Various Lies

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Call to the Academic Blogosphere

Dear Academic Blogosphere,

I work with a junior, non-tenure track assistant professor. He has been faculty for a couple of years, and comes from an engineering background. He is from South East Asia. He is an incredibly talented programmer with a marvelous imagination, vast amounts of tenacity and drive. He is also completely lost working in an academic biomedical environment. The politics, the power plays, the rules & regulations are basically beginning to crush his spirit.

Our boss is aiming to get him on the Tenure Track by the end of the year, and I know he can succeed with a little guidance and pushing. He won't get this from his Chair though, nor is likely to get much support from his "colleagues".

I am working on him as hard as I can, but I only have limited time. I've got him whipped into some sort of shape (yeah, I'm being hyperbolic) with regards working with his postdoc and research assistants. But... I need help getting his head around American Biomedical Academia in general...the mind set, the politics...the...J'ne sais quai of the whole issue.

So...dear Academic Blogosphere...suggestions. including books I can treat him too. I thought of "The Prince" by Machiaveli, and "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu, but that's more my line of work than his...

Twittering? Twatting? What?

Utterly, utterly fucking incomprehensible technology.

It's official. I am an old fart. I can't figure out how to tweet...or if I am, are they going anywhere or am I tweeting into the aether?


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

We AAAAAAARE the Chaaaaaampyyyyuuuunnss!

I was planning on a groovy long blog post about the utter ineptitude of senior academics + teh technologyz, but then I found out the UEFA Champions League is on ESPN2 video.

So, Weeeeeeeeeee Arrrrrrrrrrrrrre The Chaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaampyuuuuuuuuuns!

I fucking hate Man Yoo, but I'm an Englishman through and through, so if an "English" team can stick to the Spaniards, I'll celebrate like its 1588!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Through Hell & High Water

I fancied posting a little introspective piece as we (in the US) approach Memorial Day.

Memorial Day started in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania (home of Cmdr. Ryker from Star Trek: TNG; or the actor that plays him anyway) many moons ago as way of honouring fallen soldiers. The UK has November 11th for something similar. At 3PM on the Monday of Memorial Day we are exhorted to stop BBQing, slurping Bud Lite and jaw-wagging and pause for a moment's silence and thought for our fallen service men and women.

I hope we all remember ot do so this year. As we struggle the death throws of a pointless, illegal war, we would do well to remember all the servicemen and women who have volunteered and been volunteered to serve on our behalf. Don't tell me the draft never was reinstituted...tell that to the Alabama National Guard.

On June 11th 2006 my good friend and childhood companion, Capt James Philipson was killed in Afghanstan. He was the first UK soldier to die after the Brits took over from the Yanks in Helmand Province. The offical inquiry into his death blamed poor/lacking equipment. The .45 calibre round to the head that killed him would have been stopped had been wearing the right helmet.

I'm not sure much has changed.

When I lived in DC I knew a lot folks who worked at/through the Pentagon, many were servicemen.

  • Rachel (Navy) had been shot and blown up patroling near the coast
  • Jay (Marines) had broken his back parachuting with an M-60, also shot in Bosnia
  • Nolly (Army national guard) had been shot patrolling in Haiti
  • Shuba had been shot down whilst parachuting behind enemy lines before the Second Gulf War; she was also shot through the shoulder in a "friendly fire" incident by one of her own corpsmen. Since returning from the gulf she has had to deal with leukemia, potentially from exposure to chemicals in her role as a chemical weapons expert.
  • Matt (USAF) deals with PTSD after serving on the frontlines during the First Gulf War

I am a proud navy brat, the son of a sailor and brother to a cop.

So, I will be remembering everyone who serves, has served and epecially those who gave their lives serving their country, which ever country that may be.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Once more unto the breach, Dear friends

Today is R01 grant submission deadline day. We have to get our grant to our Office of Research Administration as soon as we can so they can over the fucker with a fine toothed comb and:

A) make sure the routing numbers, DUNS numbers etc. are correct

B) make sure I haven't utterly fucked up the budget (a little over a million bucks here)

C) pick on my spelling.

last time the administrator was actively, as far as I can tell, try to not send my grant in on time. At the very last minute before the deadline was closing she sent it back to me with apparent "major problems and flaws" in my budget. It wasn't wrong, and besides, she had tripled checked it already. but no, she apparently found fault at Zero hour. I had to get the Dean of the College of Medicine to yell, doing my reputation no fucking good, before it got sent.

It is beyond frustrating having to deal with administrative assistants who think that their job is to actually stymie the research endeavor. this is not unique to my current institution; one glance at any of the academic science bloggers sites shows you everyone goes through this. It really drives me crazy. The indirect costs (i.e. the bit the institute charges on top of the money we need to do our jobs) pay for a lot of things around the wages of the administrative staff.

We have to charge the Feds 48% on top of what we need just because the institute has decided that this makes sense to cover admin salaries, air conditioning (that rarely works), security (someone stole a shotgun from them last year and then robbed the cop shop with it).

This bastard of a grant has died and been resurrected three times in as many days. After I had a nervous breakdown on Friday my boss finally decided to help. She wrote the research part over the weekend, which is remarkable and infuriating. Why have I been bashing my head against a brick wall of silence trying to get my colleagues to help me for weeks now when she knew what to do all along? And no, it's nothing to do with hazing, or testing or trial by fire. It's just the way of the world.

Anyway, once you've written the fucker you have to go the joy of compiling dozens of PDFs into a fucked up form the Feds give you, so the whole shebang can be submitted on line. It is nerve wracking, almost infinitely complex and almost as annoying as writing the grant in the first place (hyperbole: I actually like writing grants - when I have the support I need). Well, my boss is trying to put the finishing touches on this beast while I prepare the forms. last time I had to do all of this on my own and it nearly killed me.

I am taking a sick delight in pestering her for biosketches and letters and cover forms and mutiple PI decision making plans and inclusion enrolement plans and women & minority protection plans and bibliographies and...and...and...and...

when I last went into her office she was literally vibrating with stress at her computer with a fixed grin...a rictus you might say... She turned to me and said, "Now I understand".

That's all I needed to hear.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Politics: by liars, for idiots.


this is why I hate politicians, government and anything to do with the whole fucking shower of them. I have no doubt things are as bad in the U.S. Fuckers.

And now they've "fixed" the fucking rules, there's no point in my running for office to make a buck or two. Bollocks!

Friday, May 15, 2009

ow. ow ow owoowowowow

I didn't get drunk last night

I stayed hydrated after kickboxing

I went to bed before midnight (or tried anyway)

I ate

So why the fuck does it feel like a 2 tonne hog took a shit in my skull?


I haven't slept properly for about 10days now and I'm starting to get delirious.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Houston, we might have a problem

I am watching NASA TV and the live coverage of the Atlantis maintenance trip to the Hubble Space Telescope.

It is absolutely fucking amazing. They've got the HST in the shuttle payload area, by the looks of things, and with the earth whizzing by in the background (they're orbiting once every 36 minutes...that means they're traveling at a relative velocity of about 50,000 miles and hour!!) the astronauts are on an EVA playing with the telescope.

One of the astronauts just came on his radio mic, "Atlantis, Houston I have a tear, approximately 8 inches long and one quarter inch wide in the outer skin of my right glove."

"Houtson copies, Atlantis you have a tear, approximately 8 inches long and one quarter inch wide in the outer skin of your right glove. Just checking. That's the outer skin only right?"

"Yes. Proceeding with wide-camera repair."

Holy. Fucking. Shit. That's gotta be practice and experience right there. Talk about remaining calm under pressure.


"Ah, Houston copies, Tideliar. To confirm, you're gutless whimpering faggot flying at 50, 000 mph?"

"Tideliar confirms first extra-vehicular pants shitting is complete. Carrying on with replacement."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Summer is here...

My office overlooks a very busy four lane road, but the landscapers and gardeners round here do an awesome job of making our little campus look nice. It's very landscaped and flower-gardened. It's starting to get warm and muggy, although the temperature is rarely above 25C. But...there is a cicada sitting in a tree somewhere nearby, singing away, marking territory from unhatching rivals and courting as yet unhatched lovers.

Spring has sprung and the summer has arrived... ahhh.

Within a couple of weeks it'll be pushing 90F/35C everyday. Within a month or two it will sit at around 40C/100F, day and night for the next six months. Shit. I fucking hate summer.

Oohh! Fame & Fortune surely follow!

I've been BlogRolled! It's *so* exciting I just shit!

I'm not a new blogger by any means. I've been doing this in various locations since late 2004 (fuck me, that is a long time...). I write because I need to. Whether that translates into a woefully introspective and narcissistic "need to get teh voices out of my head", I'm not sure. I think it might be.

Anyway, I write because I enjoy it and because sometimes I need to get some shit off my chest or out of my, already crowded, cerebrum. And I don't strictly care if anyone reads it or not, but it's kind of flattering to find out that some people do. On my old blog, also known as Some Lies, I got several thousand unique hits and page reads each month, and that was flattering. It also lead me to apologise constantly if I didn't write anything for a couple of days. That seems to defeat the purpose of the exercise somewhat. Anyhoo, never getting any comments here I wondered if any body read this blog. I leave scattered comments around on other sites, when I was a n00b that was how you got traffic. I'm sure there are some cool interch00b devices that do it for you now.

So, yesterday I installed a StatCounter; it's down there, on the right, near the bottom. Yeah, that's the one. I was pleasantly surprised to see a dozen or so folks had meandered past between bloggings. And then, as if predestined, I happened to be catching up on some blogs over lunch and wandered to Professor in Training, and name....on her blogroll!



I've been blogrolled, y'all. By a popular, fairly hard nosed, academic blogger. I don't know why, but that really cheered me up. So, cheers PiT.

To reciprocate, I did my blog roll, so much easier than it used to be; typing in reams of dodgy Blogger/Google pseudo-html and hoping you didn't royally fuck up your blog template whilst doing so. I expect no reciprocity for my kind actions, but I did notice: I follow a lot of blogs. No wonder I never get any fucking work done!

(...and sincereish apologies to any reader who has blogrolled me without me noticing...)

Time fugits

I have decided, but have yet to clear with the powers that be, that my R01 grant submission to the National Institutes of Health, is the FAIL and is no way getting submitted by Monday.

My unit is involved in an RC2 "Grand Opportunity" grant for several million, and I need to edit text and get writing done for that. This is a brilliant project I wish I'd been more involved with from the start. Unfortunately one of my bosses works for a different institute and he is consolidating his powerbase and has effectively shut us out and we (me and my boss) are in the "testing staff" section. Not so bad for me, I'm the new kid and very junior, but not great for her. I'm kind of pissed, but the chance to do some great science makes it worthwhile if we get funded. Anyway, that's due at the same time as my R01, and I need to work on it for a couple of days to get our section water-tight.

Another poobah has approached us and wants text for P20 grant, a multi-site clinical trial "tester" grant. Again, there's not much money for us, but the exposure is probably worth it. He's got 40 years of successful funding from the NIH and is "not used to being turned down for funding," so hopes are high on this one too. But he needs text by tomorrow for submission in a week.

And there's a conference at the end of the year I really want to go to and the deadline for abstract submission is tomorrow. Needless-to-say I've got a draft of an abstract that is complete shite that I need re-write and get submitted in the next 36 hours.

I've written the background, aims and preliminary studies section of my R01, but the important part, the real meat is the Research and Design bit and it doesn't fucking exist right now. I work with a lot of non-biomedical computer scientists and they love to write code and develop cool new applications for our software and database, but I can't get them to write for me. I'm fucking biomedicial scientist, I cannot write a 15 page software development proposal. Maybe if we try again in September i can get these people working for me on something concrete to the Feds.

Everyone seems to think that some fucking wishy-washy "oh wow man, what a cool idea dude" grant is going to work. no fucking way. The NIH want to see fixed experimental details, back-up plans, alternative interpretations. They want to know *exactly* where they are investing their money. This pie int he sky bullshit stands no chance of even being scored. It will bounce back, un-graded and we'll be fucked submitting another substandard grant next May. Maybe if I can get these folks to help me over the summer we can submit a decent proposal in September. If we do a decent job we should get scored at least, and then adopting reviewer comments puts in a good position to re-submit next summer.

This is how the system works. Explaining this to my boss is not easy however, because all she sees (rightfully so in some ways) is that the money is not coming until mid 2011. I need to convince her that a good chance at funding in 18 months is infinitely better than no chance in 2 years...

Fuck. bits of my job like this I hate. I have to go eat shit for generalist "failings". I guess I should have bullied harder, but I figured after having gone through this once at the beginning of the year, they would have understood the need to help me.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Nerd Alert. Apparently.

Thanks to the delightful and nerdiliscious Christie over at Observations of a Nerd, I found the NerdTest, which is plainly biased, silly, and unfortunately true...

I am nerdier than 94% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to take the Nerd Test, get geeky images and jokes, and write on the nerd forum!

Dear Facilities

I know you're busy watching the place fall apart around us. But it's cold outside so WHY THE FUCK IS THE AIR CONDITIONING ON?

I thought leaving the lab meant leaving the world of shonky A/C behind... I fear not.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Martin Turner, DSc., CBE

Much loved and respected, a wonderful man who vicariously transformed my life and directly transformed the life of someone I love very much.

Sleep well, Martin.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What I want to see, for a change...

I emailed our budget for my latest grant submission to our business manager. This is the reply:

Dr. Tideliar:
I checked the budget and found only $1 off in year 2 in the total and $1 in
total salaries & fringe. Both of these are due to rounding in the excel
spreadsheet. Looks good to me. Let me know if we can help.

Thank fuck. A human reply! i am so used to assinine requests for more information, or blank looks I am feeling really happy right now! If only the co-authors were being as helpful...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

new hair day

There is something wonderful about getting a new, excellent hair cut. It's not a new style per se, more of a new take on my 'traditional' faux hawk. See stylists, like the rest of us, are human. And Tideliar's Law #3 states Humanity breeds complacency. After a while the usual 30min cut takes only 20, and not long after that it starts to look like it only took 20 minutes. So every 6 to 8 months I change stylist. Sometimes within the same salon.

You'll note I'm refering to stylists here. One of my many excellent qualities is vanity. I am almost as vain as I am humble. That's pretty fucking vain.

So today I went to a new stylist at my favourite salon. I've not been there since November due to trying out other salons, but the high turn over of decent staff (a purely visual judgement) forced me to return to my old stomping ground. And lo and behold, going in blind with nothing by expectations and ego to sustain my hopes, but what am I confronted with but a strikingly attractive young woman, with the requisite piercings and tattooes. If she was a little older I would be harboring more sinful thoughts. For me pederasty starts at around 25 or so. Sad but true... young girls reek of inexperience and misplaced expectation and I need to be feeling evil to take advantage of that.

Anyway. She proceeded to work wonders with the Boris Johnsonesque mop on top of my head. And give me rather sin-inducing goosebumps whilst doing so.

So here I sit, live blogging with a pint of Dos Equis (feliz cinqo de mayo), beautiful new hair and an urge to get thoroughly sinful...

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cooler than Fuck "Geek moment"

I am currently working on writing an R01, which to the fortunately uninitiated is a large research grant for the National Institutes of Health. The R01 is "The Big One", usually in the range of a million bucks or more, to pay for research for 3-5 years. Ours is somewhat smaller in scale, but still pushing 7 figures for 2 years support.

This behemoth is a bastard to write and an even bigger bastard to get funded. Most of the NIH institutes have low funding rates, and unless you're in the top 5-10% you can't guarantee funding. Although you do get to re-submit one time so a savvy investigator takes the comments from the Study Section that reviewed the grant and re-writes *very* carefully.

The body of the grant, the real meat, if you will, is a 25 page research proposal. I don't even want to talk about that. I have two weeks to go till i have to have this fucker submitted and the last one was a fucking nightmare (see earlier posts in January). But the sauces that decorate the meat are the supporting documents. In our case, because of the nature of the proposal is to secure funding for continuing software development we need to show that we are being used and that our Faculty have need for continued development, testing & deployment.

Which brings me, in a roundabout way, for roundabout I feel right now, to my point. today's Geek Moment.

One of the Faculty-users I approached for a Letter of Support asked for a draft she can modify and send back. Groovy. but the best, richest, Letters I have are scanned PDFs of word documents. What to do...what to do...waste time retyping in generic format or send her the Letter and hope she can re-write to my satisfaction (note; she goes out of town and is off email for ten days later this week. I need this done right and done first time).

So I was pottering around the Adobe toolbar when I remembered my Postdoc muttering something about Adobe having OCR technology. OCR is Optical Character Recognition. It's what, for example, your computer uses when you scan a document into MSWord, or Mac Pages. I looked, and sure enough, there it is in the Adobe Pro toolbar, in the Documents section: OCR Text Recognition.

I asked it to scan my patchy scanned photocopy and before you could sing all 16 verses of "American Pie" I had a Word document containing 99% correct text. All is did was cock up words like Pharmacogenomics and that I can forgive. Importantly, it didn't scan the borders, or signatures, or header either. Just the body text.

Fucking Brill. Absolutely fucking brill! All I need to do is remove the added carriage returns, clean it up and email it out. Saved me at least 45 mins of my precious time which I was able to waste writing this blog post!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Rock Boner

I just downloaded Disturbed's new album "Indestructible" on iTunes. It's fucking awesome. SO nice to see some bands still have the balls to release decent heavy rock.

The intro the "Haunted" has a beautiful off-beat double-bass/China cymbal intro that gave me a fucking woody. It was almost Dream Theater-esque. Briefly, until the scrotal buzzsaw begins and we're off to the races.

Excellent and well done boys. I remember when "Down with the Sickness" came out back in 98 (well, I heard it in 98) and I had just moved to the States. I was so sick of most of the music I was hearing in my Homeland, tweety, weak-ass, teenie bop techno-bob shit. And then this very novel aural assault by a very obviously, very angry man.

Fuck me!

Said I. And I bought the album. And I saw them when they came through the small town I lived in at the time. There was maybe 500 people in the audience and they were fucking brill.

A year or so later they came back through our area, only this time their meteoric rise to fame had occurred and they played the local sports stadium. To 25,000 people. How fucking cool is that?

Apparently they're a bunch of arrogant tossers, but I don't care, I would be too, and I don't have to hang out with them, I just have to appreciate their music. And I do. and I wanna go shin-kick someone in the throat in celebration!

How you know you're a grown up

The Golden Eagle craps on the last working day of the month. That means, ysterday i got an injection of cash into my almost empty bank account.

Today I paid my bills.

66% of my hard earned money is now gone on rent, credit cards, TV, & last year's new tires.

Fuck. Broke 24 hours after feeling OK that I had got paid. Ah well...only 27 more days to go till I can pay my fucking bills again.

Ramen noodles and mashed potato diet coming up!

as an aside

We have a new Admin Assistant. She is Chinese and her name is Ting. My boss is from Thailand and pronounces 'T' as 'Th'.

I m getting no end of silly, childish giggles form hearing her call our poor AA "Thing".