world must turn, and so in for my first meeting at 8:30 am. We have solved the parking issue so I can now park for that hour next to the Admin office where we meet. Of the six administrators at the meeting it transpires that over half are on blood pressure medication. Otherwise not much of note.

Back for 30 minutes of e-mail and it was time for a safety meeting on the new toy, that took until lunch-time. Spent lunch catching up on monthly reports that were due, and then back to conclude the work with the toy. Decided we will not play with it until the company expert comes down in two weeks, there are too many risks of things going wrong at this stage.

Worked with a student on a series of tests until it appeared that I was in the way, so quietly slip away - suddenly now remembering I was supposed to help her get a procedure carried out that did not work the last time it was tried. Oh, well we will try again tomorrow.

Then on to a meeting at 3 pm that went on until 4:15 when I realized that I was flat out of energy. Home therefore for a couple of hours before going out for a small celebration next door (the first time we had been in the house since it was built about 18 years ago). Very pleasant but had to leave early to rest. Remember now that I was also to post a test and the homework results table today - darn again.


Monday, February 14, 2005

Awake at last

Hmm! Well the lesson from Friday is that you should not go back to work too early with this latest bug. Was not in that good a shape by the end of the day and the weekend was sort of a relapse.

We had to go to a Choir Clinic out of town on Saturday and so tried using the Magellan. Unfortunately it had been sitting too long and had lost memory of where the satellites were. Since we were moving it was thus no help on the way up, but did get us back. I wish it would indicate the turns just a little sooner, but it did get us out of trouble a couple of times. We have still to master using it to find good dining places, however.

At least when we were at the clinic I could quietly act like a turnip for a few hours. But the weekend was largely non-productive. Even Mum is finding the days boring, and not much change. So I need to arrange to be over there at the end of next month.

Having been put back into musical mode I spent most of Sunday moving more LP's to the Mac, using the Griffin interface. It is relatively easy and allowed me to delete a stuck section on one track without much problem. So now there is more classical (mainly Chopin this weekend) available for the iPod. As well as sundry other stuff, including, by mail today, "Moishe's Bagel." Well maybe tomorrow I will listen to it.

Today the toy was first awakened and made her first small movements. Tomorrow, after the Admin meeting, we begin Safety training. I have a name for her, but not sure it is winning much acceptance. Happy Valentine's Day to all.


Thursday, February 10, 2005

The odd reward

Well if not the flu, the medical opinion is that is some sort of virus, so no breakfast and in for blood sampling in the morning - well at least it will get me out of the house early.
Jimbo mentions feeling perhaps the onset of middle age. I remember my forties as being more relaxed, though looking back I realize that it was when I first stepped down from Administrivia (and stayed away for almost 10 years) and there were some conflicts but it was more of a time to stop being overcommitted to the job and find that there were other things in life. We took the kids to China and on to sabbatical in Australia. And then I came back and have done perhaps as much since as I had before, but at a different pace and with less intensity. (Which may be why two of my secretarial staff have been with me over 25 years, rather than seeking promotion elsewhere on campus).

Today I got a note from the Alumni office mentioning that in recent conversations with Alums my name had come up as "most influential/admired faculty", which goes with the alum that came up at a society function and mentioned (10 years later) that my class was the one that he later found most useful. (If only I could remember names).

I should do the "day in the life" perhaps to let Prof Goose see the wonder of my usual week. Last year I got the reputation for sleeping in meetings I found too boring, but I still have to go. In consequence for my own ensemble I try and only hold a meeting once a month - and to hold those to less than an hour. I have relatively little sympathy with folk reviewing material that they have already circulated by e-mail, and in my own case try to get more people to speak up.

Reading about graduate selection time elsewhere one is filled with a smidgeon of envy. Alas in our little sphere grad students are hard to come by and most often must be bought by money from contracts and grants. Which makes for some problems when, as now, there is a sudden rise in funding. The faculty most responsible came to me this afternoon to ask where to look for students. Unfortunately I had no great suggestions since the crop of potentials we are currently raising aren't ripe yet in his area, and the few other places in the country playing in this sandbox aren't producing many prospects either. I suspect we may end up having to try to do a little pirating . . .yo-ho-ho!


Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Five Gig is a lot of music

Since my energy level is barely up to four hours a day, this has put limits on what is getting done. But did go in today after getting the grad students to get everything ready and we did some analytical photography. As it happened I had lost the charger for my digital camera, so set up the digital video instead. Which meant that instead of getting one shot a second I got 30. And that gave us an insight we would not have had into what is going on. So these were dutifully sent to the theoretical folk, while I crawled back home. Maybe we can do experiment 2 tomorrow afternoon.

In the meanwhile the toy progresses - today they concreted its feet to the floor. I suppose we are going to have to do some sort of ceremony when it is all ready - not quite sure what. We had two training courses to take, but no time, so based on titles we all went to the one in Minneapolis. Now they tell us that we need the other one more, and the next course is at the end of April. Snarl! Well I guess I was wrong again.

My sister has wiped the music I had carefully selected for her from the iPod. It seems to happen if you don't watch when it first gets switched on by a new owner. So I decided to send a larger selection, and ended up with a DVD with only a few tunes to put on it. No problem, I thought, I am just lying here being a vegetable (the Actress being smart having left me to wallow in self-pity [note how he gets out of some of the current blog discussion on roles and time-coward that he is]).

So I pulled down a pile of recent CD's and started loading them in, and loaded, and went upstairs and found some others of possible interest, and loaded, and went and hunted around to find some more and loaded and after 980 songs finally was done. Hope that the Nurse finds at least one or two of interest (such as the Everley Brothers singing about the plane crash which she played incessantly one Easter as we watched the rain fall at Grandma's house in Scotland).

In an interesting role reversal, one of last semesters grads went to work for a client. They were talking last week and he admitted to taking my class. Guess who is the new contract monitor?


Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Whither oil?

The latest news from Reuters would suggest that the world has passed through another oil turmoil, and that prices may soon fall back to around $30 a barrel. However, it must be noted that Venezuela continues to threaten the US oil ties and is also having some trouble in maintaining current production. Since that their President seems intent on shipping more to China, who would be glad to get it, that means there will be less of the 1.6 mbd of current supply that might be available to us before long. This will become more true as the Chinese adapt refineries to handle to heavy sulphur sour crudes such as the Venezuelans have, and the Saudi can supply from untapped reserves.

One must also note that Australia is now seeing a rapid drop from their peak production of 805,000 barrels a day in 2000, to the current level of 490,000 barrels with a further drop anticipated this year. These are folks, like the British, that have to replace that loss, since they are technologically advanced and must have the fuel for their economy. Thus even though the Saudi are maintaining production, other sources are dropping and demand will continue to rise, and so, with respect, I will disagree with BP's Chief Executive and doubt that we will see $30 a barrel oil again.


Monday, February 07, 2005

Couldn't stay away

Saturday I spent mostly in bed, though I was motivated to get up and go and see "The Aviator' since the Actress wanted to see it, and this seemed to be the best time. We enjoyed it, though it could have been cut a fair bit I would suspect without losing anything of great import. We met a neighbor coincidentally in the lobby of the theater, and so went on out to dinner together. However since one in each party was under the weather, went home early thereafter. Whereupon the Actress spent the rest of the evening trying to decide, by going to the Internet, how much of the movie was fact.

Sunday also found me weak, though we had committed to a student affair for the evening (Chinese New Year) and so went along for the entertainment and food. Since many of the acts were put on by the children of students and faculty we had to be impressed, though it also went on a tad long. I had called Mum in the afternoon and she is getting more concerned about the Teacher. There is also a concern about money that the Teacher had, but I am not sure that we can do anything from here. All I can try and do is get over there at the end of March.

And so we came to this morning. I was there, with camera. as the truck pulled in with the toy at 8:10 am and took photographs as, with two fork lifts, the entire truck contents (9 items) were offloaded to the parking lot (since we did not know the order that they were to be assembled). After all that excitement I decided I had better go back to recover, so came home for a couple of hours to rest. Then the Administrator called to say the technician who is to build the toy had arrived. Plus a colleague was bringing some wheels for a tour and I should at least give the gracious welcome. So went in for another hour. The toy will take about 7 days to assemble and check out. And that was it for the day. With no remaining energy I crawled back home and have been acting the layabout ever since.

Hopefully I can manage a little more tomorrow, though I did schedule a visit with the doctor for Thursday.


Friday, February 04, 2005

Our turn

After having sympathised by osmosis with all those caught by the winter ills, it is now our turn. By this afternoon there were about five of us in various states of "the Lurgi." I got the splitting headache yesterday and, but for the need to make the presentation to our funding folk from Oklahoma, would have stayed home. Today I barely managed in for four hours, and the others were starting to fall by the wayside. So it may be a little hard to prepare for our toy (which arrives Monday) if we are all sick.

I had written to our Toy Maker commenting on our being less than thrilled with our visit to them, and got the "general platitudes" letter back. Will be interesting to see how training here goes.

I had to go in today since we had news that of the four White Papers that we sent in over Christmas, one has been accepted for full proposal, and so we needed to get together to allocate what must be done. I must generate some photos over the next couple of weeks. Then helped pick out a rock for a campus beautification project, accepted the contract from the Canadians (with a caveat that we can no longer meet their deadline since the contract is two months late), agreed to another little bit of that activity that generates cases of wine under the stairs, and went home to collapse.

Found the Actress laid on the bed, caught both with incipient malady, and a bad case of the Menopauses. This has been a bad week for her, but cannot see any solution but to slog through it. She does not want to use hormones, and so is looking into other possibilities again. (One of the wonders of the internet is you can read from folk that have experience).


Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Birthday Cake

Well apart from admitting to another year (and enjoying the free glass of whiskey at the Restaurant we have celebrated this at, courtesy of the Administrator's Xmas gift for the past 12 years) it was another night to celebrate technology as the Engineer took video snapshots through iChat at we blew out the candles on my birthday cake.

The Tsar has been so bubbling with energy and happiness this week that we all are assuming he has another job. The Prince Regent came to our faculty/staff meeting yesterday to give a 30-year pin to the Administrator and a 25 year pin to the Receptionist. He had to find his way through the building, which is a comment on how many times (1) he has been in it during the past 3 years. A Venture Capitalist showed up this morning and spent the last two free hours I have in the next month chatting about how she could make us money, as though what we are doing doesn't.

I was supposed to write the presentation for the Oklahoma folk tonight, but watched the SOTU instead. I was surprised at the number of actual untruths that were said. At least in the UK if a PM said stuff like this he would be thrown out of the House. On the other hand I think it was a rhetorical success in preaching to the Heartland. Truth, as a certain German individual once proved, can be easily overpowered by telling big enough lies often enough.

And so a number clicked over on the inexorable counter. So the question becomes, do I, on a much lower level, follow Johnnie Carson and quit at the peak, or do I hang on to a less distinguished but longer career. Now would be appropriate if I were to go this year - but with four large contracts in the air maybe I should hang on another year to get them established?

On the other hand there is the story in Reuters last Friday that is unfortunately relevant that would suggest that I need to go seek medical advice and perhaps not be so long-term oriented.


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Social Security and Real Dollars

In the ongoing discussion on how much more us mere mortals will make if we invest in the market, I had previously pointed out that having invested a little more than the recommended amount over the course of my career I can give an actual return, over 37 years, rather than a projected one. However this return (which turns out to have yielded about 5% growth) was subject to the same sort of limitations as the Social Security funds are likely to be. In today's editorial on the subject in the NYT Paul Krugman points out that my calculation does not include inflation. I had just run a small Excel spread sheet which looked at the money we had put in and what average return on investment would be required to give the current value of our account.

As I once discoved when doing an economic analysis of the solar heating system we had installed on the house, there are some facts that I think I would rather not know. Given that there have been a couple of fairly steep inflationary periods over the past four decades our choice was perhaps not optimized. But then, given our current negative experience with our new "financial advisor" and that some of the changes we made were under the financial advice of those who run the portfolios for faculty here on campus, I am not sure that we really had a better alternative. Likely the same will hold true for the Social Security funds. I suspect that in the end it is not the average American that this scheme is out to make rich.

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