Various Lies

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I fart in your general direction!

You silly English knights! Which, unless,you've seen The Holy Grail and can pronounce it in John Cleese's loodicruuus Eeenglish Aaacent! isn't as funny as it should be.

I just saw the Summary Statements from the NIH grant we submitted back in January. Oh fucking Jeebus on a pogo stick did "they" not like it. They fucking hated it. Everything about it. I think the highest numeral I saw for any of the criteria (approach, innovation etc.) was a 3 (out of 9, but not 1 or 2 = don't fucking bother. most of ours were in the 5-8 range). reviewer (we had three) said "None that I can see".


I'm kicking myself a little bit for not fighting harder to get it postponed, but at the end of the day I only have so much clout here.

I tell you what. Given the level of engagement round here recently, there is no way on God's Green Earth I am doing the two proposed for the next round of submissions (October). There is too little drive, too little writing, too little help, too little...of anything. I've written grants before, and I've been a scientist (albeit a lowly one) for over a decade. I know what needs to go into this, and I'm not seeing at tenth of what we need. There is way too much, "oh I had an idea, go write me an R01 on that."

After reading this review, my "suggestion" to my Overlings will be to avoid having your name mentioned around Bethesda until you can be sure of submitting something fucking gold-plated. 24 karat, diamond encrusted, bejeweled and bewitched by good fairies.

I now have a massive headache and I'm going for a beer.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mental Health Day

I had a cold this week. Got to work Monday morning, feeling a bit dozy. By 10am I was sniffly; by 11 I was feverish, so they sent me home.

I went home.

I think I died around 3PM. Thankfully I'm like The Highlander, so I came back alive again. Just to feel shit for the next 36hrs.

Today I feel better, but dozy.

So, went through my LIST OF THINGS TO DO. It was 40 THINGS long.

It is now only 12 THINGS long. Unfortunately, all the easy THINGS like, "Ask Brad & Rebecca about new logo", are gone, and I'm left with THINGS such as, "Write JAMIA paper", and "Write AFSA Grant".

That kind of sucks. But at least they stand out on the page now, y'know?

And I was going over my mailbox limit. Again. I used to fight to keep my inbox down to 50 emails, then it was 100 emails. Then 150. Then I noticed that I had hundreds upon hundreds of emails stored in 15 folders and 35 sub-folders. No wonder I could never find anything! So, I instituted a new regime: be more brutal, and cut the crap. Plus, stop saving every wack-a-loon dumb email funny people send me. And, relax the inbox quota to 200.

Well, it hit 300 today. So, a fresh cup of coffee, and an hour's dedicated administrative brutality clearing later I'm down to 207...shit...208 in my inbox, and had the unfeasibly satisfying experience of deleting 5 folders and 700 old emails. Ahhhh...damn near 75-100MB of shite off my account I hope.


now what... 3hrs to go.... what gets cleaned next...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A quickie

The building I work in is an old, attractive 5 story brownstone, replete with "turrets", and carved archways, mounted Saints etc. Because it was built in the 40s and 50s, it has but one elevator, and the bathrooms/toilets "alternate". Ladies and gents are on the ground floor, but then alternate on the way up, so men's rooms are on the third and fifth floors, the ladies on the second and fourth.

I work on the fourth.

My floor houses my unit/Academic Office, and the Postdoc Office for whom I also "work". Below us is finance & accounting, above is alumni affairs & development. The second floor is marketing as well as the executive floor for the various Chancellors and bigwigs, poobahs and grandees. The ground floor is payroll and student affairs/admissions.

I'm an unrepentant smoker, so I'm outside "having a quick fag" as we say in the old country, a couple of times of day. Because of this, and because of needing to go to the bathroom/toilet a couple of times each day (depending on how much coffee I've had) I've got to "meet" a lot of people in my building. 99% are middle aged, and of that 99% I'd say 65-75% are female, of which 60% are African American.

So, there's a brief demographic overhaul of my immediate work environment.

So, if there is about 1% of "young" people in my building, where are they? Some are on my floor: my programmers, coders, assistants etc. The rest are scattered around. And because the ladies room is on my floor, I occasionally get to see the females of species (in the corridor, I'm not lurking in the loo, you perverts!). And, very occasionally, like just now, I pass by a stunningly attractive young woman, and I can't help but think,

"Who the fuck are you?!"
"Why aren't you on my floor?!"

Now, I hope I'm not coming across as a perv or a predator. I am a human male and I like to see attractive women. Simple. Biology. But as a geek I do analyze my motives and I came up with a reason: it's not just that it's nice to see pretty girls/women. I miss hanging out with young people from work.

If they worked on my floor, or nearby at least, I could strike up a conversation. I would quickly establish that I'm not a perv or a predator, just a co-worker. We would likely then be chums, and maybe go for beers or something. I know a few of the young(ish/er) folks down on the second floor hang out and go for drinks, go for lunch together.

I guess I'm just lonely, and seeing a pretty girl in the corridor who gives me a quizzical smile, makes me wonder if other people are lonely too.

Friday, July 10, 2009

It's a Dirty Job, but I gotta do it

We have just run an internal grant "competition" for a small Pilot Program to help provide running cost funds for faculty doing translational research who are close to submitting full scale grants. These folks need a bit of cash to help defray, for example, lab costs, or equipment costs to generate the preliminary data for a full NIH R01. The grants are a nice of bit of emergency cash, especially if your start-up funds are running low, or your grant got bounced for the old bullshit of "not enough preliminary data".

Competing Faculty had to outline a mentoring plan (to be mentored if junior, to mentor if senior) and a Letter of Intent. My institute is hoping to fund a handful of these depending on our final budget for the year. Competition was quite fierce, with over forty Letters of Intent being submitted. The selection committee threw darts worked diligently and selected over twenty to invite for full submission.

It of course fell to muggins here to send the notification emails. I did the wise thing (natch), and sent mass BCC emails. I was careful to have only 10 names/email so as not to irritate the email server. I used my address in the "To" field so I'd know they were sent correctly. and, of course, I have OCD like any good geek, and I know I did it right. I have since triple, quadruple, quintuple checked...because, needless-to-say, not everybody got the damned email!

At first it looked like a couple of our adjunct faculty were the only ones because they don't use the same email address as the rest of campus, and the wrong email addresses were listed in our Faculty Directory (natch). Then a couple of days ago (8 days after initial notices were sent) I found out that some of our on-site (and unfortunately, very senior) faculty were wondering about the status of their application.

Quintuple checking my original emails I saw that there was no rhyme, nor reason, for these non-deliveries. Nothing had bounced back from the server warning me of full in-boxes, for example. Of the ~10 names/email there was a randomness to delivery failure that precluded, say, the last three on each not being delivered. Some times Dr. Cxxxx would not receive the email whereas Dr. Txxxx did.

So, here I am, some ten days after the emails went out, frantically trying to contact everyone, by phone yesterday and email today.

"Dear X
please confirm receipt of the Pilot Project email regarding your Letter of Intent. Please confirm regardless of application status,
Dr. Tideliar"

And, as of now I am only waiting on 12 more responses. Thank fuck only one has indicated that he didn't get the message. Unfortunately, he is also one of the Super Senior Faculty and a Core Director. Ho Hum. My ass, see that fire over there? Yeah. That's for you.

Anyway, everyone who was approved who's replied to me has sent a brief note, "Hi, yeah, got your email saying we've been approved."

I have also had to contact, by phone & email, those who didn't get asked to submit, and that sucks. I don't want them to get a message from me and think, "Oh! Maybe I am approved after all!". Some responses have been very abrupt;

"Yes. I got your email saying we were rejected."

...ouch...sorry mate. But I didn't make the call. However, as Professor in Training wrote a while back, and as did Stephen Curry on his blog "Reciprocal Space" on the Nature Network, it's a kick in the balls to be rejected. I know. I too have written/am writing grants and been rejected more times than I have succeeded.

Some have however, taken it with...let's just say, have taken a different tone:

"Dear Dr. Tideliar
Yes, (unfortunately) we received your email. :)

Of course, we are looking for other
sources to study these needed areas since no evidence-based suggestions currently exist in treating these patients.

I look forward to future interactions.

Have a great weekend, Prof. Mega"

Just getting one like this made this scuttlebutt gig OK. Thank you Prof. Mega, even though you don't it. Sometimes it sucks to be the messenger.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A (not so) secret code?

I am not a programmer; I'm learning Python (slowly) and dabble in HTML. I have to an increasing amount of web design & maintenance though. Thankfully we have a nifty little custom built web-builder that uses a WYSIWYG editor to write the code for you. Except it's a bit shit.

I have a couple of monstrous documents I need to get up on our Postdoc Office website (that I'm also building) ASAP. I have spent a couple of hours today with various HTML tutorials open, but none of them have had examples of exactly what I want.

But, I finally figured out how to do ordered lists with indented, bulleted unordered lists embedded in them! An ugly, but functional combination of

with the odd

  1. text
  • text 2

seems to work. s long as you remember where to close the tags. I know this naughty and I'm supposed to use CSS, steps...

So, to me, w00t!!11! as we say in 1337 speak.

Now, as long as the next part of the list starts at "4" and not back at "1" we might be in business!

Corey Doctorow was right. It is addictive commanding your computer what to do, even when it's something simple as rendering dodgy HTML.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

They get their money's worth

More of a "I'm not dead yet" (INDY) post than anything else.

I'm gradually transitioning over to our Office of Academic Affairs. This is more in line with what i wanted to do when i decided to leave bench science, so I'm happy. The Vice Chancellor seems to like my style, and I think I'm doing OK. My mottos of "don't believe the hype" and "work harder, you lazy cunt" seem to be paying off.

Academic Affairs are supposed to be taking over part of my salary too. Seems only fair, seeing as I work for them anyway. It was initially going to be 40:60, with my salary staying the same. Thankfully my boss fucking rocks and pointed out that I'm paid less than someone of my rank should be. I concur completely! So, hopefully the Academic Affairs cash will act as a "bonus" (there's a name for it, I forget): if I do my 40hrs a week for the Bioinformatics crew, then anything on top of that for Academic Affairs should be paid as bonus by Academic Affairs.

Sounds A fair deal (see what I did there? Clever huh. That's a pun, kids).

only it isn't. I work around 50-60 hrs a week, so the Academic Affairs would have to pay an added 50% of my salary, and without going into details, even though i don't make that much, another 50% would be too freakin' generous by Human Resources standards.

So. Here we are. An impasse. As it were. I don't know what bonus, if any I'll be getting this month. They don't know how much to spare, or how to pay me, and no one knows for how long this might last.

Is there a moral to this tale I can't spot?