Friday, September 30, 2005

Poor Q.

Every research group has one crazy guy. You know, someone with small yellow birds circling around his/her head all the time.

We have "Q." It's very sad, really. Whenever I come into work late at night I see Q, sitting at his desk, staring into space, rocking himself. It's clear that he suffers from a severe disorder. What's worse, people in the group seem to enjoy screwing with him.

Two days ago, some group members saw Q posting a "Male Seeking Female" ad on craigslist. They thought it would be hilarious to have Q meet his "dream girl" at a restaurant in downtown Boston. I ran into Q on his way out:

V: Big Q, what's going on?
Q: I've got a date tonight. I'm really excited, because I haven't been on a date in a while.
V: Q, don't go. It's a joke, the guys... they're playing a joke on you.

Suddenly, Q started rocking himself while he stood, "It, it can't be a joke. I, I, I know it can't. I'm gonna go. They guys probably were thinking about screwing with me... but this girl, she's waiting for me."

I returned to the lab at 2 AM. There I saw poor Q, again rocking himself in his chair. It was clear that he had been crying. I love practical jokes. I hate cruelty. In this case, the distinction was clear.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Turn Damn You.

I've been promised that fall here on the east coast is spectacular. "It's coming, next week... you watch," I'm continually told. The trees are very green. There's nothing indicating that I'm going to be the recipient of a carotenoid laden visual display. At this point I'm not convinced it's going to happen. Then again, I'm also not convinced that it gets very cold here in the winter. Denial? Who's in denial?

Yesterday I overheard a worker saying, "Yeah, fall around here used to really be something. These days it lasts three weeks and then it's freezing cold. I feel bad for all these students coming here expecting months of beauty."

Columbus Day (read: indigenous people day) is high season for fall foliage. Mrs. Vavoom and I are going to drive up to New Hampshire and look at all the colors. There had better be some beauty or I'm going to go postal on mother nature.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Finally.

My latest 30 hour time course experiment failed yesterday, badly. This was particularly troubling since group meeting was coming later that night. Yes, I was again promised that I'd have to do another chalk talk. No data and a chalk talk. Wonderful.

When group meeting hit, I was so exhausted. I had been up for the last 36 hours. At this point, I didn't really care if I was going to get jumped.

BS: Vavoom, you're up.
V: Yeah, well... my experiment didn't work out so well, but I know why.
BS: Why?
V: Well, our fiber launch keeps drifting and by the time the experiment is done, we've lost 40% of our power. I've got the data to prove it. I'd like to put together a system that won't have that problem...
GM1: We don't need to put together another system. Why can't you just sit next to the damned thing while you're doing the experiment and keep adjusting it?
V: Continue to adjust it while the experiment is going? For thirty hours? That's not sensible.
GM1: Why not?
V: While I'm collecting data, I should continue to realign the optics? C'mon, that's preposterous. To fix it, we'll only need to spend $500. I'll pay that out of pocket if Bigshot won't pony up the cash.
BS: Yes, we can certainly afford that. GM1 -- you're idea is completely stupid. You want him to change the laser power dynamically, while data is being taken? In the course of your life, have you never taken a measurement? You are a fifth year graduate student, right? Why would suggest something so inane?
GM1: (frustrated) I, uhhh... well, Vavoom wants to waste money on things like irises. I keep telling him that two points don't necessarily define a line and we can align the system with just one iris.
BS: Okay, stop. You're telling me that one point defines a line? Vavoom, take a seat, thanks. GM1, get up to the board. I need to see you prove to me that one point defines a line. I need to see your idiocy in action.

All told, Group Member 1 spent 2.5 hours at the board being thrashed by Bigshot. It was like watching a one way knife fight. Group Member 1 has been the bane of my existence since I arrived here at Fancypants University. Maybe you guys are right. Maybe karma is real.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Sex Kittens.

There are a couple of vendors that roam the halls here at Fancypants University once every month. Both look exactly like Barbie. They are aggressive in their game plan.

Every male scientist they run into, they flirt with to high hell.

There I was -- married little Vavoom, sitting at my desk, trying to figure out how to prove some God forsaken thing using Pascal's Triangle. Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder.

SK1: Hi there. We're from XYZ incorporated. Do you have a minute?
V: Actually, I don't. I'm working on a problem set. Sorry.
SK2: Wow, I didn't know there were such good looking guys doing math in this building.
V: Right, right. I really should get back to work.
SK1: (putting her hand on mine) C'mon, you've got to have some time for the two of us.

Now, your average single male graduate student would probably go absolutely nuts with two canonically gorgeous women flirting with him. I, on the other hand, was getting annoyed.

V: We don't allow vendors to roam around here for a reason. You guys are a distraction. Touching me is a distraction. Flirting with me is a distraction. If I want to buy something, I'll buy it. If you have information, leave it and I'll look at it later.
SK1: Wow, this one is fiesty. I like that.
SK2: Me too. (rubs SK1's back)

It felt like they were going to make out with each other right then and there. Was I trapped in some geeky beer commercial? Was this the Howard Stern show featuring Pascal's Triangle and hot lesbian action?

V: Okay, that's it. You guys are banned. Leave now, don't come back. I see you guys pull this crap every month. Do you actually make sales doing this sort of thing?
SK1: Actually, we do.
SK2: We'll see you later, handsome. (they leave)

Upon talking to our administrative assitant, I found out that these two women are apparently the top sales producers for their product category on the east coast. Man, I guess sex really does sell.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Pep Talk.

A conversation I had with Prof. Bigshot this morning:

V: Bigshot, one of the department requirements is that I apply for a fellowship.
BS: So.
V: Well, I sent you a fellowship proposal and I was wondering if you've had a chance to look at it.
BS: No, and I don't think I want to read it.
V: Okay... why?
BS: Well... your labmate, So and So, has a much better chance of becoming a faculty member. I'm going to focus on So and So's application. That means you're on your own.
V: Interesting. So and So has done next to nothing in the lab. We're in the same year of graduate school. I've been here everyday, 7 days a week, working hard, getting results and I'm not cut out to be a faculty member?
BS: That's right.
V: Just curious, on what basis do you make that claim?
BS: I don't have a basis. I don't need one. That's just the way that it is. So and So will get my help, So and So will get a faculty position. You won't.

I crept out of Bigshot's office. The walk back to the lab was long, despite it's actual three meter distance. It's common for faculty to have favorites. Bigshot and So and So are actually close friends, for reasons I'd rather not discuss. This is life. This is academia. Four years of this. Lucky me.

Actually, I mean it. I love being underestimated. I absolutely love it. I can't become a professor, eh? Watch me. I have a plan. I'm sticking to it.

Why Lima Beans Suffer.

Why does succotash suffer?

Answer.

As someone that's constantly using profanity, I'm trying to find replacement words that won't make me sound like Mary Poppins. What are your favorite "gosh darn it" euphemisms?

Friday, September 23, 2005

Happy Birthday!

Today is my sister's birthday. She's the most wonderful person I've met. In a sense, she was like a second mother to me. While my mother worked diligently, it was my eldest sister that helped around the house, kept us in line and made sure all was in order. As should be apparent, she sacrificed so much to serve as a maternal safety net.

When I was in the depths of depression, it was she that sat beside me and made sure I realized everything would be alright. She is the paragon of industry and strength, a true reflection of our mother.

Happy birthday, my sister. I love you.

Swamped.

Good God am I busy. I've been awake for nearly 30 straight hours doing a time course measurement. I have a problem set due today and I have to give yet another group meeting next Tuesday. On top of that, I have to meet with a potential collaborator and take care of some work for my labmate.

Tired, humbled and stressed, I carry on.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Crash.

I came into lab this morning and saw the most lovely site. A huge piece of duct had fallen onto my optics bench. It looks like it landed on the lasers, bounced off and rested nicely onto the optics.

Apparently two workers (one of whom is a good guy) decided to take a look at the duct work above my setup. One of them leveraged himself against a piece of duct. Guess what? Well, you've already read the opener so you know what happened.

Prof. Bigshot hasn't shown up to work yet, but oh holy shit is there gonna be trouble. I've got to keep this short. I'm hoping the lasers and optics aren't damaged. If that's the case, then I'll simply fix everything and keep my mouth shut. Both of those workers are terrified they'll lose their job if Bigshot finds out.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Smarts.

What makes a person intelligent? Is it their ability in a particular field? Is it seen through their natural gifts? Is it a confluence of their knowledge and life experiences?

Time and time again, I've mentioned that I don't have an appreciation for bullshit. Shit, yes. Bullshit, no. In my extended time at Berkeley and now at Fancypants University, I've run into several types of people. I propose the following categories:

1) Truly bright, No B.S.: This rare group of people are amongst the few that can actually back their words up with action. When they say something, they mean it.

2) Truly bright, B.S.: Surprisingly, this tends to be the most successful class of people I've met. They may be able, but they will often mask their abilities with a clear coat of crap.

3) Mr./Mrs. ROTM: Mr. or Mrs. Run Of The Mill will usually just plow along and get things done.

4) Truly foolish, B.S.: This is the worst of the worst. They don't know what they're talking about so they'll start throwing jargon (like Markov chains) around and blame others if nothing works.

1-3 I have no problem with. Yesterday, a category 4 labmate tried to explain to me that only one point defines a line. One point. I argued, algebraically and geometrically, with this person for an hour. "I'm telling you, two points define a line," I kept saying, "look at the math, for God's sake." In the end, this category 4 genius said he simply isn't convinced. Another labmate walked up to me and said, "Vavoom... everyone knows that you only need one point to define a line."

Back to my original point -- do I have the right to call these people idiots? Maybe they're weak at math. That's okay. Plenty of people are weak at math. Intelligence comes in many forms. Who am I to decide that they're fools? They have skills and talents in other fields. At what point can you proclaim that someone is an idiot? After all, in doing so you negate their intellect.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

School's In.

My first day of classes went well. I must say, I feel overwhelmed. As a graduate student, you have to keep up with classes, research and current scientific literature. How anyone is able to keep up with all three is beyond me.

My day started at 7:30 AM, ended at 10:30 PM. One meal all day.

Swing low... sweet chariot... comin' for to carry me home...

One highlight -- I'm taking a course dealing with Markov Chains. Apparently, once I've mastered Markov Chains, I'll be able to cook up some cool card tricks. Of course, I'll post them for y'all. That is what graduate school is all about, right -- cool card tricks?

I have an important meeting with Prof. Bigshot tommorrow. Apparently some of the stuff I'm working on will be included in Bigshot's talk at a big conference. I'll have to get heaps of research done in the next few weeks. What can you do, right? Well, I'm going to bury my head and plow through classes and research. I've found that I'm much happier and certainly much more productive when I ignore all of the politics around me and simply work.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Violated.

While strolling down the Newbury Street in Boston yesterday, Mrs. Vavoom decided to get a manicure. "Great," I thought as I held the two paintings we purchased earlier in the day. It was overcast and I was worried we may experience one of those crazy summer showers we've grown accustomed to.

I waited outside the salon for 20 minutes. I decided to enter since I was sick of looking at overpriced clothing in the neighboring stores. As I entered the salon, a gaggle of Vietnamese women began speaking to me very quickly, in accents that could only be ascribed to speaking in tongues.

"You sit here, honey. I fix you up good," said one of the stylists.
"No, no. I'm here with her, my wife."
"Honey, we know, we know... you sit there. Fix you up good."

I sat in the chair for about 3 minutes. I picked up a time magazine and started reading about systematic rape in Darfur. A sad tale, indeed. Suddenly, I felt hot oil on the back of my neck. "What the hell," I yelled out.

"Relax, honey. Relax. Massage. Fix you up good."
"No, no massage. No thank you."

She began beating on me. Using her elbow, she started poking around my upper back and neck. "Ow, ow, ow, ow. Please, no." "Relax honey, that your problem. Not relax. Fix you up good." Next came the karate chops, which really don't feel good on the back of your neck, last time I checked. The terror continued for 10 minutes.

Halfway through, Mrs. Vavoom, who was not in eyeshot, saw me. "No, no, he hates being touched by strangers. No massage." "Honey, that why your man can't relax. You don't let him."

In the end, my back was covered with oil. What about my shirt? Well, my favorite Berkeley t-shirt was thoroughly stretched out and soaked with goopy massage slime. It was a long trip home, I'll tell you that much.

In other news, classes start today. Man, it's been a long time since I've felt nervous about classes. It's exciting. Certainly it's better than getting violated by a Vietnamese manicurists.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Beer Bash.

Our lab was hosting an interdepartmental party yesterday. That required food, drinks and music. Prof. Bigshot established clearly who would get what for the event. The party was at 5:30 pm. I checked my watch. It was 4:30. No one had gone to get food or drinks. In walks Prof. Bigshot:

PB (angrily): Vavoom, what are you doing? Why aren't you getting things together for the party?
V: B was responsible for getting the drinks. K is responsible for the food. J is responsible for the music. I would assume they're handling it.
PB (angrily): They said you're handling all of it. We have a party in one hour and you've done absolutely nothing!
V: That's complete bullshit. Where are B, K, J?

I proceeded to round up B, K, J and Prof. Bigshot.

V: Bigshot says you guys claimed I was going to get everything for the party. When did I say that? Never. I never said that.
B: Well, I don't want to get the beer. It's raining outside and it'll be too heavy to carry.
K: I'm busy with J right now, so I can't get the food.
V: B, go get food. I'll get the beer.
PB (angrily): Hurry up and get it, Vavoom. We need 7 cases.

I ran to a local market and picked up 8 cases of beer. It was pouring rain. I've never stolen a shopping cart before, but there's a first time for everything. I returned to the lab, soaked and beer laden. A quick check of the watch shows 5:15 PM. I'm on time. I set the beer in ice tubs and proceeded back to my desk.

A postdoc in the lab, D, approached me. "Hey, I just want you to know I appreciate you getting the beer. I wasn't here when you left, otherwise I'd have helped." An aside about D -- he's flamingly gay and extraordinarily effeminate. Once again, in walks Prof. Bigshot:

PB (angrily): Vavoom, you didn't get enough beer. Jesus Fucking Christ! I asked you to get 7 cases... how much is out there?
V: 8 cases.
PB (angrily): That's unacceptable! Clearly you have no sense of how much beer we needed. You were at the store. You should have estimated that we needed more.

I stared at Bigshot, water still dripping off of me. Suddenly, I heard D say at his desk, "GOD FUCKING DAMN IT!!!" He quickly came out from his cubicle:

D (very effeminate (ve), very angry (va)): Bigshot, what the fuck is your problem? Vavoom is pinch hitting for your lazy graduate students... I mean, look at the poor guy. He's soaked... he slogged 8 cases of beer through the rain and this is how you thank him? The appropriate response is 'Thank You.' This is why you're such a fucking pain in the ass to work with!
PB: Look I don't like being talked to like that...
D (ve, va): Well now you know how Vavoom feels! God, sometimes you are such an asshole! You've done this to all of us and that's why our group is so fucked up. It's because of you and your shitty management style!

Remember when Hulk Hogan faced off against Andre The Giant in Wrestlemania? Yeah, this was better. They went back and forth for about 10 minutes. D stuck to his guns. He kept calling Bigshot words like, "piece of shit" and "asshole." Finally, Bigshot broke down, "Vavoom, you did good. I'm sorry." Suddenly, I wasn't the one that was all wet.

The party went well. I met heaps of people. Most importantly, I've found a valuable friend and ally in D.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Oh Johnny Boy...



As a result of my continuing struggle with insomnia, I've had the wonderful opportunity to watch John Roberts' confirmation hearing. I'm impressed with Judge Roberts. He's well spoken, thoughtful and humble. I'm not impressed with conservative and liberal senators on the judicial committee.

Each member steps onto their soap box and prattles on about their opinions about abortion, checks and balances, separation of church and state and so on. After expelling their verbal diarrhea, they finally ask Judge Roberts for his opinion. His typical response is, "Well, that issue may come before the court so I must decline to answer."

Liberal members of the committee are often frustrated by such responses. Why? I would be upset if Roberts did indulge us with his personal opinions. He is being evaluated on his ability to remain impartial, right? If that's the case, he's won me over.

Don't get me wrong, I lean to the left. Of course I strongly support a woman's right to choose. Still, I want a justice to evaluate cases free from personal preference. It's clear to me that Roberts will do just that.

Where do you stand on the matter? Should Roberts disclose his political leanings and thoughts about specific cases?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

An Amazing Read.

I ran across this fantastic editorial in USA Today. It's a remarkable look at the interface between American and Islamic culture. Be sure to read it.

As Promised.

I didn't sleep well last night. I tossed and turned, wondering how I'd respond to last night's beating. Would I stay? Would I exact revenge? Would I start playing politics with my labmates? "I'm going to teach them a lesson they'll never forget," I thought.

At about 3 AM, I walked out onto our balcony. It was a cool evening. I was confused and angry. How should I respond? Maybe I could take the day off? Yes, I'll disappear for a day.

Then it donned on me -- I will do exactly as I have been doing. I will come to work early, I will leave late. I will work hard. Leaving Fancypants University is a preposterous notion, one not worth entertaining further. Exacting revenge is immature and puts me at the level of the insecure people I work with. I refuse to play politics. If I did, I would become like the people that came after me last night. That's not for me.

Besides, scores have lost their homes and many have died as a result of torrential flooding in New Orleans. Soldiers in Iraq are fighting and dying. Yes, people in third world nations are starving. I think my little run in last night pales in comparison to all of that. Am I so self centered that all I can care about is a stupid talk? Of course not.

So here I stand. As promised to me last night, tomorrow (today) is another day. I'm going to make it a good and productive one.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Ambush.

I've just spent 3.5 hours getting hammered on. My lovely labmates decided to invite three other faculty members to my "improptu" talk. They were wise in who they brought -- each was an absolute expert on issues pertinent to my new project.

It was terrible. By the end I was dizzy and traumatized. Five group members crafted prepared questions. In my 12 years of research experience, I've never seen anything like this.

I held my own, but I'm profoundly sad that my labmates would be so terrible. They all laughed about it afterwards and regaled in their accomplished mission.

This is as sad as I've been since starting this blog. If being a scientist involves this sort of nonsense, I'm beginning to hate doing science. I'm serious. I can't take this kind of shit anymore.

Chalk Talk.

My project has changed. It came rather suddenly. Prof. Bigshot called me into the office and explained how a person is badly needed to do a particular task. That's fine, I'm new. Changing projects isn't that big a deal.

Our research group has group meeting once a week. They're actually pretty scary events. All of that is because Prof. Bigshot has changed the format. Rather than give a 1.5 hour powerpoint presentation, Bigshot is calling people randomly and having them go to the board and give an old fashioned chalk talk. Chalk talks are scary since Prof. Bigshot seems to be keen on torture. Every talk is like an oral examination. Yes, Bigshot is very good at finding people's weaknesses and beating them down.

Normally I'd think this is all fine, but the attitude in the group is really pathetic. People basically use this opportunity to make their collegues look bad while they simultaneously improve their own image. Also, Prof. Bigshot is exceptionally mean during these endeavors. Last week one group member looked like she was going to cry. It's really sad to see our entire group gang up on one person like that. In fact, I've overheard group members state, "Group meeting is the ultimate opportunity to make someone look bad and make yourself look good... Bigshot seems to love stuff like that."

I mentioned that people are called on randomly. That's not entirely true. Bigshot keeps a list, checks it twice, looks around the room and picks anyone that didn't go last week. I've been told by Prof. Bigshot's spouse that I'm next. Apparently, my thrashing comes tonight. You really can't prepare for these things. Even if you give a solid chalk talk, Bigshot and the other group members will nitpick and find something to thrash you on.

This isn't such a big deal. Right? I just started my new project last week, but spent that week in graduate student orientation (a mandatory event). I haven't any data. In fact, I'm still getting clear on the exact question being addressed through my new project.

Bigshot's spouse told me that three group members have lobbied to have me go next. Politics are very very bad in this new group. The worst I've seen. Yesterday I overheard two group members talking, "Yeah, yeah, we asked Bigshot to put him on the list tonight... I know, he just started this project... Ha ha ha, yeah, Bigshot is going to tear him apart."

I guess I deserve some of this cloak and dagger stuff, what with all of my galavanting around the lab. I'm going to do everything I can to give a good talk. If I think someone's trying to cut me down to make themselves look good, I'm going to do what is needed to demonstrate that I don't stand for that garbage. That's probably not the best way to make friends, but hey -- I've already got plenty of friends.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Fun, Fun, Fun.

I spent most of the weekend working. That means I watched college and pro football scores pour in over the internet. I busted my ass. There really is nothing more gratifying than getting things done, giving it your best. I walked home on Sunday, whistling, as happy as I've been in a while.

The funny thing is, nothing worked. Everything I did over the weekend failed. Not a single experiment worked. Still, I was so pleased with the effort. Often, scientists are saddened with null results. I for one am happy that I tried.

Here I am, early to work, continuing the good fight. I'll walk home today with my head held high, provided that I've dug in and done my best.

Do me a favor -- dig in today. Give it your all. Don't just be good, be great for the lavish sake. Be not upset if things don't work out. Just make sure that you can go home knowing you did everything you could today. Did you feel better when you came home?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Vavoom To The Rescue.

Yesterday I overheard a postdoc badly abusing a technician:

P: I'm asking you why it didn't work. I want an answer now. What the hell are these spikes in the data?
T: Well, I just did the experiment and I need to think about what went wrong.
P: What, are you too stupid to figure it out now? I'm asking you what went wrong!
T: I'm not sure... I... *sniff* I'm trying and... *sniff*
P: Do you honestly think you can keep this job with your idiotic mentality?

Here's where I stepped in:

V: P, what do you think went wrong with T's experiment?
P: I don't know, that's why I'm asking.
V: C'mon, figure it out. You're a postdoc for God's sake. C'mon, right here on the spot, figure it out.
P: Well, I don't know.
V: Now I'm asking you, P -- what went wrong? T has told you exactly how the experiment was done, you should be able to tell me right here, on the spot, what went wrong.
P: I don't know.
V: Do you honestly think you should keep your job with your idiotic mentality? I mean, c'mon, give T a break. How do you expect someone with limited experience to figure out in short time something that you, with years of experience can't figure out? What the fuck gives you the right to treat someone like that? You know, it's assholes like you that really fucking piss me off.

As I spoke I felt my pulse pounding at my temple. After everything that happened to me back at Berkeley, I've become ultra-sensitive to abusive treatment. I took a deep breath. "I'm not handling this well," I thought.

V: Listen, T doesn't deserve to be talked to like that. She's learning. I know what it's like to work for someone abusive. It's not fun. Be patient, give her time and she'll figure everything out.
P: How about you mind your own business, V?
T: It's okay *sniff*, I can take it.
V: You won't have to, T. Everytime P talks to you like that, come and get me. The next time he treats you badly, I'll bore a fucking intellectual hole in his head. By the way, P, those spikes in T's data -- yeah, they're coming from your shithole power supply. T, try the experiment again using a good one. The spikes will go away. If they don't, come and get me.

Again, I could feel myself getting angry. I took another deep breath and walked away. I really need to learn to stay calm during such confrontations. I guess I'm projecting my prior abusive experience onto T's situation.

Incidentally, it was the power supply. Yes, P looked like an idiot. He later apologized to T, but I can hear him hammering on poor T right now. If you'll excuse me, I've got some ass to kick. Don't worry, I'll keep my cool.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

10 Minutes.

It's in the first ten minutes that my day is decided. Honestly. I typically wake up feeling either a) In a great mood and energized (this is rare) or b) In a terrible mood and tired. Unfortunately these ten little minutes have a strangle hold over the rest of the day. I've tried to change that, over and over again. The phenomenon persists.

As Immanuel Kant would argue, a phenomenon is an object as perceived by the senses. I'm particularly sensitive to how I perceive whatever situation I'm in. Some people maintain a positive interpretation to sensory cues of their current situation. I'm beginning to think that I'm simply a negative person. As such, the phenomena I perceive are continually interpreted as negative.

When I was young, I was encouraged to never be satisfied, to always strive for more. At what point does that attitude become a detriment? I wonder if that approach simply feeds a negative interpretation of your situation. I mean, really, is saying that nothing is ever good enough a good idea? If that's the case, then how does one combat complacency and despondency?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Backdoor Access.

Being a graduate student at Fancypants University does have its perks. Yesterday we recieved free laptop computers. These computers are gifts. We do not return them to the department when we've finished. They are ours and ours alone. We were given options, I chose an IBM T43. Oh mama, is it sweet.

When we received our computers, I noticed that they didn't come packaged. Rather, computer services configured the computers for us. As I looked through the user profile for my computer, I noticed a couple of extra profiles. "What the hell," I thought.

V: Excuse me, my computer has some freaky extra accounts on it.
IT: Yes, if you get a free computer, we need to be able to access it at all times. Don't even think about removing those accounts.

Apparently IT services will, from time to time, log on to your computer and check everything out. Seems like a decent deal. I am getting a pricey laptop for free, after all. Then again, this is my laptop. It is my property now.

Last night, I guess I accidentally erased their backdoor access to my computer. This morning I received an e-mail: "Please come speak with IT about your lack of suitable access to your computer." I'll ignore their message. It's my computer, damn it!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Comedian.

Graduate student orientation begins today. It's a one week affair. Safety training, ice cream socials and fancy dinners await the incoming graduate students. Actually, Fancypants University does a pretty bang up job of making students feel welcome.

The one part of orientation I hate -- introductions. Here's where you stand up in front of the faculty and other students and tell them who you are, where you're from and what you're about.

Everytime I go to one of these events, people always have clever things to say when they introduce themselves. Not me. I usually end up saying something like, "Yeah, umm... Hi, I'm Vavoom, ummm... erh, I'm glad to, ummm... be here and yeah."

There's always one guy/gal that's an absolute riot, a true comedian. It's as if they practiced some zingers to deliver to the crowd. I'm thinking about starting off with something like, "As a graduate student, I'll tell you, I get no respect, no respect at all..."

I'm glad orientation has come. Finally I'll meet my classmates and get this year started.

How are you with public speaking? Any interesting incidents you'd like to report?

Monday, September 05, 2005

Working Vacation.

Ahh, Labor Day. The lab is empty. No need to deal with moronic politics. No need to deal with nonsense. It's just science today. I can sit down, listen to Sufjan Stevens' Illinoise and get my work done in peace. It's days like today that bring back the days of building devices in my parent's garage and mixing random chemicals together in the backyard. Science is fun again.

I've decided to try and implement an electronic filtering system. Maniacal fiends, egocentric jerks, political butt kissers and their subsequent signals are all being sent straight to ground. Honestly, I won't survive here at Fancypants University if I allow anything other than science affect me.

From now on, I'll allow the peace of doing what I love govern my lifestyle here. If I can pull that off, there'll be no need for tropical beaches and hammocks. I'll be on vacation every day of my life.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Political Football.

I couldn't sleep last night. I was exhausted. Fortunately, I have the NFL channel. I've been watching replays of NFL exhibition games. At ~3:30 AM, I hear one announcer say, "Well, you've got to wonder if Katrina will open the door for the Saints to move to Los Angeles. The NFL has had a gaping hole in the LA area."

Fantastic. These people have lost their homes, their city, and this moron is suggesting that they lose their football team as well. Wonderful.

I can't stand opportunists. I wish I could deck every loser that wants to profit from this catastrophe. Have you seen other examples of sort of crap recently? Stretching further, do you feel that the rescue effort is being handled well? Has the federal government done enough to help those in need?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Swept Away.

As I walked into work today, I saw a street sweeper or "disinfectant wagon" drive by. I had noticed the sorry, polluted state of the street before the sweeper approached. It was incredible. The sweeper passed, what with it's 10 rotating brushes, and picked up next to none of the garbage. "What a fantastic use of taxpayer dollars," I thought.

In fact, I've never seen a street sweeper that's really effective at picking up garbage. They usually just brush all the garbage to the curb. What the hell?

Ever the investigator, I decided to look into the street sweeping craze in every city. Apparently street sweeping may help reduce air and water pollution. Another article reinforced this notion. In fact, street sweepers are often designed to pick up small particulates. The big trash is just gravy.

I'm still skeptical. Considering vehicular cost ($200,000 for a new wagon) and the cost of a person to drive it, are street sweepers really an effective use of taxpayer dollars?