Sunday, 19 February 2006

From Washington to Monkey Puzzles

There's something mildly frustrating about flying from London to Washington on a Wednesday, and leaving Washington to fly back on the Friday. You never quite get a decent night's sleep. So I woke at 3am the first night, and 4am the second. The meeting I was at (an NIH grants review panel) started at 8am each morning, so I could have done with more sleep. Still... I'm told that the advantage of your clock not resetting itself is that when you get back, exhausted, you sleep like a baby the first night, and then feel right as rain. Whatever that means – Am still exhausted. So evidently right as rain I am not.

The meeting went well. As someone told me the first time, people 'leave their egos at the door', and all one hears is constructive and serious discussion of the merits (or otherwise) of the grants. It reminded me how cooperative academia can be (elsewhere buried on this website is a complaint I have regarding how uncooperative it can sometimes be). Even when a grant application was weak, those weaknesses were discussed at length so that a consensus could be reached.

Anyway, now that I'm back in York, a big thank you to United Airlines, whose engines kept going the full 7.5 hours to get me back. This despite their planes seeming to be amongst the oldest aircraft gracing the skies above the Atlantic. On the way over, the movie was projected onto one of those old-fashioned screens like you used to get at school - an oblong box that opened up to reveal nothing more technologically sophisticated than a roller blind. I didn't realize planes had those anymore.

Not much had changed in the 3 days that I was away from home. Except for an interesting but rare atmospheric phenomenon that I'd not experienced in ages. Locals with far more experience than I tell me that it's called 'the sun'. Amazing. So off to the garden centre we went, to buy a selection of ferns, ivies, and a monkey puzzle tree (Silvia's national tree - see below for examples from our Argentina trip). We bought what my children would call a 'tintsy' one - all of 18 inches high. We shan't wait with baited breath for it to grow - they're very slow-growing. Planted it sufficiently close to the house so as to cause problems after one or two hundred years' worth of growth. Monkey Puzzle trees are the most primitive living conifer (or so a Google search revealed), and they get their name from the fact that monkeys can't climb them. Bizarre. Especially as there aren't any monkeys near where they grow. Why not call them Armadillo Puzzle trees? Or Llama Puzzle trees? Or Psycholinguist Puzzle trees?

Saturday, 11 February 2006

Another week flies by

Things I did this week:

Version One, listed in order of importance to other people
Reviewed 7 grants that will be discussed next week, in Washington DC, at the National Institutes of Health grants review panel for Language and Communication (I'll be there).
Completed one journal article review
Made an editorial decision on another article for another journal
Was reminded that I was asked last October to make an editorial decision (another one) for the Editor of a journal who had to deal with a paper by a friend of his. But being human, I forgot (in my defense, I was teaching that new statistics course, and moving house, etc. etc.). I feel particularly glum about that. Is 'glum' a word in the US? Must be, as my spell-checker hasn't picked it out. So am writing this as a few more trees make the supreme sacrifice in service of yet another print run.
Was made an offer that I'd be idiotic to refuse (more about that some time in the future, if I don't refuse it).
Set up a new home wireless network, using an Apple Airport Extreme Base Station and an Airport Express to extend the range. Am using WPA2 encryption and access control (so only computers I authorise can join the network, and wireless info. is sent encrypted). It was a breeze. Still, the instructions were next-to-useless, which is unusual for Apple products. So the home network now consists of a new iMac Intel Core Duo, an iBook, a PowerBook, a printer, and a mass of cables that are still required whatever kind of (wired or wireless) network you have. Not sure whether the iPods count as part of the network...
Learned, almost, my new Kata for my next Karate belt (Heian Yondan, for anyone that cares).

Version Two, listed in order of importance to me
As above, but with the Karate and the wireless network occupying the top slots. I know, sad really...

Hmm - hardly an inspiring list. But a list nonetheless. What IS inspiring is the new eye tracker that we now have in the lab. And what's even MORE inspiring is the new postdoc/colleague in the lab who's making it all work. Coincidentally she's a friend and ex-colleague of Silvia's, from her Madison days. My kids, by the way, continue to inspire.

So not a bad week. But as ever, I'd be happier if I had the time in which to enjoy some of what I do, and some of whom I do it with... I'd also be happier if I had one of these.

Saturday, 4 February 2006

Woa...where did all that time go?

But 14th October 2005 (my last blog entry) was only YESTERDAY... where have I been? What have I done?

taught a new course
applied for a small 1-yr grant
bought a house
moved up another belt in my Karate
moved into said house
survived Xmas
applied for a larger 3-yr grant
taught another course
been awarded that small 1-yr grant
started reviewing a pile more grants for NIH

and decided that if one can't write even a few minutes' worth of blog each week, one's life is, evidently, no longer one's own...