Saturday, May 30, 2009

Proposal Time

I am working on a major proposal for NSF. If I get this proposal, it will basically change my life. Normally, I work on modeling and that is about it. I have a couple of students and a post doc who do nothing but modeling and data analysis work. It is a good life. But, I really like doing hands-on type of stuff. For example, I did a huge amount of the work on our new house. Modeling is fun to me because it involves writing code and building stuff (not real stuff, but fake, codey stuff).

This new proposal will be to build a bunch of actual, real, stuff. And then deploy that stuff all over the United States and Canada. It is a big proposal. And somewhat important, since it could be life-changing, as alluded to above. Why would it be life-changing? Because it is building so many of these things that it will basically force me to do this 100% of my time for the next 3 years. Then, when the stations are all built and deployed, I will have to do science with the data and manage the operations and the data flow and all sorts of other aspects of them, implying that I will have significantly less time to actually do the modeling. Since I have a lot of grants to do the modeling, I will have get more students to do the modeling and such.

Life could be very different.

One thing that I am finding, while coming up with a management plan, is that I will be doing a lot of driving over the next three years. The furthest station is about 300 miles north of Edmonton, Canada (Fort Smith - 2,755 miles away from Ann Arbor!) The closest station is in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I have to figure out how to deploy 18 stations all over North America in 3 years, with each taking about a week. This is going to be an adventure!

The first hurtle of this proposal is that I have to get it through the university. We are only allowed to submit three proposals from each university, so they have to judge which ones are the most likely to be funded, and which will benefit the university the most, etc. It is going to be harder to get through the universities filter than through the NSF filter, since there will probably be 20-30 proposals submitted to the university, while they have to pick three (a success rate of about 10%-17%), while NSF is expected to fund about 40% of those submitted. (Yeah stimulus money!)

Ok, back to work on the proposal.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Weekend

I finished the talks. I don't think that either one was that great, but, they existed. There was no standing ovation.

I talked to a lot of people out at the Air Force Research Lab. They are working on some pretty interesting things. I am actually quite biased against scientists who work in labs like this, since I see them as basically not contributing to science hardly at all. It seems like many of them get jobs, then are beaten down by the government regulations or whatever, and end up just in in-office retirement.

For example, I was trying to give the person who invited me to come and give the talk my power point presentation. He asked me to mail it to him. I couldn't, since I have movies and stuff that are larger than the 50 MB that our mail server can handle. (Note - don't send 50 MB mail attachments. They really suck down your mail program.) I then suggested a USB thumb drive. No - the government won't let them put USB drives in their computers. (What???) Next, put it on a web page. Well, I can't actually connect to the internet because my computer may explode the Air Force base (or something). So the solution we came up with (he came up with - having gone through this once or twice before) was for me to burn a CD with my talk on it. Then he takes the CD and puts it in his computer and copies it to his hard drive. We then throw away the CD, which fulfilled its destiny in 30 second.

Ah, viruses. I think that the terrorists have won this battle.

Imagine living everyday with this type of logic at work in your life.

"Can I do this?"



"Because we have determined that if you do that, something bad could happen and that would be bad."

"But, by not allowing me and everyone else working for the US government to not do it, you are cause untold amount of lost time and inefficiency."

"Yes, but if we get a virus, we could be down for a day."

"But, if you add up all of the time that is wasted to circumvent this illogical madness, it is MUCH longer than the down time if the worst probable thing happened."

"Follow the rules."


"Follow the rules!"

I think that after a few years of this crap, I would probably join the in-office retirement community of our great nation.

Moving on.

For my talk in Boston, there were a bunch of people out of town. It was a real shame, since there are a large number of people there that I would like to talk to. This was all caused by my moving the day that I was supposed to come and give a talk from the middle of April (during classes) to the middle of May (during summer). I was traveling too much, so I asked if I could move it, and they agreed. But, many people were out of town and a significant amount of the discussion that I could have had with people was cut. Oh well, such is life.

I then climbed on an airplane and flew to an undisclosed location in a state that begins with the letter P and hopped into the minivan to drive to another state that begins with the letter V. The wife and kids and dogs all met me at the airport (she arrived within 15 minutes of my flight arriving, even though she had to drive 5+ hours to get there - how is that for timing?) This all happened at 11 PM. We had to find a hotel that would take dogs. It turns out that in the great state of P, it is difficult to find a hotel that (a) takes dogs or (b) is not completely booked by Halliburton workers. Seriously, the entire Comfort Inn was taken over by Halliburton workers. It was a little scary. We finally found a hotel after asking 11 of them if they let dogs stay. It was crappy, but I had spent the previous night in a bed and breakfast in downtown Boston (I would have to say at least $250/night) and the night before that in a Marriott (about the same price), so pretty much anything would look like a Hell Hole. Hey, there was only one bug that I saw, and it was in the bathroom, so it wasn't all bad.

In the AM, we slogged into a Bob Evan's and ate some good old food for breakfast. I realized, once again, why we never go out for breakfast. Crab Girl eats about 438,625 pieces of french toast. At home this isn't too prices (just ~20,000 loaves of bread), while at a restaurant, it is about $2/piece, which ends up being a fair bit. And it doesn't come with eggs, so you have to order that extra. And juice costs $5/ounce. So, a breakfast that would have cost you about $5-$10 at home costs about $35-$40 at Bob's. Oh well. After we left, I vowed to get a hot plate, a skillet and some pancake mix.

Am I a bitter old man or what?

We decided to take the shorter, yet more scenic route to Aunt Crabby #4's house. This meant traveling through the mountains on a two-lane road. It must have been the breakfast, because I almost hurled. Up and down and round and round. I was even driving. It seems like the mountains in Colorado were up and up and up and then down and down and down. These were up and down and up and down and up and down and ... Ralph. Oh sorry.

We arrived at Aunt Crabby's house where we had a doggy love fest - four dogs in < 1000 square feet. It was all dog, all the time. It is funny, because I remember one of Aunt Crabby's dogs being very big, but compared to Lilly, he was tiny. Lilly is now a gigantic moron dog (not just a little moron dog!)

Aunt Crabby put us all to work on little gifts for all of the attendees of the wedding. They were very well thought out and nice gifts. She spent a lot of time and energy making things that she thought people would really like. So, we helped finish some stuff up and put bows and stuff and other things.

The next day we got to do more running around and going to rehearsals and going to rehearsal party and such. Fun times. I really wasn't involved at all, but Crab Mama was the Maid of Honor, while Crab Girl was the Junior Maid of Honor, and Crab Boy was a flower boy or something (he got to throw flowers while looking embarrassed). We met up with Grandpa and Grandma (divorced, one remarried, the other bitter... awkward!) at the party, and hung out for a while.

It was quite humorous, since people put a movie on for the kids to watch, and after about 30 minutes, the groom and the best man made their way over to the couch and sat and watched the movie, while the rest of the people talked. It was at the groom's house, and 75% of the people their were his family. I should have been the one on the couch! I have no relationship with these people at all (well, ok, I married in the deranged family, but you get the point) and HE is the one sitting there watching the stupid kid's movie, while I talk up the wife's father. Grrrr....

The next day was the wedding, which didn't start until 6:30. So, we had the day to kill. I took the kids to see "Night at the Museum 2" (sucks monkey balls). And arrived back to a freaked out bride. I am not really sure why she was freaked out, but, after a little bit, she calmed down and she and Crab Mama packed up and left for the wedding place. I took Crab Girl to the store to print some pictures for Crab Auntie, while Crab Boy stayed with Grandma. We ended up getting prints and then going to Bed, Bath and Beyond, since I realized that we hadn't actually bought them a present yet (oops!) Then, it was off to the wedding!

It was a very small wedding. I actually felt much better about our wedding, since we had a ton of friends there, while Crab Aunt didn't have many friends there at all. Considering that it was he second wedding and she is about 10 years older than we were when we got married, maybe it is to be expected. The reception was fun. We danced a fair bit. I know that there is some crazy video of me dancing to Come On Eileen, which was the fastest/most modern song the DJ played. Since I now have tenure, I don't have to worry about these types of things anymore (right?)

We drove home on Monday. It was a very nice day for driving. I drove like a bat out of Hades through V, WV, and P. As soon as we got into O, Crab Mama took over and there were Police Officers EVERYWHERE. We didn't see any until this time, but once she took over, they were spaced about every 10 miles on the interstate. She drives much ... better ... than I do, so there was nothing to worry about.

Never, ever, get a burrito from anyplace associated with Hardee's.

It took us about 10 hours to finally make it home. Home Sweet Home.

My next trip is in three weeks. I don't know whether to be happy that I have three weeks, or to be frustrated that I only have three weeks.

Bed time!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Why is my life so overwhelming?

Because I volunteer to give two hour-long seminars in two days in a different city just a few days before Crab-Mama's sister is getting married.



Well, at least I finished the talk that I am giving today last night. Now I just really need to start the talk that I am giving tomorrow. Can anyone spell stuped ideit?

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Very Sad Movie

If you are really feeling very depressed, watch "Seven Pounds" with Will Smith. It broke my heart.

Really, you have to see this movie. It is terribly depressing, but such an incredibly good movie.

The other movie I saw this weekend, was not. "Space Balls". The kids loved it. I guess I loved it when I was about their age also. The movie could have been better if there was no swearing. It is amazing how you watch a movie in a completely different way when is a 6 year old, a 7 year old and an 11 year old in the room. The sad thing is that the swearing wasn't even necessary.

Necessary was on my daughter's spelling list. She spelled it right. I thought, if she can spell necessary (which I can't even spell), then she must be doing ok.

But seriously, watch "Seven Pounds".

Right after listening to "What Sarah Said" by Death Cab for Cutie.

You won't be sorry.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Tenure! Tenure! Tenure!

I have Tenure! Official congratulations from president of the university and everything!

Let's start the in-office retirement. Right now!

Who wants to celebrate????

I am going to go crazy! Like, go to bed at 10:30, nut-so-like!

Here I go!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

May Already?

Well, classes have ended. My GSIs graded the final exam, and I turned in final grades. I am done with class! I have to say that I was too generous with the students. When someone comes to you and says that they are basically an idiot and can you have mercy on their soul (i.e., don't fail them - just give them something higher than a D....), what do you say? Laugh at them and say "NO! Ha! Ha! Ha!"

I really thought that life would slow down a bit after class ended, but so far, not so much.

I went to Boulder on Wednesday night of last week. Was there all day Thursday, then flew back to MI on Friday. I gave a talk there and it was well received, which is good. This was a meeting that I go to every year, but it ends up being the same meeting every year, with the same speakers saying the same thing. It is a very political meeting, but very little science is done there. The only real reason that I go is to (a) do political stuff, (b) see people that I haven't seen in a couple of months, and (c) get away from the office, so I can actually do some work. Typically, in order to get some work done, I need to be gone for more that 1 day, so the meeting this year did not accomplish that. But, I got to talk to some people that I don't get to talk to very often, which was good.

Over the weekend we went kayaking, which was nice. There were issues with kids wanting to do their own kayak, but not having enough muscle power to actually paddle against the wind. Crab Boy did a lot of "Let me do it on my own!" complaining, and we tried to be patient, while Crab Girl was going all over the place with her kayak. We made a few mistakes, that we will be able to compensate for next time. For example, Crab Mama and I went in a single kayak. It would have been better to go in separate kayaks, with one of us chasing after Crab Girl and the other one taking a nap near Crab Boy. Then, rope would have been nice. So, when Crab Boy gave up the ghost, we could have just dragged him back to shore. We ended up swapping him for Crab Mama about 1/2 way through the event. Live and learn. Overall, I would say that it was a beautiful day. It wasn't too hot or too cold. We had a relatively good time paddling around the lake for a while. No one was drowned. Positive.

Early this week, I don't remember what I did..... Ahhh... I made a todo list and tried to accomplish things on the list. That is basically my life now - make a list and cross stuff off it. It almost doesn't matter what it is, just do it. Write a letter of support. Done. Get Y to install Wiki software so other people can start doing web page management. Done. Start runs on machine Z. Done. Blah Blah Blah.

Now I am in New Jersey sitting in an airport waiting to go home. I went to this meeting on Wednesday afternoon. I wanted to go a little early, so I could go to New York, but the plane was delayed and we got in a couple of hours late. I am also a lazy sack of crap, so I just walked to a restaurant and had a very crappy dinner in Newark. I had a talk to give on Thursday, so I should have been working on it. I didn't. I worked on crossing more stuff off my list. Respond to e-mail P. Send an e-mail to person Q. Blah Blah Blah. On Thursday I went to the meeting. It was interesting, but I really don't have any idea whether it was actually worth coming to. I spent about 20 minutes putting together a talk from talks that I have given in the last couple of months. It was a fine talk. Lots of questions with interest (as opposed to hostile questions). We went out to dinner as a group, which means that we spent 3 hours there. I am a relatively social person, so this is sort of ok, except that you start to feel like you need to call home and talk to the kids and such. It is hard to do this while being at a restaurant with 25 people who you marginally know.

One of my main problems that I have while at meetings is that I feel like I am always the wet blanket. I don't do a lot of hanging around with people until 3 AM, only to be bright and chipper at 8 AM. I have to say that if don't get something like 7-8 hours of sleep, I am a real dick. I also like to have a few minutes by myself before I go to bed, to read and just be. So, I think that a lot of people at meetings don't think that I like them, because I don't go to the bar and stay out late. There were a couple people at this meeting who I think really thought that I didn't like them because of this. So, I sat with them at dinner. I feel like we are all pretty ok friends now. But, I didn't go out to the bar with them later. Oh well.

When we had to buy tickets for the meeting that I am at, we didn't know what the schedule was. So, I got a flight home at 5:30, assuming that the meeting would take most of today. Well, when the schedule came out, I say that it pretty much ended at 11:00. But, instead of changing my flight, I just decided to go standby. Last night NWA wouldn't let me get on the standby list. So, when I got to the airport at 11:30, I got on standby for a 12:30 flight. There were basically no seats available. But, someone didn't show up, so I got the last seat. I went on board, and found my seat, but there was a kid sitting there. Hmmm... We it turns out that the parents didn't get the kid's boarding pass scanned. So, she was on board, and not delayed somewhere. So, I got off the airplane. I called NWA and asked them if there was another flight that I could get on, instead of sitting here for 5 hours. The person said, "what do you mean earlier flight. You are on the flight that is departing right now." I told her, that I obviously wasn't on board that flight, since I was looking out the window at the airplane pulling away right now. I explained what happened. She said that I was confirmed on that flight and that I would probably have to pay a change fee to get on the original flight. WTF??? She put me on hold. 15 minutes later, she comes on and says that she is going to talk to her supervisor. 5 minutes later, the person at the next gate over calls my name. Huh? So I go over there and she asks me what is going on. I tell her and she tells me to hang up. I do. She gives me my original flight back and puts me on the stand-by list for the earlier flight. 2 minutes. No supervisor. I just don't understand. Maybe they didn't want me to take the survey at the end of my call....

Oh well.

So, here I sit in the Newark NJ airport. Blogging.

Who knows. Maybe I will get more work done at the airport than at work. Stranger things have happened.