Archive for: September, 2009

Dr. Handy

Sep 14 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

A lot of people have fathers who have work shops in the house that they used to fix things. I, on the other hand, do not come from a paternal line of people who fix things. My Dad is like the anti-handyman, so much so that he has paid someone to come to the house, merely to tighten a screw. Not because he wasn't willing to tighten a screw, but just because he didn't realize that was all that was needed to solve the problem. There was a tool box in my family basement, but it was rarely opened and contained only the basics.

By the age of 15, I was the one painting rooms or the outside of the house and doing most of the home repairs. At the time it was work for allowance or a bit of spending money, but I never made the connection that I was doing these chores because I was the most able one in the house to do them. My mom would lend a hand when I couldn't figure something out, as she has a more innate grasp of how things work, but simple mechanics allude my father entirely. I even distinctly remember as a kid, the reflex to back away every time my father opened the hood of anything, be it car or lawnmower. Even without provocation, I could sense a potentially dangerous situation. I don't have those memories of working on a car with my dad or even building a model airplane together. It's probably a good thing because no one looks back to trips to the Emergency Room with nostalgic affection.

Despite my lack of home-cultivated fix-it experience, I have worked several jobs that taught me the utility of power tools and their analog companions, the hammer and screw driver. Never has this experience been more useful (or used) than since owning our house. Already I have made several minor repairs that I would not have done if we were renting and my DIY cred was substantially increased yesterday when I replaced our bedroom light fixture without electrocuting myself or blowing out the neighborhood grid. I haven't torn down any walls or had to hang sheetrock, but for having grown up with a rusty flat-head screwdriver and an adjustable wrench as the only tools in the house, I consider my progress an accomplishment. Next up, plumbing. The Final Frontier.

6 responses so far

JUST jet-lag? That's for the weak

Sep 11 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

I found out this week when the European defense is, that I will be an external examiner for. December 1. No problem, except for the fact that I am returning from a family Thanksgiving vacation on Nov 30th.

At 2:00 pm.

That means the only way for me to make this all work out is if I fly in with my family, say goodbye to my wife and daughter as they drive home and hop on a red eye to Europe. The best available flight gets into my destination just before 10:00 am on the 1st and the defense is at 2:00 pm that afternoon.

Oh, and did I mention that it's in a non-English language?

My ability to sleep on a plane is drastically hampered by my height, so I should be good and sleep deprived with a solid helping of jet lag. I'm guessing that falling asleep during a defense that one is an external for is bad form. Is there enough coffee in the world to keep me awake for this? Hard to say.

13 responses so far

How did that happen?

Sep 10 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

Working on this multi-institutional mega-grant has been an interesting experience. I'm sure these types of grant get written in different ways all the time, but few are probably written the way the one I am working on has been. Because of the timing of the drafts we have been pumping out and the number of parties involved, the writing team that was once 8ish people has shrunk with the start of classes and the near completion of several sections. Since I have a light teaching load this semester and stand to benefit hugely from the funding of the grant, I have been able to make most meetings and do a fair share of writing and editing for the grant. Oddly enough, availability has translated into responsibility and I find myself one of two principal editors of the research portion of the grant. WTF?

I am willing to do it and believe that my input is valuable, but from the outside the situation seems absurd. I've just been here a year and even though I have written multiple grants here and have three pending with federal agencies, I can't claim to have landed federal support in this position. And yet, I have a significant role in shaping the mega-grant. It is based on work that is in my wheelhouse and there are senior people still heavily involved, but I can't help but wonder whether this would happen at many other places. At the same time, I don't really care. The funding of this proposal would provide infrastructure that would make my research substantially easier and faster, so perhaps I'm just one of the more motivated people to make sure this happens and the co-PIs want to exploit recognize that. And no, I don't think this is a case of administrators setting up a junior person as a fall guy should it not get funded.

In any case, It's been good experience to both see how something like this comes together and to be placed in a leadership role for something of this magnitude. If it flies, and there is a good chance it will based on feedback we have gotten from the agency, it will certainly provide me with some cache with people that matter. If it flops, then we'll have another go, but I'm not going to hide from the opportunity for fear of not being successful.

No responses yet

Last Call!

Sep 09 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

The NFl season starts tomorrow and I, for one, am giddy. It's the bright spot that tempers the start of the fall semester. But, standing on the precipice of the new season means it's the last opportunity to get involved with the Blogger Pick'em Pool. Currently there are 11 participants ready to battle it out:

Nat Blair
Damn Good Technician
Candid Engineer
Genomic Repairman
Professor in Training
Ambivalent Academic
Mad Hatter

If you think this is a group that knows jack squat about football and deserves a sound beating by your brilliance, here's your chance. Email me and I will send you the league info.

12 responses so far


Sep 08 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

Honestly folks, I'm wiped. But rather than turn this into a crazy cat lady blog about everything going on outside of work, I would like to draw attention to two blogs that I have been checking out. I usually just add blogs to the blog roll without much hoopla, but there are two I have added recently that provide some different perspectives and I think are worth a gander from you folks.

The first one I've had up there for a little bit, is Hurricane Jill, who describes her blog thusly:
I’m actually quite boring in real life. I live in a convenient location, drive a boring car, work out less than I should, rarely drink and don’t smoke at all.

Despite that, life seems to have taken a particular interest in me, in a Chinese proverb kind of way. And I made a number of mistakes and wrong turns early on, which aren’t helping matters any.

So this blog is about me becoming a neurosurgeon, and the hilarity that ensues.

I've known a lot of pre-meds and med students in my day and always thought it was humorous that they thought getting into med school was the hard part. That's just the first hoop and Hurricane Jill provides an interesting look at what the life of a resident is like. I think I'll stick with my job.

The second blog you should go click on is PUI Prof, over at The Two Body Problem. PUI Prof is fairly new to blogging, so go over and say hello. Her blog is interesting, because many of the blogs I read describe life at research institutions, whereas I have not come across many blogs from the good folks at PUIs. On top on that, PUI Prof is dealing with the issues of early-career maternity and an academic relationship.

I am a professor at a primarily undergraduate institution. My spouse is a research professor and works two hours drive away. This blog is primarily about life at a PUI, but also about our family trying to make the most of an uncomfortable lifestyle.

PUI Prof explains her situation a bit better in her first post, so go check it out.

3 responses so far

The perils of "free"

Sep 04 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

On the surface, free is the best price for anything. When it comes as the price tag for essential data-producing services, all the better. Right? If you could save ~$5k and have someone processing your samples who seemed to be really interested in the project, it would be a win-win, right? It would be, except for that saying "you get what you pay for". Stupid sayings.

Having work done for "free" also means "free from accountability" and "free from being required to communicate with you regularly". I should have known this already because I have dealt with it before, but when you don't have to pay for the work someone is doing, they don't feel obligated to get it done on anything other than their own time frame. Your samples are at the back of the queue and they'll get done when it's convenient. No money = no leverage. Thus, we are waiting for critical data without any ability to strong arm the center that has our sample into doing anything at all.

The good news is that we've streamlined the process to produce the samples we need to send out. The first one took us two months and has now been sitting with Free Center for another 6 weeks. The second sample took a month and was sent to Paid Center yesterday. Now we have a race. Paid center has been very good about communication thus far and expects a two week turn around on the analysis. Free Center said they were going to get to the sample two weeks ago, but nothing has been updated in their online system and I've had no response to my emails since. If I really do see data from Paid Center in two weeks, the next question will be when do we cut the chord with Free Center and just send the first sample out to Paid Center and bite the bullet? Free or not, I need the fucking data.

2 responses so far

New theory

Sep 02 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

If "omics" can be applied to everything to make it a cutting edge science, I propose that everything is funnier with an ending of "opotamus".

Maybe I just need sleep, you be the judge.

2 responses so far

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