After a long day of flying up from Albuquerque (today just *felt* much longer than Friday's flight to the Southwest, even if it was shorter by two hours of transit time) we're ensconced in a hotel in Kent (yeah, yeah, but it was the only place within 20 miles of my folks' that wasn't charging 3-digit rates per night).

Barring anything funny in the credit check*, we should have landed a fabulous rental in ABQ. More on that as I learn it.

Wife and kiddo are crashed out in the room upstairs. I'm in the lobby so as not to disturb them. My sleep schedule is almost infinitely more mutable than theirs. Getting Rosie back on to an Eastern Time schedule for the last two weeks of July may not be worth the effort...

Still planning on moving to ABQ in the first week of August. But likely without movers. Their rates right now approach ludicrous.

And, of course, for all the lovely sunshine with which the PNW welcomed us this afternoon and evening, it is now raining. Yup, some things don't change.

* Apparently New Mexico, and Albuquerque specifically, has a major problem with ID theft. Interesting to know.
NO SOUL.

How do I know this simple fact?

They're lampooning the theme song to Firefly for being "crappy".

*sigh*

(I mean, yes, it's a tad melodramatic, and there are moments... but still... one does not laugh at the theme song to Firefly.)
I just dropped over $850 on purchasing my doctoral cap, gown and tassel (gold bullion thread, really? c'mon...) for commencement in April.

I was expecting about half that cost, but given that the material looks to be actual silk, as opposed to the polyester blend I had for my bachelor's gown, I'm considering this an investment in my professional academic wardrobe.

Honestly, that's about the same as I spent for my last suit, although I did get several shirts, ties, and a pair of shoes in the package as well...
Recipe for a Miserable Night:

Take one (1) baby with their first head cold.
Mix liberally with one (1) breast-feeding mother with food poisoning.
Top with one (1) post-stress-mania father physically crashing after two months of intense work.
Simmer overnight.

Why, yes, I *have* had 7 hours of sleep today. In 3 separate blocks of time, each separated by more than an hour of being awake and taking care of the baby. Why, no, I'm not dead on my feet or so exhausted that I'm staying upright only through liberal application of caffeine.
I meant to post these last week, but one thing led to another aaaaand... Anyway. The specific time and space for my defense is tomorrow at 2 PM, in the Wheeler Seminar Room, room 5623 in Medical Science II, on the medical campus at UM. The building is located at the corner of Catherine Street and Zina Pitcher Place.

Any of you who do make it are also all invited to my boss' house that evening for a celebratory dinner. If you think you can make that, let me know!

For those of you who are not on the medical campus, I recommend the following options:

UM Commuter bus: there's a stop a block south of Med Sci II. See the map.

Public transit: the AATA #4 has a stop a block south of Med Sci II. See the map.

Driving: There are metered spaces for public parking within a block or two of the building. Specifically, there's parking on Zina Pitcher, and along Ann Street to the east of ZP Place. See the map

Where do you go once you've arrived? Well, I've another map for that, too, although it's not quite as pretty. Specific instructions follow:

Enter Med Sci II at the street level entrance on the west side of the building. If you cross over a bridge to get into a building, you went the wrong way. If you go down stairs to enter a building, you went the wrong way.

Once you're in Med Sci II, you should see a long hall stretching north, and the "Human Genetics" office to your immediate right. Go north.

You'll pass a branching corridor on your left, followed by another on your right. Keep going north until you find a second corridor on your right. Turn right.

You will almost immediately come to another corridor that goes north-south, parallel to the one you just left. If you turn left, you'll find an elevator; if you turn right, you'll find stairs. Both will take you to the 5th floor.

The elevator opens directly opposite the Wheeler Seminar Room.
Now I know what someone having a seizure sounds and looks like.

It's also reassuring to know that all of my long-accumulated first aid training from my days in the scouts and with Red Cross refresher courses has not left my head.

I'm thankful that the "bystander effect" did not happen in this instance.

I hope for his sake that 'Chad' makes out alright.

Writing? What's that? I'm gonna go out for a walk...
Who, me, reading a book left behind in the study carrel by another graduate student, diverting myself from number crunching and writing my diss? Nope, not me. It's called taking a mental break.

From Tap Roots: the early history of tap dancing by Mark Knowles, quoting an 1840s passage about William Henry Lane, AKA "Master Juba", the best dancer of "negro dances" of the time, and arguably one of the best dance soloists in the world at that time, who was a free-born black man of the New York/New Jersey area:

[P. T.] Barnum... found a boy who could dance a better break-down....but he was a genuine negro; and there was not an audience in American that would not have resented, in very energetic fashion, the insult of being asked to look at the dancing of a real negro.

Barnum was equal to the occasion.... He greased the little "nigger's" face and rubbed it over with new blacking of burnt cork... put on a wooly wig over his tight curled locks and brought him out as the "champion nigger-dancer of the world." Had it been suspected that the seeming counterfeit was the [genuine] article, the New York Vauxhall would have blazed with indignation.

I'm simply astounded that even in the 1840s, people (in the 'egalitarian' North) would fail to recognize the monumental hypocrisy inherent in watching white men perform "negro dances" on stage and then getting upset about watching a black man dance the exact same steps. The sheer mental acrobatics needed to rationalize that state... wow.
Thanks to all of my many friends who asked some very probing questions on both LJ and FB about my upcoming dissertation defense. Welcome to the scientific process of question and discussion!

In order to address some of your very specific concerns, I spent some time yesterday digging through old Rackham guidelines and some earlier editions of the Michigan Standard Practice Guide. Take heart, I did find some answers for you!

Rackham rules (paraphrased):

Regarding vuvuzelas: Unless you also cobble together a strings player and a drummer (and appropriate instruments) for every five horns, you are limited to wearing your [wind instrument] as personal decoration. If you DO get a band together, they cannot play other than an introductory segue and an exit march. The drummer is allowed rimshots. (Sorry, I'm not in the School of Music, performances during the presentation are not allowed.)

Regarding signs/posterboards: Sure, as long as they are presented for public display on the nearest non-University property. (Which, if I recall correctly for the departmental seminar room, would be smack in the middle of Ann street. Sorry, I believe it's an anti-Westboro numbskulls thing. Good luck dodging the buses and all.)

Michigan SPG (from an 1843 edition):

"In the eventuality the candidate is challenged.... when the challenger disallows the validity of all of the candidate's claims or findings, there shall be a duel conducted immediately after the presentation. The candidate chooses the weapons."

I will be generous and presumptively announce my choice of weapon now: babies. Remember, if you do not bring your baby to my defense, you default and I automatically win.
In two months, on December 14th, in the early afternoon, I will present the public defense of my dissertation. If you can read this, basically, you're all invited to come--it is a public event for a reason (although I do ask that you leave your airhorns at home). Specifics forthcoming.

What I have left to do before then:

Finish 4 de novo chapters of my written document. Three of them are non-data chapters.
Adapt the 3 chapters already written (formatting, inclusion of extra bits of data).
Write 3 appendices (the projects which never quite got off the ground).
Not go nuts.
Figure out which particular projects I want to highlight in the defense.
Not become a stranger to my daughter or my wife.

Right. Back to work.
And, given that she has a lot of time on her hand without a great deal of mobility at the moment, she's engaged in her photographic proclivities with her captive subject: Rosie.

I'm rather fond of this series.

Of course, I might've taken some myself.
I have put up a selection of photos from Tuesday-through-Thursday on my Flickr page in this gallery. They include some shots leading up to the birth and operation, our first photos as a family, and shots of Anne's convalescence with (if I recall correctly in these photos) our Little Girl who was as-yet unnamed until Thursday afternoon.

There are a few snaps of me in there (I have to admit, I'm really stylin' in the tyvek bunny-suit and beard-guard), and one of RJ's uncle C, our first family visitor.

(If you can't see them, let me know and I'll port some over for an LJ-host.)
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The three of us are, on the whole, in reasonably good shape. We had the option to go home today, but after consulting with one of the ob/gyn partners, Anne decided staying on with nursing care and attentive check-ups was not a bad thing. We were, for a while, clear of the roommates, but we acquired new ones--apparently UM Mott has had a Baby Blitz, with squadrons of storks with wing-mounted baby-bundle dispensers doing bombing runs across the city. I'm guessing St. Joe's has seen much the same phenomenon. We will be home tomorrow after our pediatrician signs the discharge.

About the only thing we need right now is sleep, I think. Our little girl is getting plenty of it (much as we were told), and Anne's doing a better job of taking the cat-naps. I, for all that I was sent home last night, didn't do too well (and slept less than Anne did during The Wait on Tuesday, i.e. not at all).

And as for my first official announcement online, we have named our daughter: Rosalind Jane. Or, if you're being familiar, Rosie, Roz, (Little) Jaybird, and Lin. Either pronunciation of Rosalind is fine at this point. I tend towards Rose-a-lind, Anne tends towards Roz-lind. It's amusing. To us. For now.

Don't forget, we're short on sleep. ;-)
Hi everyone. As most of you were aware, Anne & I are expecting our first child, a girl, sometime in the next few weeks.

As it turns out, thanks to low-volume amniotic fluid and an obstreperously breech position (ah, our little troublemaker) the docs have recommended (most strongly) that for various and sundry reasons, our little girl arrive today. The kid is full-term, and certainly looks and behaves healthy on the ultrasounds.

So, we're waiting in the UM Mott/Women & Children's Hospital triage area, until we learn when Anne's Caesarian section is scheduled. Most likely this afternoon/early evening.

This isn't what we wanted for the birth of our first child, but we're not going to be any more ready, to be truthful.

Honestly, I can't wait to meet our daughter. :D

(no subject)

Aug. 4th, 2010 03:14 pm
willowroot: (Kermit)
I have been given permission to set a defense date for my PhD.

I'd been thinking originally of defending sometime in October, but my committee had some solid arguments for later in the term (incl. "You have a baby arriving within the month. Give yourself as much time as you possibly can."), so it looks like early-mid December.

Still.

YES. SWEET DOCTORAL TITLE-NESS SHALL BE MINE.
If you're at all interested, intrigued, amused, or worried about "America's deficit in STEM fields" (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math), careers in academia, or education in general, I highly recommend you read "The Real Science Gap" by Beryl Lieff Benderly. It's a little long to be light reading, but I'll wait.

I've personally known this problem for 10-12 years now, although I've only been able to articulate it as clearly as this article in the last 4 or 5. This problem is why I left graduate school at Chicago. Ironically, a cousin to this problem is also why I restarted grad school, here at Michigan.

At the U of Chicago, graduate work in the sciences was the entry to a great and storied career in the Ivory Tower of Academe (especially if your successes reflected greater glories back upon UC). Successful advancement upon this high road however, demanded you sacrifice personal freedoms, frequently any relationships with people outside the school, often sleep, and sometimes your health. But if you mentioned you were considering any career other than academic research faculty, you received numerous cold shoulders from professors and the institution.*

I'll admit, I pondered my boss' life as young faculty, I looked that career right in the eye, and I blinked. I didn't want the $30-50K/year for 70-hour work weeks for 10 years while starting a family and living a life and attempting to get a career up and running. I knew that I was not a sufficiently driven scientist to let the job be its own reward. I walked away. Yet here I am, coming perilously close to that potential Gate of Horn anyway, hoping that I can land a postdoc fellowship and find a good position at a small college after I defend.

Now that I have found a far more satisfying path in the sciences, as a research-educator excited to see my students excited, who looks to use my scientific expertise as a tool to enhance teaching, I wonder what I am doing for, or to, the next generation of scientists, those 'kids' that I'm getting all hopped-up on the thrill of discovery, that I'm teaching and training to enjoy science, and to consider it a career.

I can only hope that with my awareness of the inherent flaws in this system, I can do some work within the system to help students find other paths, ways to let them use their great intellects, and amazing depths of curiosity, to find fulfilling careers. Just not necessarily in The Sciences. Barring a major revolution in how academia operates, how the entire Research Enterprise is structured, there won't be any jobs except for the ever-more select few.

* I acknowledge the possibility that UC life sciences has changed since I left. However, I was sufficiently embittered by my time there I have not bothered to investigate to see if anything has improved.
At the very least, my body, my car, my gear and my brother C got back intact last night from my first camping trip in 13 years, to the lovely North Manitou Island. I'm pretty sure that my brain was either left behind on the island, or is loitering back home, still abed. Then again, it is Monday.

It was most certainly, as C requested for his birthday trip, an adventure. WET is a good description.* Woolly, at moments. Wild... yes, I'd say the buck-horns-a'comin'-in, whose shoulder came up to mine, brazenly staring at C and I as we walked past not 20 feet away, counts as wild.

But the next time the weather forecast for the Traverse City area says "70% chance of thunderstorms with up to 1" of rainfall" I'm going to believe them. I'm simply glad we got the tent up in the sun-break between storm-waves.

CF sopping, drenched, soaking, awash, hang-dog, and afloat
And the emergency patch instituted last night apparently forgot to account for a re-auto-update feature in McAfee or something similar.

The MCIT systems are back to square one. At least I managed to safe-boot one of the machines and disable the auto-update function yesterday...
*clears throat*

I read to you now, from the Information Technology Bible, Book of Updates, Chapter 2, verses 3 to 6.

"And, lo, did the aisles of the cubicles run red, in the hospital and office and labs.

For the RNs did turn stabby, and the MDs turn slicy, while the PhDs merely sighed meaningfully.

And, lo, many of the faithful IT technicians were sacrificed, by the RNs and MDs, while the PhDs looked on.

The aisle ran red, as the IT technicians gave up their lives upon the Altar of Unified Network Policy."


Let us think upon these verses describing the day, That Day, when an information technology department let an anti-virus auto-update through, an auto-update including a definition file that decreed a necessary piece of system network software to be a virus, even though that software was innocent and blameless, which forced a complete system reboot, every 90 seconds.

Reflect upon the demerits of a Unified Network Policy whereby the administrators, blessed be those servants, decreed that the newest Windows machines, with the latest images uploaded, could neither safe-boot nor disable their anti-virus software.

Further, think upon the folly of IT management that decided the best way to notify the victims of this pernicious auto-update was to use e-mail, and only e-mail, while encouraging those few users of the Clunky Old PCs* and Snobby Apple Users to practice the archaic techniques of the SneakerNet, passing from office to cubicle and back again, lording their functioning computers over their poor, unfortunate neighbors, while spreading the words of the administrators.

Yes, my brothers and sisters, That Day, it was a sad day. 8000+ computers down, with nary an automated way to fix them. Many IT lives were lost that day**, but many new job positions opened. The Altar of UNP proved both a blessing and a curse, and think wisely upon it.

Let us think, my friends, and hope that it never happens again.

This ends today's sermon.

*I have not lorded my Clunky Old PC over anyone else today... yet. The temptation is strong, and I must fight it, frequently. Such is my burden.

**And man oh man, what a foul-up on the part of McAfee. I really feel for the IT folks on campus today...

ETA: And a patch solution has been devised. Unfortunately for the IT department, said patch also strips out about a third of the expected basic functionality of the machines... i.e. there's no longer a sound driver. Amusing.
(NB: not necessarily in that order...)

Photos: I've almost completed uploading all of the photos that *I* took on our recent trip through the UK. You can find them here, and as I get the time to go back through them and annotate as I go, the details will change and what-not. Anne's photos are here. Feel free to comment or ask questions, and enjoy!

Trip reports: Well, as that was part of our job as the TAFF 2010 delegates, I admit that I made it a smidge easier for both Anne & I, as I picked up a Moleskine London notebook for each of us, and we were both pretty good about keeping up with notes (read: we were only lagging by about a week by the end of the trip... not bad, overall). Whilst I will likely have a brief summary put here at some point, in-depth reports will most likely be serialized in various fanzines (and thus online via the wonders of Bill Burns' e-fanzines site), and eventually compiled into a fund-raising total package. However, I'll put up pointers and links as these bits are assembled.

Commentary: Make it as you will. I'll try and keep up. Heh. I'm also working out how to link this to my Flickr and Facebook sites, so don't be surprised to come across the same material several times over. Just remember, repetition helps memory...
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ARGH!

Mar. 30th, 2010 09:02 am
willowroot: (Critter)
A quick e-mail exchange with the boss about our success prompted me to re-read the e-mail I'd received that I thought had confirmed the acceptance of the first paper.

Not quite.

It confirmed that the editors of the new journal to which we were submitting the beastie had accepted the paper for review.

The First Paper was not accepted for publication, it was bounced for a third time.

Me and my rose-colored glasses and reading poorly worded e-mails far too early in the morning and all that.

*mild sigh*

Ahh, to hell with it. I'm on vacation and otherwise not thinking about any of that kind of writing or about any of my own work at all.

*pats the Drama Monster gently on the head and shoves it back into its cage*

It turns out that my boss had deliberately not told me of the paper rejection and resubmission, because she hadn't wanted to ruin my vacation.

In other news, I really, really, really love my boss. :D

(And thanks, everyone for your congratulations and supportive comments, but it was a false alarm...)
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