Holy effing eff, I can’t believe this work week is over.
Can you guess what else I can’t believe?
First and foremost I can’t believe that somehow I managed to survive the insanity of the week; the grant deadlines, the client demos, the up-at-3am-and-in-bed-by-1am days, the lectures, the meetings, the late nights, the travel, the analyses, the proposals, the writing, the programming, and the presentations. Oh, and did I mention the multiple and in a row up-at-3am-and-in-bed-by-1am days? I can’t believe I survived those either.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to come out the other end of this week in one piece. You see, dear readers, this week was one of those where everything was due at the same time, or as a best case scenario – within half of a week of each other. And yet, here I am on a Friday night, slightly drunk on three beers1 and completely exhausted2.
I couldn’t be happier. Or more full of pub fare.
Anyway, I’m exhausted and nodding off as I write this – which is what the cool kids do so I’m not worried in the slightest. Still, I should probably go to bed. Cool kids go to bed just before 10pm on a Friday night, right?
1 And by slightly, I clearly mean completely.
2 To the point where I’m not sure if what I’m writing is making sense. Also,
This week is going to be one of those weeks. You know, the kind of week where you have about eleventy-billion major projects to complete, but only about enough time to finish 3 of them; a week where sleep will be a rare event, coffee will be consumed – if only it were possible – intravenously and continuously, gut-rot will become a close and personal friend, and nerves will most definitely be frayed.
Clearly I’m going to be the picture of grace and charm by the end of the week. Wait. That’s not right. I’m more likely going to be a large steaming pile of frustration coated in the delightful stink of exhaustion.
While a part of me wants to throw in the proverbial towel, call in sick, build a protective fort made of pillows and blankets, and never leave my bed again, I know that isn’t a possibility. It’s also what I would call a giant bag of sucking. And that, dear readers, is not who I want to be this week.
Instead, I’ve got to Suck it up Gillis! and just push through. As a very wise fish once taught me, I’ve got to Just Keep Swimming! Just Keep Swimming! It sounds simple and perhaps cheesy, but it’s true. I have to tackle one little thing at a time; knocking one task after the other off my list. Eventually, somehow, the things that must be finished will be finished. Everything else will be reassigned to a should do, could do, or won’t do pile. And I’ll just have to be okay with that.
Of course, if that fails I can always fall back on my fort of pillows and blankets plan. I probably should have mentioned previously that the fort of pillows and blankets plan also requires a bottle of scotch. ;)
For the past several days – weeks maybe - perhaps months – I don’t remember really – point is, for a while I’ve been working on grant applications. It’s sadly a necessary evil for my job.
It’s also a large slice of catch-22. You see, one needs funding to pay for graduate students to help produce publications related to one’s research program (as publication quantity is the current currency of good research). But one can’t get funding unless they have publications. So if one doesn’t have students, one can’t produce as many publications, and the money can’t be garnered from said granting agency.
Awesome system, no?
Anyway, as I mentioned, I’m in the process of writing up several grant applications to get my research program off the ground. Several things about this bother me.
First and foremost, I don’t like the idea of just hammering out useless publications. I’m more about quality than quantity any day. I mean, as much as I love chocolate, I’d rather have a small square of fine dark chocolate over the waxed version that one can pick up at the Kwik-E-Mart in bulk. Mmm, chocolate.
Second, I’m not sure that the amount of effort that goes into writing a grant is worth it. The probability of being funded is rather low. I mean, with the amount of time I’ve put into writing the grants, I probably could have been producing several quality papers.
Third, if I am funded, the amount of money that I might be awarded is tiny (in relative terms). For example, if I believe that my research program requires 1 Post Doctoral Fellowship (approx. $45000 per year, for 2 years), 2 PhDs (approx. $20000 per year, for 3 years each), and 10 Masters students (approx. $17000 per year, for 1 year each), I’d have to ask for $380000, or approximately $76000 per year given a 5 year program duration. These numbers aren’t unusual for a research program (in terms of people), and it doesn’t include equipment, travel, conferences, etc. Sadly, since I’m a Statistician, the granting agency typically only funds about $15000 per year. While $15000 per year is nothing to laugh at (considering I made about that much per year during the end of my PhD), it still leaves a shortfall of $61000. Awesome!
As I said though, it’s a necessary evil. And so I sit and try to write an application that contains a vision of my research program which the reviewers will feel is worthy of funding.
Let me restate that. I try to write.
Can we say easily distracted? I mean, everything seems immensely more entertaining than this grant application. YouTube? Sure thing. Facebook? You know it. Twitter? I’m all over that shit. Yoga? Don’t mind if I do. Take photos of Elliot when I’ve already got about a zillion photos? Damn skippy. Write a blog entry? Clearly. It’s the thing to do.
Truly, what is abundantly clear is that this grant won’t write itself. I need to stop with the distractions and buckle down. So with that dear readers, I shall leave you with these very wise words from Dory of Finding Nemo fame.
This morning I awoke around 3:30am. I know, I threw up a little in my mouth when I wrote 3:30am too. But such is the life of this intrepid explorer. Okay, maybe not so much intrepid explorer as wanderlusting nerd. POH-TATE-OH, PO-TOT-OH.
Why, pray tell, did you wake up at the ungodliest of ungodly hours, when there are so many godly hours for which you could have woken? you ask. Well, today was the day I had to say au revoir to Montréal. T’was a sad parting, but I made sure to let Montréal down easy. I also reassured her that I would not be gone long. How can one be gone from such an amazingly vibrant city? It’s not possible I says. Not possible.
Back to the story at hand. When last we spoke, nigh on 3 days ago, I had just finished a most excellent Friday night of gallivanting with my dear friend Rick. When I awoke on Saturday at the reasonable hour of whatever-it-was, I was a bit parched, and perhaps a bit on the hung-over side; a sign that the night before was just as fun as I had remembered (thanks Mr. Rick). But, being the up-and-at-em sort of fellow that I am, I got up and headed out for some hangover cure-all; Starbucks.
Since I had Ville-de-Montréalall to myself (Rick had other obligations, and Dr. Steph wasn’t arriving until Sunday eve, and Dr. Beth was at home), I struck out on an extended walk. I toured Rue Sainte-Catherine and all of its lovely stores (Hugo Boss, I’m looking at you). I also spent an extended period down by the water, wandering Old Montréal. I opted to have lunch at Les 3 Brasseurs, which of course had to include a beer. Hair of the dog if you will. Following lunch, I returned to my room for a bit of a nap. Apparently the late hour from the night before followed by an extended walk demanded a rest.
That night I returned to Les 3 Brasseurs for a bottle of La Belle Province, a very tasty 750 ml bottle of heaven. And by heaven, I mean delicious amber beer. It’s 7% by volume, so of course, I was a bit toasted by the time the bottle was done. I wandered the streets some more and then returned to my room for a relatively early night.
Sunday was a day of work. And by that, I mean I spent the day in various locations writing up one of the 2 grants that I have been working on. Thrilling, I know. The day started weighing on me, what with the grant writing, and how grant writing can suck the life out of you like a Dementor. Thankfully, Dr. Steph, Jamie, Kathy and Jon arrived just in the nick of time. I haven’t seen Steph in far too long, so of course there was much catching up to do, as well as much hugging, and general shenanigans.
To celebrate their arrival, and the 2 year anniversary of Steph’s Ph.D. defence, we opened up a bottle of champagne, and may also have had some delicious cupcakes, and then another bottle of wine – this time a Riesling. It was an awesome feast. But, one cannot survive on cupcakes and booze alone, so off we went in search of food.
Dinner was found about 25 minutes away (by foot), at a tapas and paella restaurant called Sala Rosa. Much was ordered. If I remember correctly, this included the chorizo frito, aceitunas, rapini con ajillo, patatitas fritas con romero, ensalada de espárrago y champinón, plato anti-pasto, and the paella de pollo y mariscos (but they were actually out of pollo). The meal was fantastic, and was washed down with several rounds of sangria. Jon and I topped it all off with a very nice glass of scotch.
After wandering home, Steph and I stayed up chatting for a bit before hitting the hay. All said, it was an awesome ending to a very draining day of grant writing.
Anyway, this post is verging on too long, so I’ll leave the final full day of adventuring for later.
I miss you already Montréal. I miss you long time.
This labour day weekend, while all the frosh were moving in, and likely most everyone else was avoiding campus, enjoying patios, relaxing, or whatever, I was sitting in my office plugging away at several different projects. Cuz I’m cool. Clearly.
Don’t fret though. This post isn’t a cry for sympathy. I opted to work this weekend because I wanted to clear up some of my to do list. Having spent the prior 4 weeks in recovery mode, some things had piled up and I really needed to get on top of them. Plus, I needed to cross a few things off my list so that I could devote most of the next 2 weeks to grant writing. Yup – grant writing is about as fun as it sounds. But given that I’m asking several groups for large sums of money, I figure I need to put forth a coherent and well structured argument as to why said groups should give little-ole me said large sums of money.
Anyway, three of the to do items that I was attempting to tackle this weekend were rather computationally intensive. That is, they required a substantial number of hours coding and recoding, error checking, and re-checking, and a substantial amount of time to run. I left my laptop running over night only to find out that it didn’t have the brain power to finish the work I had tasked it to do. My office computer, being the memory roid-monkey of my computers was enlisted, and thankfully completed the task without too much trouble. Of course, having analyzed several large data sets, and creating several hundred summary tables, I didn’t want to lose this information (or have to rerun the analysis). So the three tasks in question also demanded data backup.
What does all this mean? It means that there were several hours where I was sitting in my office waiting. Watching patiently as my computer churned through calculations, generated summaries, and copied them to various locations for backup purposes. Exhilarating! Not so much.
What did you do to entertain yourself? you ask.
Well, I spent part of my time cleaning, part of my time organizing books and course notes, part of my time drinking too much coffee (but it was oh-so-good), and part of my time getting my geek on with a little program called GeekTool. GeekTool is a Mac program that one can use to tweak their desktop. Specifically, one is able to add dynamic text and visuals to their desktop background such as the time, date, etc., or other nerdy things like the CPU usage, memory availability, and such like.
I chose to begin my desktop customization using a very simple background that I obtained from SimpleDesktops.com (a source of some very awesome yet very simple desktop images). Specifically – this desktop:
I then created the necessary geeklets (the little shell/photo tweaks that spruce up the desktop) to update the desktop to look like this:
I’ve attached some of the geeklets here (in zip format) for those that might want to copy this design for their own.
If you like what you see, check out some of the other amazing desktops that other people have made using GeekTool. A Google search will give you a huge selection of pretty slick designs, many that are downloadable. I think my next task will be to reproduce and then improve on this particular design: