Heading Out

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

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Summer is a vacation - right !

So there I was at the end of last week, thinking that I would spend the weekend scanning through the 50 papers from which I have to pick the "Best Paper", and chairing the committee means I really can't duck it. And lo there is this e-mail saying, "where is your presentation for Houston - it was due last Wednesday".

So pull out some related presentations, clog them all together in Powerpoint and discover I have to cut 260 slides down to 60. Just get this started when the Specialist comes in. "You are working on the Presentation for next Tuesday aren't you", he says, as he heads out for a quiet weekend. I say a naughty word 'cos I had forgotten that one too. Pull another 200 odd project slides into a file, and head off home.

It took the weekend to do the first one, (it is a review paper), which meant that I came in Monday with, as I thought, the morning to trim down the second one. No such luck! As I wander across the parking lot, there is the sponsor waving from his car. The dear soul was supposed to have arrived at lunch. I do believe I was less than polite.

So after the usual chat I manage to ease away long enough to get that almost done before he returns. And after running through it with him, the day is over.

Today was the big presentation before the assembled wheels, and it started at 8:30. For political reasons I pulled in the Duchess for the welcome, rather than the Dauphin, and after a tentative beginning (I was not sure she knew what we were talking about) she turned out to be really helpful. Must send a small token her way tomorrow. And that meeting went on all day today and finishes at lunch tomorrow. (They are returning because the demo we ran did not completely work for weather related reasons, the first time that has happened in a fairly long time).

Which is a bit of a pain, since the Canadian data is not fully compiled and they want a progress report tomorrow, I have two other presentations to prepare for next month and yes, there is still that CD with 50 papers on it sitting, hidden, within the bowels of this laptop.

In the midst of this I went to show a short video of some of the work, and remembered that the last copy went off to India last week, so that one of the grad's could show his folk what he is doing - and iDVD has been upgraded. So my attempt to slip away for 5 minutes to start another copy burning didn't work, since I kept missing out a newly required step that wasn't in the old version - grrrr!

Yep it's been a lovely weekend ! And sadly, when I called Mum on Sunday, she mentioned that the nursing staff were wondering why she had not told us that she was ill. Hmmm! Fortunately the Traveller is almost recovered from getting a new hip, and should be able to go up there this coming weekend, but one does wonder. It sounds a lot worse than the sunstroke she was telling us it that it was last weekend.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Cruising the credenza

The stiffness in my hip results in a five minute walk around a wall in our house at frequent intervals. I have used it to get part of the way through the new Harry, and tonight it had another use.

Wandering around and thinking about all the data that is slowly falling into graphs,and then into pictorial representations, i suddenly had one of them thunks. (A thunk is when you look at something from a different angle and suddenly realize something that should have been blindingly obvious about 2 weeks ago). And gee I haven't had one of those in about a year. So tomorrow we will go and see if we can make something work a bit better than it has before. Heeee!

Speaking of which we are now debating security issues - such as do you need a record if you thumb-lock a door? We are beginning to think that the one place we put one in without a recording system was a mistake. (Too often we go in and find a student in there who was let in by someone else). So tomorrow we debate a change.

And it begins to look as though August is going to mark travelling month since there are three trips on the calendar already.

And my "help" on the problem I discussed the other day took most of the hour of hour appointment to get through the first two paragraphs of the background I had sent and the remaining two pages (where it got complicated) was brushed off as just needing more time. (I think I knew that, and am not holding my breath).

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Two down, one to go

Well I have the new Hogwarts Chronicle, but bought it at 11 am, instead of queueing with those that bought 185 copies at our local bookstore last Saturday early am. I re-read the 4th and 5th books first, in order to catch up with things and have now just started into the new volume. So far, so good!

It keeps me amused during times where things are getting complicated again. There is this problem, for which I need some help. Ask for said help, via the Administrator, and she gets told I am the resident authority. Try again with an e-mail. Get told that this is far too complicated for the recipient, what I need is some help. Finally track down a source of possible help (and thus have a meeeting tomorrow). The comment so far is that this is a complex problem for which help might be needed. Grrrr!!!

We are sufficiently short handed at this point in the summer - with students and staff trotting off on vacations - that it is a continuous effort to ensure that all projects have enough people to keep going. It means also that I get raw data at 5 pm that has to be translated into recommendations for new tests by 9 am tomorrow (the answer is now stuck on the outside of my office door).

We are going to get a "free" demonstration of a new biometric lock to compare with one we installed some months ago (and which has worked fine to date). Free, however, means about a day of work drilling holes and running cable, and - when we are finished - if we don't like this new lock enough to pay for it after a couple of months . . . .

When I called Mum on Sunday she was in bed, and each time by the time she had got out , the phone had transferred and I had rung off. This went on at 10 minute intervals for an hour before the lady bringing her supper picked up the phone and we could talk. She had been sitting in the sun all day (first time she could all summer) and had a little sun stroke - it getting all the way up to 80 degrees.

I still need to walk about 5 minutes in 45 to keep the joints from stiffening up, but am making progress towards getting better - the pains are turning into familiar ones that have been treated before, but that interval is just long enough to write a post such as this.

And so back to a stroll around the credenza and more pages from the real wizard (i.e. J.K. herself).

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Our ageing company

Yesterday I took off at lunch to chat with the Bear, over the odd glass of wine (we drank the bar out of red - but it was only 1 bottle). He retired about 13 years ago and we were reminiscing about things. And I mentioned my stepping down. Turns out he has a fracture in one of his hips now. Then we began talking about one of the senior technicians, of my age, who had worked, at one time or the other for us both. He passed away on Monday.

Today one of the staff was called to see her doctor to "discuss the test results", and did not come back. And others made sure that I was dragged away from the computer to walk every half hour of the day. The Administrator had to go home with a reaction to a shot she was given this morning. Things are not going well.

So here I am trying to get this data into a form that a layman can look at and grasp the meaning of. Not fantastically difficult. Some 20-odd years ago we did it with crabbed together software and some fancy program writing. Now we decided to rely on Excel. Which does not like the size of the data set. So it was manually divided and loaded. And gradually over 3 days I have got it down to where I can get a set of graphs out in about 15 minutes. So the grad student comes in and watches as I now start to pull the trendlines off the curves and post them into Photoshop so that the spacial meaning of the results are easier to understand.

After about 10 minutes of watching as I work out how to do this he suggests that he can do it faster. Good - so he gets to spend the night developing a procedure that I have just finished doing - but . . . .

And I get to re-correct his last paper, which means I need to work out how to present his data in a format that people can understand. I think I might just lock him in a closet with Tufte's three books and not let him come out until I have finished the new Harry Potter.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A somewhat better day

Well I dropped by the second and more nominal of my bosses today to mention the passing of the torch. Much more of a ho-hum response, which I had expected in both cases but only got here. So there will be a meeting tomorrow. Interestingly one of them thought I should be there (the actual boss) while the other did not - so we will see what happens. I am not volunteering to show up. I left it to them to decide when I should write the formal letter - we will see how long it takes for the news to percolate out. It may be a while, depending on how the new Administration develops (rumors at present include one that the new Tsar has asked for a guillotine to be set up in the square but so far that is only a rumor).

And as it turns out I was wrong and was invited to the Panel, though this may now change. Suddenly we are again being buried in requests for proposals, which is more awkward now since I will likely not be as involved in either getting or running them, but still it is hard not to respond. May take a while to overcome that problem.

Our fork lift broke today and so we had to revert to some primitive methods for moving things around, Stonehenge man would have been proud. And all the doors now function with the card swipe system, so all that is left is to clear up the mess that was left.

Now if I can survive until going back to the bone cracker on Thursday - may need some of that medicine again!!

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Monday, July 11, 2005

Step one has been taken

Well today was one of those that was meant to be devoted to data analysis, but wasn't. A little problem with a faculty member who seems to think that the whole object of my existance is to ensure an adequate salary for said person during the year and summer, but with no oversight over what said person does in any other way led to a meeting with my immediate boss. After the discussion on said individual I just casually mentioned that it was about time to hang up my socks.

And this was more of a block buster than I had expected. Since there is no obvious successor, and I turned down the invitation to stay for a couple of more years, strategies have to be evolved, and so I was asked to keep this secret for a while (so now me, that individual and you all are the only ones that know). Tomorrow I go talk to the next person along the line - using the recalcitrant faculty member as an excuse, and we will see where this all pans out.

Back wise the pain is a little easier after the chiropractor and I could move somewhat more freely - the telling time will be tonight, since it might be that I may be able to get a little sleep.

Which would help with trying to get the building secure. They installed the new card readers on Friday. But the campus security and janitors did not have access rights. And no-one thought that our back door was not card protected, but still opened with their door key. Nor did some of the faculty who came in at inopportune times, and one of the grad students thought it an insult that we would suggest that he use the back door. So there was little to no constructive work done today, and we were out to dinner tonight.

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Sunday, July 10, 2005

We are all getting older

Just called England, after sending e-mails to ensure that all was well over there with those we know, after the bombings. Mum has had a series of falls, to the point that the home called the Engineer to let him know. Yet when I talked to her today all she complained about was that she was getting older - though she eventually admitted that they had had to call the paramedics in to help after one fall.

The Engineer cannot get up there just yet since his hip is still in repair and he is not allowed to drive that far for a couple more weeks. In my case I am at the point that I walk for 5 minutes, take a pill, and am fine for about three-and-a-half hours, and then I do it again. Makes for a restless night, but hopefully the bone cracker is back from his vacation tomorrow and can fix me up.

Just finished Newton's Wake by Ken Macleod, not really that easy to get into or keep track of, way too complicated a plot - ah, well. So its back to The Rover by Med Odom (and its sequels).

Still can't decide whether to decide to go tomorrow, but I think I will bring it up and see what happens.

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Saturday, July 09, 2005

Signs that it is time

Yep it's a Saturday afternoon in vacation time, and where am I, but in the office writing two monthly reports and setting up a data analysis program for one of the projects. We are still busier than ever, but politics is beginning to seep, even into summer.

As you may recall we are about to anoint a new Tsar, and the current Prince Regent is thus trying to get the ship in reasonable shape before tha August arrival. This means (other than giving the Residence a major overhaul) getting some new initiatives on the road, as well as straightening up the finances.

And so there are machinations under way to get on the Panels that will be in place when the Coronation occurs (this gets you into the seat of power as it is recreated). In some amusement I heard that one of these initiatives follows an idea that I proposed (you get no prizes for guessing the area). However it might be interesting to take a bet on whether I get asked to be on the Panel. Since the members are, in part, going to be selected by the Duchess, I think (and I told my source this) my baggage is too heavy. But we will see.

Anyway it is, I suspect, about time that I started dropping heavier hints about retirement. Folk are still saying that I will be here until I croak, but ribbit ribbit there was also the recent study that says that those who retire earlier live longer. And so I have a meeting on Monday where I guess I should bring this up. But when to tell the staff, and the Administrator ?

No peace for the wicked, and I suspect that I have dodged work long enough for today.

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Thursday, July 07, 2005

How is the water?

I began this about a year ago , thinking that it would be interesting to document the thought process that leads to retirement, as much as anything else. Along the way I found that there aren't that many folk out there that talk about the Administrations point of view, and so I stuck a little of that in there, plus some other things, and it has been an interesting experience, leading to the totally unexpected success of the Oil Drum.

But now it is time to revisit the original reason. Back then a couple of thoughts in The Chronicle seriously impacted my anticipated submission of "notice" to use the old English term. And suddenly we became rather surprisingly busy, as we still are.

But a year has passed. At a recent conference I was one of the few "Old Guard" and I realize that we need to undertake a major initiative to get us on the front line of the coming Energy Effort. But I do not plan to be here for all of that, so it is better that they bring a new person in to build that effort, rather than change horses as it starts to build, and thus lose momentum.

Plus, it must be said, the climate has changed. Too often now I am running into faculty who, though paid to spend part of their time on research, demand excessive reward for what, for 37 years I considered part of the job the State was paying me to do.

So now, as then, I debate when I should turn in the letter, or even if I should write one. Perhaps I will bring it up next Tuesday. It is an irrevocable farewell, but somehow not nearly as hard a one to face as last year. (Maybe I should blame Prof G and Ianqui for that? - grin)

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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Maine - a more typical view


Maine - a more typical view
Originally uploaded by Heading Out.
But this was much more typical of the rest of the time there. Went for walks along the river, and almost posted a little ditty on Weddings, but forebore.

But if they make it this far, welcome to the Bishop and the Mother Superior (grin).

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Maine fog coming in


Maine fog coming in
Originally uploaded by Heading Out.
Well it was a bit more scenic without the parking meter - but the fog came and went most of the day.

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Maine in fog


Maine in fog
Originally uploaded by Heading Out.
This was typical of our first day in Maine. Very foggy and a bit nippy.

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