Friday, December 31, 2010

Poor HVAC design

I'm sitting in my office at work, freezing my balls off. The genius that designed the building I work in put the air return in my office. The air feed is conveniently located about 50 feet away, inside my colleague's office. Now this wouldn't be so bad if we had no doors, but that's not the case. I'm pretty sure there are other inputs and returns on the floor as well, but the default is to keep one's door closed and locked, leading to nice pressure imbalance and some interesting internal wind conditions. My colleague wears a short sleeved shirt to work in the winter and is debating bringing shorts. The only time my office is at a reasonable temperature is when the air handling system shuts down for the night. The irony is that this is the primary engineering building on campus, and even houses the dean of the college. I think it's time to say "screw you" to the green initiative and invest in a space heater or two.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Erratic sleeping patterns

Given no external constraints, I feel best working until 3 or 4am and then waking up at noon. That's part of why I started a ridiculous blog a few years ago about having one international time zone. Also, in this business we travel quite a bit and regularly deal with people in different time zones.

I thought that as I got older, I would shed this foolish college schedule. But I haven't been able to. I tried hard as a postdoc to be at work by nine, but invariably I would end up coming in at ten or eleven. That was ok because I didn't really have any reason to be in earlier, other than to avoid being perceived as a slacker by the normal people. The scheduling flexibility is a big reason why I chose to stay in academia. Then I got this job, and the scheduling gods decided to stick me with an 8 am class. I frequently ended up getting only 2-3 hours sleep because I just could not be productive during the day, and to get anything done at all I would end up working most of the night. I do have quite a bit of luck in life though, and next semester I have a later starting time. (Statistically speaking, I am more lucky than the average human being, but that is a discussion for another post.)

When I get up with the rest of humanity, I am somewhat productive until about noon, then I completely can't concentrated all afternoon. I start being productive again around 5pm. My dad also prefers working evening/nights. When given the option, he chose to work second shift at his job (roughly 1pm to 1am including commuting). Can there be genetic tie in circadian rythym? Can it be shifted permanently? Can I get some funding to study this? Can I then participate in the study and use that as an excuse to not have anything ever scheduled before noon?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Some Lies: Sisyphus probably had it worse

First, let me start out by saying this post only reflects my crazy ideas based on my limited personal experiences, and it is not meant as an attack or judgement of any one else's beliefs. Tideliars post Some Lies: Sisyphus probably had it worse as well as the other numerous holiday themed posts got me thinking (about stuff other than research and teaching).

I was raised Catholic in a family where my mother is blindly devout while my father says that aliens created us as part of some grand experiment (He was raised Catholic, but lost his faith years ago). This should lead to some interesting and philosophical discussions, but my parents being who they are, instead produce nonsensical insults and shouting matches.

Despite this, they did end up sending me to private Catholic schools throughout grade and high school. As a result, I as was exposed to extensive religious education. At the higher levels (junior and senior year of high school) it was decided by my teachers (mostly Christian Brothers) that we were finally educated enough to be exposed to some of the deeper truths of the faith. (I like to think of it as moving up in the ranks, since the Church has a similar structure as most businesses and/or military operations.) We were told that it was ok and even encouraged to doubt and question. Everything was up for debate and we even had classes on world religions so that we could compare and contrast.

Many priests and other religious folks (monks, nuns, brothers) these days are well educated and hold advanced degrees. You cannot reach those levels of education and remain blind followers. I was able to have intelligent, philosophical conversations with these types of folks on a few occasions. The conclusion I got out of them was that they can't afford to let the masses in on this "secret" as chaos would result. The policy is to have the general public kept in the dark about religion and to use fear and guilt as motivators. The thinking is that the general public cannot handle this kind of freedom and if they found out that it is ok to doubt and change things in the church, they would lose followers. You would have people splitting off and forming their own factions whenever they disagreed on something, as is the case in a few other denominations.

The problem in the Catholic Church is that it is so slow to change, many policies and rules are left over from the dark ages, when the average church goer didn't know how to read and never left the village that they were born in. The dogma that is preached to the public is what is alienating many of today's educated adults. On the flip side, I feel like many people are still very much in the dark when it comes to organized religion, which leads to so much of the fanaticism that exists today. They don't know the history or underlying motivation for why things are done a certain way. I stopped attending mass after high school because I got tired of being told the same stories over and over. I am a decent person that follows the general rules set out by most of the organized religions. I don't need a weekly reminder of how I should lead my life or a reaffirmation of why my religion is the right choice. If there could be an open discussion, I would consider attending again.

On a more personal level, I'm pretty sure that there is a higher power out there, at least until physics comes up with a more complete and satisfactory explanation for our existence. My qualm with organized religions lie with the notion that this higher power would care about any and every individual. If there is a force out there that set the big bang in motion that led to the creation of this vast universe, it's very hard to believe that it has a personal identification number and file assigned to me. If anything, I have a much easier time relating with an angry and vengeful deity (more like in the old testament) that smites disobedient subjects and should be feared and offered sacrifices, and maybe, if we are lucky, acknowledges us humans collectively as a blip on its radar. 

Stupid F&$%in Internet

So I turned to the internet a few days ago to escape from my academic isolation. Now I'm spending hours upon hours reading people's blogs. I think I might be adding OCD to ADD and depression. So many people pissed off and complaining about the same things, it's great! Stuff I should be talking about with people while drinking heavily some place other than in front of my computer monitor. But seriously, I really appreciate all of the academic bloggers out there on Lab Spaces, Scientopia, as well as the independents.

Interestingly, still have not come across another male engineering prof out there. WTF?! Found some matse and physics folks, but who would want to hang out with those losers :P

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Why the deadlines?

I know we have to have deadlines for submitting proposals. It's part of this need to have an organized society. But common people, at least humor me and make it look like it's more than just an arbitrarily chosen date to make my life miserable. I submitted a grant proposal electronically in mid-December. The proposal announcement came out only 5 weeks before the due date and I scrambled to get it done along with all of the other end-of-the-year stuff that was going on.  I received the confirmation from that it went through fine, but then I never received the email that the sponsoring agency/foundation downloaded the application. I know the people at these places are working working their arses off, just like the rest of us, but please at least download my freakin' proposal so that it looks like there was a reason for the deadline. If you weren't going to look at it before the break, why not just move it to January? Instead of posting here I could have been working on the proposal. (Yes, I know I have two proposals due in January that I should be working on at the moment, but that's not the point right now.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

The dawning of a new day

As my profile states, I'm a new assistant professor and I've just grinded (not in the good way) through my first four months on the job. It was not unexpected though, and I think it was about the same as what most of the other TT faculty out there experience. I hired graduate students, started setting up a lab, taught a core class, wrote and submitted a grant proposal, signed up to serve at national meetings, etc. The semester did wear me down considerably though, and I thought that maybe I could find some solace and comrades out here on the internet to commiserate with. So I began my search a few days ago, taking advantage of the holiday break, to find other faculty that blog about their academic and personal lives. I found several (which surprised me for some reason) and spent several hours reading their posts. I've listed a few that are especially inspiring or relevant to me on my blogroll. What did strike me though, was that I found fewer male academic bloggers and no male engineering professors. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong places (I've only found science related collectives, nothing for engineering) or maybe we as a species are just so introverted that we can't even bring ourselves to post a blog about our lives. If anyone out there knows where the engineers are hiding, please let me know.

One question that might come to mind is why have I turned to the internet? The answer is simple. I can't find anyone on my campus to relate to. (Non sequitur: I keep ending my sentences with prepositions,which bothers me when I see it written, and probably some of you out there as well, but this is how I speak and I don't want this blog to turn into a writing assignment for me.) I am a married male, in my late twenties, and have no plans or inclinations to have children. I'm not religious. My wife has the same views. We both just moved to New England, having never lived here before, and we have no family or friends in the area. I enjoy quite a few different sports and activities, and even follow professional sports. I thought it would be relatively easy to find other faculty on campus with some similar interests and to make some new friends. This has not turned out to be the case. Most people are from the area originally, almost everyone has kids or is trying to, and no one seems to even have time to go out to lunch. The few colleagues in the college that I have gone out to lunch with required scheduling two weeks out, and even then a few times needed rescheduling. I know faculty are busy people, so am I, but this seems strange. Am I that abnormal as a professor? As a Ph.D. student and postdoc I never had this problem. Anyway, I'm going to try to post my thoughts on this site to help get past the isolation that I feel in my life and maybe I can find some kindred spirits out here.