Friday, November 30, 2007

Wet Friday

The storm has arrived and so far it's been just a lot of rain. It's a little gloomy, but it's kinda nice, too. I can't recall being in Santa Fe during such a hard, steady rain. I've been here for steady snow and lots of fantastic thunderstorms. But I can't remember persistent rain. As the temperature drops a little more the rain might turn to snow. But right now it's still very liquid. I can see it beading up and running down the windows in my office.

I finished the proposal I was working on yesterday. Some good comments from a COA colleage pepped it up so I think it has the right level of enthusiasm. It's hard to know if the funding agency will be happy, since the instructions and guidelines for the proposal weren't that clear.

I had Vietnamese food tonight. The only noteworthy thing about the meal was that an unusually large amount of some fibrous material got stuck between my molars. As soon as I get back to the place I'm staying I will floss.

It's the end of a long week, and I've spent much of the day feeling a little brain-dead. I'm looking forward to recharging a little over the weekend. Sunday I travel all day back to Maine. Not relaxing, but it's a different sort of stress than de-bugging code and editing proposals.

Time to head to my temporary home, floss, have a glass of red wine, do some reading, and sleep.

Thursday Ramblings

It's nearing midnight here and I'm plugging away on a preliminary grant proposal sort of thing that's due midday tomorrow. I need to get a pretty complete draft done tonight so I can get comments from a few people at COA tomorrow morning and then I can make some final edits. The proposal is straightforward, and it seems quite certain we'll get almost all that we ask for, but it's a little boring. It'll help us develop a few new classes and better support some classes that we already offer. The stuff I need to provide the granting agency is supposed to be short. But I find it very difficult to write short first drafts. So I expect that at least half of what I'm writing will end up being cut tomorrow morning.

There is a winter storm watch for Santa Fe for Friday into Saturday. From the weather reports it's not at all clear how much snow we'll get, or even if we'll get any. It might end up as rain. Right now they say there could be one to two feet of snow above 7500 ft. Santa Fe is at roughly 7200ft. So does this mean we'll get rain? Or just less snow? Or both? Some snow would be nice, as long as things clear out in time for me to head home. I leave from Albuquerque early Sunday morning.

Well, despite the fact that I'm bored, I should push though and finish the draft of this document. It will be a late night, but it'll get done. I might need to make a cup of tea for a final energy boost.

Update: I'm done with the draft. I think it's in pretty good shape, but it's not very peppy. I'll try to insert some peppiness tomorrow morning when I do my last editing pass. I'm now going to head to the place I'm staying at and eat some sushi. I picked up some sushi at Whole Foods when I was there this evening. My plan was to eat some salad from their salad bar and then the sushi for dinner. But the salad filled me up, so I still have the sushi. I don't really know what motivated me to get the sushi in the first place, since I'm not a huge sushi fan. But for some reason it looked good. When I was in Paris last summer I had sushi for the first time in years and it was surprisingly tasty.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

New Mexico

I'm in the midst of a one-week visit at the Santa Fe Institute. The main purpose of my visit is to plan the 2008 Beijing Complex Systems Summer School. But while I'm here there are a number of other projects I'm working on, too. The days have been busy, but good.

I've been coming to SFI since 1996. It's a great place, and I feel very fortunate to have been able to spend time here over the years. SFI isn't a utopia, but it's been in some sense a refuge for me over the past decade. Even though I haven't spent that much time here in the big scheme of things, SFI has a certain familiarity and almost a home-like feeling.

Although I've had a very productive few days, I'm starting to wonder how I'm going to get done all the things I need to get done before December 16, when I'm heading to Chile to spend two weeks with Doreen trekking and hanging out.

Well ... this post is going nowhere. I'm feeling somewhat introspective and pleasantly melancholy, but I seem incapable of capturing these thoughts in writing. This doesn't bode well, since the vast majority of what I need to do in the next few weeks is writing of some sort of another: A small grant, a research paper, student evaluations, two referee reports, many letters of recommendation, and many memos and notes and emails. But I suppose that these writing tasks probably shouldn't involve too much introspection or melancholy, so maybe it's ok.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Spice Odyssey in Northern California

I visited family in Northern California over the long Thanksgiving weekend. The day before Thanksgiving I did some shopping for the meals I was going to cook Wednesday and Thursday. One of the ingredients I needed was marjoram. Dried, not fresh. It's Northern California, so I figured this wouldn't be difficult to find. The first store I went to, a relatively high-end little grocery store with lots of great produce, didn't have any marjoram at all. Hmmm... I wasn't sure what other stores were in the area, but I knew there was a Safeway nearby, so I gave it a try.

The Safeway was packed with frantic shoppers. Scanning the spice section was particularly tricky because there was a guy desperately looking for poultry seasoning. He had enlisted the help of one of the Safeway workers, and together they were scanning the shelves, squinting and muttering "poultry seasoning... poultry seasoning." I too was scanning the labels on the shelves, and found the slot where marjoram was supposed to be. However, there was no marjoram. Instead, there was cardamom. Close, I guess. It does rhyme. Sorta.

I left the Safeway empty handed. My last hope was another Safeway, this one closer to my brother's house. Happily, this store did indeed have marjoram. Victorious at last, I bought a small bottle and headed home. We cooked some excellent food, and had a nice few days.

Perhaps the highlight of my spice Odyssey occurred at the first store. I was scanning the shelf labels to see if marjoram was listed. No marjoram. But there was a label for poppy seeds. Almost. It was misspelled as "poopy seeds." Awesome.

Monday, November 19, 2007


It's been a productive, if frantic, day:

  1. Dropped Doreen off at the Bar Harbor airport. Her yogurt didn't make it through security, but other than that her departure was uneventful.

  2. Got my snow tires up on, an oil change, and a yearly state inspection. The car needed some work (brakes and a light somewhere), so I got that done today, too.

  3. While waiting for my car I graded my physics finals and half of the last problem set.

  4. Drove onto campus.

  5. Sent rejection letters to some of the candidates in the search that I'm chairing.

  6. Contacted the three finalists for the position and started scheduling their visits.

  7. Contacted a handful of other candidates that we phone interviewed but who we probably won't be inviting to campus.

  8. Finished grading the last physics assignment and assigned final grades.

  9. Bought a plane ticket for my upcoming trip to Chile.

  10. Reserved a rental car for my week in Santa Fe.

  11. Dealt with over 100 emails.

I realize that this probably makes incredibly boring reading. But it's exciting to me. Time to head home and turn my attention to some domestic tasks: laundry, dishes, and packing.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A New Era

As of yesterday, we finally have a high-speed internet connection at home. We can't get cable where we live, and a satellite internet connection seemed too expensive and, from what we had heard, relatively slow. We were close on several occasions to giving in and getting satelliteinternet, but then we'd hear rumors that cable was going to arrive soon. But the rumors never came true.

Then, last spring, the town signed a contract with redzone wireless to provide a wireless mesh network for Mount Desert. We were originally told that we would be online by late August. Didn't quite happen. Putting the infrastructure together tookredzone a lot longer than they had anticipated. But we're now connected. Seems like a miracle.

The connection is still kinda slow. But it's at least five times faster than dial-up, which is a big improvement. And Doreen and I can both be online at the same time, and being online doesn't tie up the phone. So this is a huge leap forward.

In other news, I've had a nice, relaxing weekend. Tomorrow Doreen leaves for a six-week trip to Boliva and Chile. I'll meet her for the last two weeks. Tuesday I head to California to see family for Thanksgiving. Tomorrow I'll be frantically working to try and tie up many, many loose ends before I split.

Friday, November 16, 2007

It's Over

The term is officially over. Today was the last day of classes. As usual, I'm exhausted, but in a mostly good way. I feel pretty good about how my classes went, and although as usual I felt too busy, it was a pretty fun term. I'm looking forward to a weekend of doing things around the house, getting organized, and slowly starting my grading and evaluation writing.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cold, Busy Week ten

Well, week ten of our ten-week term is upon us. As usual, things are pretty insanely busy. But, at least for now, not necessarily busy in a bad way. There's a part of me that enjoys the stress and focus of the end of the term.

The weather has definitely turned wintry. There was a brief snow flurry on Saturday. It didn't stick, but it did get my attention. It's been in the 20's at night, and the days are cool and the leaves are almost all gone.

I'm currently listening to a Prince Birthday Edition of Crap from the Past, which is a super cool weekly radio show from St. Paul.

Hopefully I'll have time for more of an update soon. Right now I need to head home and make dinner, and then read some drafts of student papers and prepare a class on Markov chains.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

COA and the NYTimes

There's a very nice article about College of the Atlantic in the New York Times today.

The only thing that's weird about the article is that our president is quoted as saying "we’re exploring the possibility of virtual classes that involve avatars." Yikes. I'm hoping this was a joke or at least there's some context missing that would help this quote make sense.

But overall, the article is great; I think it's a pretty accurate portrayal of COA. It will be interesting to see if this publicity yields a surge in applications.