Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mirror Images

Looking at my kids, I see a large amount of myself in both of them.  It is often very scary.  For example, my daughter likes better to set things up than to actually do them.  Getting folders and pencils and paper and everything for school is exciting, but to actually write is a drag.  She has joined a robotics club and she is working on a robot, but is not really all that excited about building the robot.  She knows the wiring diagram by heart and can do it, but just doesn't really want to.  When I have done it "for her", she then is very happy and quite excited to clean it up (i.e., redo the whole thing with shorter wires, making it all look much neater).  She also doesn't have much interest in programming on the robot, although that comes and goes.  With the Lego robots, she figured out how to do the programming and basically dropped it after that - even though she really only scratched the surface of it.

I definitely see myself in this behavior.  I think that since I am older now, I have much more patience, and can actually see that there are important things left to learn.  I also think that some of the issues are with fear of failure.  She shows that she can pick up the stuff that is mildly challenging with ease, but doesn't want to delve any deeper for fear of not being able to do it.  Maybe.  I think that I do this, and so am pushing my emotional whateverness onto her.

Anyways, it can sometimes be quite frustrating, since we start doing these projects together, and we are both sort of excited by them, and then she loses interest.

Well, I probably should just be happy that I can get my pre-teen daughter's interest in anything, let alone stuff that interests me too.

Now, my son.  I have to say that he is a complete mirror image of me.  I think that someone took some of my cells, cloned them, and stuck them in my wife.  If there is a part of her in him, I am not sure where it is.  Actually - he is MUCH more adventurous than I am.  That is definitely from my wife, which may shock some of you who know her.  While he is not fearless, he will try new foods and is not nearly as fearful of new things as my daughter and I are.  This is definitely a good thing.  So, he is just like me, but better!

Ok, now that sounds like I love my son and have issues with my daughter....  That is really not true at all.  My son is just like me, which means that he is a loud-mouth pain in the *ss.  They are both great kids and wonderful to have around.  They are, by far, the best things that have ever happened to me.  (Even if I do yell at them sometimes.)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Under Water

There have been a fair number of posts on various blogs that have reported having too many meetings and such to survive.  I am in that position also.  This week, of the "40" hours of time that I am supposed to be at work, 13 are NOT in meetings.  That is 13 hours in which my graduate students and Post Docs and undergrads can come and ask me questions.  13 hours in which I can answer e-mail from people asking me to schedule more meetings, sign documents, and actually do things for the meetings that I am attending.

I had a student send me a $25K proposal to JPL that we are working on last night at 10:54 PM, and asked me to send a revision back to him by the end of the day today.  I laugh.  I have exact 1 hour of free time today, and I can pretty much guarantee that I will be asked to do many other things besides this as soon as I get back to my office from class.

Luckily, many of the meetings that I had the week are once in a lifetime meetings.  Let's take a look at some of the more pleasant meetings:

1. Yesterday I got to be "yelled at" by my department chair (again!) and head IT person for buying non-rack-mountable computers that we put into the server room.  The head IT person got it into her head about a year ago that our department chair was going to cut the room in half, and therefore we would have to get rid of machines and make everything much more compact.  She started telling people that they could only buy rack-mountable hardware.  Well, this type of hardware costs 2 times the amount of other hardware, so it is not very cost effective.  Also, the premise is absurd - the department chair is not going to cut the server room in half.  So, why should I buy these systems?  Well, now it is because she has forced others to do it, so everyone has to.  What an asinine reason - spend twice as much money because I forced other people to do it!  Oh, and the kicker is that the machines were not for myself, but for the department chair.

2. I had to deal with a co-investigator who we are building some hardware for.  He won some grants, and we are building the instruments for him.  He asked us if we could lower the amount of the subcontract if he bought the raw parts, and we would integrate everything.  I agreed to this, as long as everything was extremely clear.  We also have a very hard to meet deadline on these instruments, because all of the engineers are overbooked for the next N months.  So, yesterday, the guy tells us that he can't order any parts until December, because his funding from his university wasn't going to be in yet.  I have engineers who are waiting on parts that were supposed to be ordered already (we thought they were ordered).  WTF???  So, after explaining all of this to him, he agreed and is going to order the parts understanding that his university will eventually give him money.  What a pain!

3. I had a meeting with all of the College's departmental and college-level advisers.  Every time I go to one of these meetings, I feel like an idiot.  Everyone there has been an adviser for about as long as I have been alive.  They have these great systems set up and know exactly what to do when X, Y, or Z happens to a student.  I, on the other hand, have no training what-so-ever in being an adviser, and don't even know some of the classes that students are supposed to take to graduate (like what the hell is the difference between humanities and social studies?  Why do we care?  And what is a humanities sequence? These are things that I should KNOW!)  I raised this issue at the meeting, and they are going to start having training meetings for advisers.  Wow!  That is fantastic!  The first meeting that they are having is going to be a report on what people learned at some advising conference.  What? This has nothing to do with training us!  The first meeting should be an open meeting to ask "What do you people not know? What questions do you have?"  Let's get the known unknowns covered before we start talking about the conferences that we don't have time to attend.

Ok, I have overstayed my welcome and now actually have to work.  Hopefully I can stick my head out of the fox hole in the next week and blog again.  And maybe I won't get my head shot off.

Friday, September 18, 2009


The night before last we did our normal ice cream Wednesday.  We normally go to Dairy Queen, because the kids love it and it is the closest ice cream place to our house.  Last night we went to a different place that Crab Mama used to go to when she was but a wee little lass.  We had our ice cream and were headed home, when a Toyota FJ Cruiser ran a stop sign and plowed right into us.

No one was hurt.  They hit us right on my door and front quarter panel, which is probably the best place to be hit if you are going to be hit, and don't want your kids to be hurt.  Crab Girl was a little freaked out, while Crab Boy took it pretty much in stride.

Yesterday we learned that the insurance company would like to total our car.  We have only had it for about a year or so.  I just bought snow tires last year and rims at the beginning of the summer so we wouldn't have to go swap wheels every 6 months (I can do that in the garage!)  Crab Mama has complained for a while about her wonderful MiniVan.  So, the question is, What Now?

When we got our (now dead) car, we did a lot of research on reliability versus mileage versus affordability.  We also have been buying foreign cars for the last 15 years.  We wanted to give an American car a try (or at least the perception that we were giving it a try...)  We ended up buying a used Pontiac Vibe, which is a Toyota Matrix with a Pontiac sticker on it.  That cleared our conscience while meeting all of our other criteria.

After looking around for an hour or so last night, we have come to about the same conclusion.  Crab Mama basically said we should just replace the Vibe with an identical one.  Then people can ask us if we got our car painted!

My selfless self wants to sell the MiniVan at the same time and buy Crab mama a Rav4 (her new dream car), and me a crappy old Toyota.  This doesn't help the conscience, but it does help the husband brownie points.  Crab Mama says she would rather have solar panels or a wood-burning stove or some "useful".  Come On!  Are you an American???  It is all about the car! Come On!

Well, so, there it is.  We will probably buy another Vibe that is grey or gray or silver or .... red.  So, if you see someone driving down the street in a Vibe that looks just like me, but it can't be me because that isn't my car, it's me.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pre-Class Blurb

Last semester, my class started at 10 AM.  It was great, because I could show up to the building that I taught and sit there for about 90 minutes by myself.  It was a very nice relaxing time in which I could do class prep or read e-mail or blog or whatever.  This semester, my class starts at 9 AM.  In some ways this is nice too, because I am done with class an hour earlier.  When I get back to my office, it doesn't feel like the whole morning is gone.  But, it does mean that I don't get that extra hour.  Right now, I should be uploading my lecture and not blogging.

I think that more blogs will therefore happen at night, then, instead of in the calm right before class.

Ok.  I have to upload.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The End

This is the end.  My only friend, the end.

Today is the end of summer.  Tomorrow I can no long shirk responsibility and must become a grown-up again.  The alarm is set for 6:30.  The homeschooling schedule has been set.  We all know what we have to do.  Now, we just have to do it.  Tomorrow is the beginning.

For the last week I have felt like crap.  I have been congested and have been basically feeling like warmed over turds.  So this weekend, I didn't get much accomplished.  Neither did Crab Mama, since she was feeling about the same for the last couple of days.  I read a bit today.  Sat on the couch and read.  I don't do that much.  Today I said "F*ck it, I am going to sit my John Big-Bootie on the couch and read!" And that is what I did.

Yesterday we had the strangest visit of a relative that I have ever had.  Ever.

I figure that you can measure the length of stay of a relative by some factors, some of which include how long it took them to get to your place, how close you are, how long it has been since you have seen each other and how many other people you have to visit while you are in town.

Crab Mama's family sort of breaks many of these rules.  For example, when her Dad comes and visits us (a 45 minute drive each way), he typically only stays for about 30-60 minutes, which puts his travel time over his visit time.  Interestingly, we only see him 2-3 times a year, which seems like it would mean that the visits should be longer.  Also considering that he isn't very busy at all (so the variable drops out of the equation), you can solve for the variable "closeness".  As is self-evident, this is relatively low.

Yesterday blew all my understanding of "closeness" (or "strangeness") out of the water.

Crab Mama's aunt was going to be in town for a day.  She flew into Indianapolis and was there for work or something.  Yesterday morning she drove up and was visiting with old friends and seeing where she used to live and such.  Now, she used to live about 5 miles from us, so we were told that she was in town.  About 6:00 yesterday, she calls and says "hey, do you mind if I stop over and visit?"  Crab Mama says, "Sure, you are more than welcome!"  So, we quickly clean up the house and prepare for the imminent arrival.

About 30 minutes later, the doorbell rings, the dogs go nuts, and she has arrived.  Crab Mama steps outside to give her aunt a hug, and they just stand there.  Her aunt brought a friend.  I was standing in the kitchen, waiting for them to come in, but they just stood there.  After about 2 minutes of talking, Crab Mama says "you can come in", but her aunt says "oh, no, we need to go".  Uh. Ok.  We convinced her to come into the house.  She stepped in and looks around (like, stands there and looks around).  We talk for a minute about dinner and such and she mentions that she is going to go out to dinner and has to go because she has to go to dinner with her friend (who is standing right there).  We suggested a restaurant and they left.  It was clear that they were going to the restaurant by themselves. So, uh, maybe they would ask us if we wanted to go? Spend a little time with your niece? WTF?  They were there for literally less than 5 minutes.  Crab Mama hasn't seen her aunt in about 5 years or so.  And all it comes to is a five minute visit?  That was just bizarre.  My world is turned upside down.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

To Do List

These are the thing that I have crossed off my to do list in the last week or so.

1. Read Student #2's paper #1.
2. Read Student #2's paper #2.
3. Read Student #2's reply to the referees.
4. Read Previous Student's paper. Again. And Again.
5. Read Student #1's thesis. Again. Fax completed thesis paperwork.
6. Print out paper work from person, fill it out and drop it off.
7. Write a letter of recommendation.
8. Buy tickets for Switzerland trip.
9. Buy tickets for Boulder trip.
10. Reserve hotel and car and register for Boulder trip.
11. Buy tickets for Mike Doughty at the Ark.
12. Write a thank-you e-mail to NASA person.
13. Bug collaborator about workshop that he is organizing.
14. Figure out class schedule. Make web site and crap for class.
15. Get Student #1 to run model for a few months and give results to person that I don't want to collaborate with (#1), so they can sit on the results and do nothing with them.
16. Figure out why Crab girl is not feeling well (not completed).  Call Dr. Schedule appointment.
17. Get IT people to finish installing software on laptop (not completed).
18. Go to the bank.
19. Reimbursements - June meeting #1, June meeting #2, June meeting #3, Balloon crap.
20. Set up meeting times with six students/post docs/engineers and group meeting.
21. Get dry ice.
22. Test magnetometer.
23. Finish AGU abstract #1 and #2.
24. Finish paper and get feedback from people.
25. Write on my blog.

Now, wasn't that an exciting post!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Paper One "Complete"

Well, I pretty much have finished the first paper that I had as a goal to finish this summer.  I have to address some comments by co-authors (Damn you co-authors! You know who you are! :-)  I have also figured out a big step forward in my next paper.  I have one week to finish this next paper.  One week.  Only four work days.

Oh Crap.

Only four work days until classes start.

Oh Crap.

What am I teaching again?  Wow.  I have to really start thinking about this class.....

I think that this year I am going to try to take the kids on more trips.  I will try again to take each on a separate trip and see how it goes.  The first trip I took Crab Girl on went pretty well - she played video games and watched movies pretty much the whole time, and then, on our off hours, she wanted to play in the swimming pool the whole time.  I don't think we left the hotel the whole week.  She got to ride in First Class on the way home, which thrilled her (they upgraded me, and then couldn't downgrade me when I requested it since the plane was full, so they upgraded her!)  Crab Boy's first trip was pretty good also.  We went to Washington DC for three days.  Two days were in meetings and one was just walking around seeing the sights.  He collapsed in exhaustion a few (dozen) times, but besides that it was a fun day.

This year I think that I will probably take Crab Girl with me to Switzerland (a week) and Crab Boy to Boulder (3 days).  This means that I have to take Crab Mama somewhere better than Switzerland (in November).  It is our 15th anniversary next year, so the trip better be (1) without kids; and (2) good.  Any suggestions?  Oh, we are talking about the end of February.  So, no Alaska or Maine or Canada.  One of my students went to Italy a little while ago.  How does that sound?  Expensive?  Oh, and I should say, Saline is out of the question!  So is Milan!

Ok, back to thinking about how the summer is almost gone and how little I have accomplished this summer and .... sob.