Heading Out

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

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Now come the visitors

We travelled slowly to the wedding, breaking the journey for dinner, and then for a night's rest before completing the trip on the second day. This meant that I could at least walk to the ceremony. It was infuriating that I forgot my video camera since it was a very photogenic wedding - ah, well.

And then back and a day of recovery, which was really needed to prepare for the problems of today. I did get the short article out for a journal (deadline today) and passed along to the Dauphin the Powerpoint I had used for the service club talk I had given on Peak Oil last week. It will be interesting to see if any of them are ever used, or if this will become another opportunity wasted. I suspect that everyone is waiting for someone else to do something creative in this area, and I had hoped that someone else would, given the proximity of the ta ta moment. However, although he is the obvious choice to lead the charge, experience to date makes it less than likely that he will, and that such efforts as do occur will be oriented toward certain preferred directions.

We get a visitor for the Canadian project tomorrow, and since we have destroyed two instruments so far with another being air freighted in over night, I am hoping he will end the streak of delays. Then a meeting on the new project, and suddenly I remember that I have to do half the presentation tomorrow - how nice. And I still have that DVD to burn for the grad student, and the presentation for the Ohio folk must be done by the end of the week.

Let's talk of better things. Suddenly I discover that I prefer Lois McMaster Bujold over L.E. Modesitt Jr. How do I know? Well after getting three parts through the Corean Chronicles and all set to read the new one (Alector's Choice) I meander into a bookstore and there is the new Bujold book in the Chalion series. So needless to say, rather than finish the first set I am now re-reading The Curse of Chalion, to be followed by Paladin of Souls and then the new one, The Hallowed Hunt.

Too many new books is not entirely a good thing, since it means I don't do much else but read. Oh, and go to the Chiropractor.


Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Back in shape

On the second visit to the Chiropractor today he continued to have me walk and try and bend and then, after the electronic stimulation, this time he could get my back to move. It feels much better, though the muscles are still complaining bitterly and sitting is still a bit of a pain. Tomorrow is off and then I go again on Thursday morning.

Talked to the folk in Indiana today and we now have that contract extension in hand. This led to a note from Hatless making all sorts of nice sounds and suggesting that I not consider retirement yet. But somehow it feels more right this year that I at least step down from the Administrative bit. The art committee are going to walk our building and look at the art in it next week, most of it is mine I suppose, and the question becomes what do you do with the paintings, sculptures etc that have gathered in my office and then migrated out and beyond. I suppose I need to start thinking about that.

And data is collecting on the work for Canada. But I suspect that my absence at the meeting on the Ohio project today will not be good. I need to get over there in the next couple of weeks.

Speaking of over there and noting that profgrrrrl is heading out to Asia. Lo, in the e-mail today came an invite that I go visit some folk over in India. I made sort of half-interested noises and we will see what transpires. Also the CD came for the case of wine work, and I got a note that they need my paper for publication before the end of the week. And Grad student pointedly reminded me he had just sent me another first draft of a paper to review.

What was that about summer being a quieter period?


Monday, May 23, 2005

I am not supposed to write this sitting down

No, I haven't been caned again. Been close to 50 years since that last happened (once for stealing the Headmaster's strawberries - ah! the folly of youth). No I did something to the muscles of my back a week ago, didn't do anything about it, and then tried exercising again on Saturday. Most of the time since has been spent lying on my back, side, other side, back etc etc trying to get comfortable.

Today it was bad enough that I went to the Chiropractor and will again for three more days. It will get better. In the meantime I have finished two books on the Merchant Princes by Charles Stross (The Family Trade and The Hidden Family). I presume there will be more before long and I will be getting them.

There is also a new Modesitt out in the Corean Chronicles Series, so I have had to re-read Legacies, and Darknesses, before moving on to Scepters and the new one, Alector's Choice. If I could only sit and read it would be good. (I might even then finish Kunstler's book (The Long Emergency) it reads a lot better than Posner's new one on Saudi Arabia, which I found in the end read too much like a catalog).

Well the back has stopped me going to a big meeting on the Ohio project tomorrow, and may keep me out, though I am hoping to get and help get the Canadian project finished. We would be there except for a couple of things not working.

I need to get the back fixed since we have to drive some 500 miles to a wedding this weekend. 'Twas ever thus. Well off to find the medication and, as they say, so to bed.


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Stubborn old ferret

There are some situations that can only be solved by steadily working forward, fixing each problem as it arises, and moving incrementally on. And so, by this very slow progress, today we got two of the projects back up and running. One of the frustrations is that one needs to let the grad students learn by doing the fixing. So you smile, wander out of the room, and go and hit the wall somewhere unseen. But we are, just about there.

Which is good because the new Admin meeting we are all to go to with the Prince Regent ran well over time (a common event) but did stop when he stopped talking. It was all about the budget, and in the end all we learned was a further justification for the model that will be used to allocate resources.

One wonders, after these meetings, how the impact of Peak Oil will change priorities and discussions. At present the major focus of national funding lies in other areas, and there is little indication (outside of rising numbers of students) of the situation that the various Academic Administrations can take note of, let alone react to.

On my way out of the Admin meeting, I talked to our Distance Ed guy, who asked when I was retiring - good question (he is I think about 4 years older than I). I meant to tell him that I was delivering my class documents (17 CD's) to the teaching department office, so that they wouldn't need me around to give it any longer. I did each lecture as "sound on slide" Powerpoints and broke each lecture into about 15 minute bits. This seemed to go over well with the clientele, at least according to the comments they sent to me.

Summer is the time to think of other things. Be it noted that having recently uploaded the new version of Strata, when I went to open it today after installing Tiger, the program appeared to have vanished. But a quick trip to the Strata web page got me a fix, that brought it back to life. Now if only I could find the fix to find my hard drives . . . . .


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

An emotional night was had by all

Tonight was the School Choral farewell concert, and with the handing out of roses at the end to those graduating, there was the usual odd emotional conflict over this mark of the rite of passage. The roses were red this year, but it seems to me that they used to be white.

The day otherwise remained one of frustration, yesterday there were personnel issues, and trying to keep four different projects going with broken equipment or software problems associated with all of them. Today did not move us much forward, but in all cases we are so almost there it is almost taste-able.

I am supposed to be giving a talk to our local service club next week on the Peak Oil issue, and so trying to decide how to convey the coming problem in 20 minutes to folk who have no clue what is coming down the pike and keep it interesting. At the same time I have started reading Kunstler's "The Long Emergency" - he writes well but I think is radically overdramatizing. But I suppose he almost has to if he is to get some attention.

Some time in the next couple of weeks we can hope that the pressure of the semester will quietly dissipate and we can settle into the quiet round of summer. Why is it that I have these goose-bumps that suggest it might not happen ?

I am also thinking more and more of moving out of "the Big Office" next year and retiring back into "my first love of teaching and research" and while that is true, I suspect that it will be met with the usual incredulity. But we shall see.


Sunday, May 15, 2005

Books and Mum

Well while doing the cool-down from an aerobic exercise tape yesterday I did in the dodgy back. So now the blogging will be interspersed with the typical male self-pity until such time as I can get up the energy to go to the Chiropractor. In the meanwhile I have only one more set of grading to get done and its finished for this semester.

And while being very driven to do this, I could not help but notice that the books in the front room have magically separated into fiction and non-fiction, and that some should be put away as being read. So for no good reason here are the piles:

Non Fiction
Rifles and Ammunition by H. Ommundsen and E Robinson (borrowed because it describes the rifles of WW1 that I want to model - Ommundsen was killed in Flanders in 1915)
Forgotten Tragedy - the sinking of HMT Rohna by C. Jackson (the Actress's Dad was on it)
I Thought my Father was God by P Auster (Gift from a Public Radio station)
Liturgia Luterana - self evident
Meesterprenten Images de Maitre - notes on a lithograph exhibition in Belgium
Worse than Watergate - J. Dean (left over gift from the election - disappointing)
Battlefields of Britain - D. Smurthwaite - to be used in modelling later (needs to be put away).
The Stone Carvers - Hunt (The story of the carvers at the Washington Cathedral - I also got the video)
The First World War - H Strachan (bought for the color pictures so that I can get the models right)
The Dick Cheney Code by H Beard (a gift I still need to read)
The End of Oil - P Roberts (fairly well written but with an obvious axe to grind)

I was going to go on to list the fiction but the last title fills me with guilt and so I shall return to grading.

Mum was a little blurred in her speech today, but the Traveller had his hip operation on Monday, was released Friday and did a little walking yesterday. And so the world turns.


Thursday, May 12, 2005

Home tomorrow

I can tell when I have irritated someone in the office. When I go to look at my airline tickets I am either leaving at 5 am or getting in after midnight. Such is the flight tomorrow - wonder what I did?

Things here have been kinda odd, the most interest in both my paper and our exhibit came from abroad - and both delegations came and talked several times. I began to wonder if I was supposed to do something to offer our services, but did not.

The paper was the usual meander to the remaining stalwarts, and did not evict much interest at the time, but led to conversations afterward that went on a fair while (to the tune that I lost where the purported dinner group went to). On the other hand I did still get a group chuckle with the old opening (about 15 years old) and it flowed well to make the end point. And it will lead to a couple of visits to our place later in the summer. And at lunch I sat with a table of strangers and the guy on my right introduced me to the table - which was embarassing since I had no clue who he was.

Would that the call to the office had gone as well, it took 3 calls to get some movement on our Canadian work. Maybe that's why the late plane ?

The problem with putting Russian CD's on your iPod is that you have no clue what the songs are or what group until the song starts to play, but it makes for more amusing background music. Wonder if I should cash my chips in or play a little before I leave?


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

One more round

Yesterday's gloom was a little early, today I got to see the proposal rankings and we made 7th out of 42, and so have a little more money (they funded 10). So I dutifully attended all the sessions, twitched when I discovered that though paying for wireless it did not cover the conference rooms so my sneaky plan to sit at the back and blog did not work.

I think my sense of gloom is a general one, this is the world meeting on this particular topic and the attendence this year was apathetic. There are some fierce political wars going on relating to this particular issue (which you would at first sight have thought would be totally apolitical). The result is that probably two-thirds of those here are manning display booths (including ourselves) and the other third are probably only here because the competition are.

Still after tonight's reception (where, in contrast to last night, the booze was free) we decided to go down and check out the casino. Unfortunately one of the booth folk had mentioned that the dollar slots gave better odds. So four of us upped twenty bucks each on a what the hell. As the last to go I pulled the old handle and suddenly had $50. And as I walked away I dropped 3 of the dollars in the next machine. Now we were ahead $150. So I offered to divvy up the money - "no, no!" they cried, "we must have more." Ten minutes later it was all gone.

So I wandered back to blackjack, sat down and played with $50 for two hours, had three free drinks, tipped the dealers $10 and came away with my stake. (Actually plus $2.50).

Interesting to note, we had three dealers, the first two were male, mildly amusing, got loads of tips, the third was female, spent more time trying to help some of us who were shall we say alcohol challenged, and got more abuse than I would have taken. Oh, and after I had been winning for a while, a quite nice lady happened to sit next to me. I was relatively flattered but shortly thereafter came up here to blog (honest!).


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Do I hear a female voice warming up in the wings?

Hmm! The deal was that I would be contacted today to go and chat with the person that holds the money relative to one of our contracts, in the hope of getting more.

So I waited, and waited, and eventually went for a walk around the building, which is a lot colder than it has been here before (except when we came in the winter) with a blizzard blocking the Interstate nearby. Then I had a burger which was about a third of the cost of those in the casino.

And then I came back and blogged some more. Very relaxing, though one does wonder what happened with the arranged meeting. Well it is time to put the smile on the face and head down for the Reception. First one must,however, prepare.

I just wish I could remember the names of all the people that I haven't seen since this time last year, and then for only a few minutes. Are we ready Smile . .two three . . .Smile . . .two three

And since there was a problem with blogger we can add the results of the Reception. Firstly the DVD acted up in the player, since I could get it to run fine on the computer we are not sure if the player was damaged in shipping or not. So we need to check in the morning since I can burn another DVD on this laptop if that is what is needed (at least I think I can) but on the other hand we may need to find somewhere to get a new DVD player.

The other problem was that in talking to our sponsors there was that faint air of chill that suggests that we have become yesterday's child. It is not clear since, as with many organizations there are a lot of internal politics going on, but our chance here is apparently not doing well, and we must arrange a different route to moving forward. (It would be nice for my ego to suggest that they are finally accepting that the path forward may be in the direction we suggested a couple of years ago, but that may be too late to save the whole program).

Well we will just have to wander around and be polite for another couple of days and see if we can't learn more. I did note the competition making a heavy pitch in a moment or fifteen.


Saturday, May 07, 2005

Why our image has problems

Some years ago I joined one of our local civic service organizations. We meet, for some obscure reason, at 7 am, and next week the head of our IT division is scheduled to talk. I was mildly surprised to be asked, by the guy who runs the speakers, to bring a projector to be used with a laptop, to the meeting. And I would have done, except I will be out of town. We did call over to the IT Dept and found that they had two and so thought the matter closed.

Today we were selling brats as a fundraiser and I heard the rest of the story. Apparently (and this is not a University organization I am in, so the teller was somewhat bemused by this) when the word was carried back to our Lord Electron he admitted that his dept could supply the machine, and arranged for a secretary to come in early that morning to get and bring a projector over to our meeting (which is some way from campus) for him to use. I would suspect that this story will get some mileage around town, and none of it to our benefit.

I am flying out tomorrow, and have been scheduled to make (so I gather) the critical money pitch on Monday. For some reason we are supposed to make up our remarks in the fifteen minutes between being told what we need to ask for, and the meeting itself. It would be nice to have both more guidance and time, and these are never meetings I am comfortable with, though in this case we now know each other quite well.

The sudden success of the other blog is somewhat surprising, but also frustrating a little in that it is likely, given some of the comments made and yet to come, that it is better to remain anonymous. It is frustrating since I cannot turn to someone and comment on the success, and the various comments. And so I console myself by re-reading "If", which hangs on the wall.


Friday, May 06, 2005

Staying Awake is mandatory

Dean Dad has mentioned the never ending task (it sometimes appears) of the end of semester rituals. I am, tonight, very sympathetic since it is over a week since the Actress and I shared a meal at home, and I am not sure when I will again (though it is probably in about a week).

Tonight was an athletic benefit, and why it was now is absolutely beyond me. It was not well attended. Since, in the circumstances, they were also holding an auction to raise money for the programs, one also felt constrained to put in the odd bid. And I was struck by the fanaticism of golfers. Through a combination of silent and live auctions we came away with an oil painting, a jacket and polo shirt, a massage and sauna, and an ice cream cake for a combined total that was less than any one of the golf packages that went on the block. Now admittedly some of the prices were rather ridiculous but the way that all the athletic type items (ball game tickets as well) went I felt that I had made a worthy contribution to the cause for at least some significant return (and noted in my diary to be really busy somewhere else this time next year and in the fall). (And no, the ice cream cake is going as a donation to a staff party).

I think also I might need to put a chain on my door, or a flashing dragon or some fiendish sign to say I am busy. The Preface for the exhibition brochure had to go out today (as had the paper, but that was done by noon). A mere thousand words, and I don't think I got to write a consecutive 50 of them without an interruption. While it was very flattering to be asked, it is something I never thought would be one of my tasks (it is the intro to the first art exhibition by an artist in another country). I have no idea what is involved, and the guidelines were at best vague. Well I have done the deed, let's see if it worked.

I also had to take our Environmental test today, just to be sure I knew what to do in an emergency. Well having been through more than one, and having learned from those the test (oral and informal and all that good stuff) was not hard it was just that it took an hour and they were largely distracted by tales of how we were actually solving external problems more than just complying with internal regulation. It is just that today, and in fact this month, I don't have free hours. But regulations said that it had to be me, and now, and so it was.

We also finalized our student positions for the summer. Tomorrow is full, and I leave on Sunday. Off to Sin City Junior - just as long as the bed is comfortable and the room is cool. The Prince Regent wanted to meet next week on the budget, and when I pointed out it was not practical at the designated time, our dear Dauphin, who was in charge of setting it up was rather dismissive. I am increasingly under the opinion that he will be delighted to see my back. But then I have felt that since about two days after he assumed his current position.


Thursday, May 05, 2005

"Gotcha !" said the cat

A couple of days ago the day started with the cat throwing up on the rug. Well the day went down hill from there, and while Wednesday was somewhat of an improvement it was also the day the Assistant Principal drove into the Actress's car as it sat alone and defenseless in the parking lot at the local school. I was, therefore, looking forward to today where my only real goal was to get a paper and a Preface out.

So after exercise (couldn't find the usual tape so tried one that required a dowel that I couldn't find) I wandered out and climbed into the car. A new day! And there it was, right in front of the windshield. The cat's latest offering. I just started the car and drove off!

Neither task was finished, there were just too many occasions when I had to go and take care of an issue. Grad students popping in for reassurance on trivial issues, more debate on how to get to Alaska etc.

There has been this little saga with Bryce 5.5. Monday night I could not load it since it was ordered through a secretarial account and I didn't have the password. Tuesday I had the password but the credit card had been rejected; Wednesday night the program downloaded, but the Expander program I had was out of date. So today I loaded Tiger, there went another hour, had it upgrade my Mail account, there went another half hour, and then finally could get the program to load. I haven't dared try and actually run it yet, and one of the "bonus package" programs has downloaded with some form of error.

So more in a spirit of disinterestedness than usual, I sat down to watch the British Elections. I can remember two elections in the past, in one I sat and listened by Short wave to the BBC as George Brown, deputy leader of the Labor Party lost his seat. In another a salesman was trying to get me to take out a subscription to the paper, and with a week to go before the election in the UK I challenged him to find a mention of it in the paper. He could not.

Times have indeed changed, since on a second display, I am watching the returns as they are formally announced, courtesy of the BBC and on my computer. Times have indeed changed.


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

And his latest isn't that good either . . . .

What a day. As I said as I walked into the budget meeting this morning "When your day goes downhill from when the cat is sick all over the White carpet first thing in the morning, what can you do?" And it did!

After cleaning up after the cat, and dropping by the office on the way to the meeting, I heard that the repair part sent for the toy was the wrong one, and that the project for which the visitors were here was not ready for presentation. Then one of the team going to the Conference came in and we agreed the work on another contract was so far behind that he should not go to the meeting, but work here. And it is all non-refundable.

So I went to the meeting and despite having an agreed approach before the meeting, in essence it all collapsed into chaos. Whatever the Dauphin and the Prince Regent have discussed made most of our efforts to get this onto an even track just a complete waste of time. And this when, for once, we were almost all there.

And so I came back to the office, to find that the grad student responsible had not been sending in the information he should have been on another contract, and that, not surprisingly the putative recipients were more than mildly irritated. And the visitors were here, and already part-way through their first presentation.

To cut a long day short the first trials did not work, the second ones lost the data, but the final one (about the time we were ready to give up) worked actually better than had been hoped. And so we may still be alive on this one.

Then a quick check on the one that my colleague will be staying to fix, and it is worse than ever. So I will quietly meander over to the bar in about 3/4 of an hour and have dinner with our surviving visitors, and hope that the morning will bring a better day.

Oh, and I tried to download the newly ordered Bryce 5.5 and they had declined the credit card.

On the other hand, as I blog this, I am uploading the last lecture of the semester to blackboard (in all its four parts and 400 meg) and when it is done, all I have to deal with is the final, and the last homework. It is done - whoopee!!

Oh, and the title of the post - Orson Scott Card just reviewed the demise of the Star Trek franchise. As someone who watched those things regularly every week when I first came to America, the whole review climbed up my nose, and I didn't really care for "Shadow of the Giant" that much either.

So now I will cheer up, paste on my party face, and go have dinner!


Monday, May 02, 2005

Only grading remains

Well the last class CD's have been burned and mailed. The final plea for more time to get the homework in has been listened to. The final lecture will be posted in the morning, and all that remains is to collect the final and grade - we're almost done.

But in the meanwhile, back at the ranch, as they say, we have visitors in the morning to see one of the projects, and at 4 pm we were still some distance from having a good presentation to give. The work for Canada is also still an "almost there" with the additional snag that one of the critical pieces of the work does not have the strength that we had anticipated in meeting the goal. Tsk! And they asked if we could undertake more work in a phone call this morning.

Just for a change I was taken to lunch, I can't decide if it was to break the news that our work for the folks in Ohio is over, or just that we need to do more PR on that effort. (Being a little nervous about the decision I talked way to much instead of listening, as I should have).

The presentation that was so hastily put together on Friday apparently passed muster, and will appear on the program, which means that I will be heading west at the weekend. And that only leaves the presentation for the end of the summer, which paper, as I discovered today, was due a little time ago. While the paper is written getting the permission to give it has not yet come through.

And tomorrow, when I should be entertaining our visitors, instead I get to sit in another meeting deciding on how to address the budget problems, which seem to have got about 50% worse in the last ten days. A cut is likely inevitable, though it is hard to see where this could now come from without laying people off, and with a staff that has been around for an average of over 20-years that would be very tough.

What we need is more enthusiasm. Yes, right, what a good idea. Wake me when somebody finds some.


Sunday, May 01, 2005

Don't argue with a machine

Well yesterday I finally got to one of the last two classes of the semester, added the sound and twiddly bits (which means I also have to cut it into fragments so that it will download at the far end in less than 2 days). Only one more to do, get posted, and get the disks mailed and we are just about there. And, like most, I am about ready to see the semester over.

We drove to another city for a music event last evening, and were tied up with the rehearsal last night and then this morning the whole thing went, I thought quite well. (Though I am the tone-deaf one). Apart, that is, from it being colder than expected and a whole lot windier. It was in the City where the Advocate spent some years and so we drove around looking at some old haunts. In six years it has changed a lot, with the bit we saw becoming much more modernized and gentrified. Even the river is getting a major clean-up.

Coming and going we used the Magellan - I drove up,and the Actress drove back this afternoon. So here we are, in the middle of the city and I was not sure that the GPS had actually found us, and so kept trying to suggest turns. Sometimes it is actually quite smart to keep one's mouth shut, especially when you're wrong. But it really . . .well never mind.

Talked to Mum yesterday, and the Traveller had just been up to visit. He is in quite severe pain, and goes to have a new hip put in a week tomorrow. he is paying for it privately (though whether that is him, or the insurance that he had from the company when he traveled I am not sure). While Mum's cost was about five thousand pounds, then about $7,500 his is now going to be over eight thousand pounds, which is going to translate into closer to $15,000.

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