28 January 2005


The first of four NSF grants under review got turned down today. This is one I submitted back last August.

27 January 2005

Good news and no news

On the good news front, I submitted yet another major grant application today. This is the second this month, and I think the third in three months (one in November, two this month). It's a little disconcerting when I think just how much money I've stuck my hand out for recently; the total of all these proposals would be well over half a million dollars. I sometimes worry I'm not equipped to cope with that much cash, as most of my finanical experience is with tens and twentys, not thousands.

Another piece of very welcome news is that our Department got approved to hire another secretary! Hooray! We're still understaffed compared to most other Biology Departments I've worked in, but I'll take progress.

I also finished off my last guest lecture for my colleague Anita Davelos Baines, which is my third piece of good news. It was fun and I was glad to help, although I will be glad not to have to write new lectures! Or, for that matter, to talk nonstop for 2 and a half hours (stupid evening classes... ugh).

On the no news front, my main computer, reported non-functional over a week ago, is still non-functional. Grrr. The service here sometimes seems to be the equivalent to phoning the fire department, screaming your house is on fire, and being told they'll pencil you in to serve all your extinguishing needs for tomorrow afternoon. (But I'm not bitter.)

20 January 2005

Technology, why hast thou forsaken me?

Pretty much every computer problem I described in yesterday's entry still hasn't been fixed. In fact, I seem to have at least new one. Usually I'm the technically proficient guy, but the last few days it feels like I'm giving off a "computer malfunction" body aura. That'd be so cool... if it wasn't actually working!

Otherwise, not much to report today, since I just spent it struggling to maintain some resemblance of functionality. It's really amazing just how much of what I do now is dependent on a working computer with a live internet connection.

19 January 2005

Hell day

I knew today was going to be bad.

I had to give 6 demos of my class website to my general biology students, starting at 8:45 a.m. The computer labs only hold about half the class, so I had to give demos to half the students, kick them out, and rotate the other half in. I also knew I was in trouble, because I learned yesterday that about two-thirds of my students can't log into the class website, which would sort of be helpful when you're trying to do a demo of said website. While I was giving the demo, students who could log in told me some of the features I put into the class website weren't working.

I also learned that another instructional website I was using can't be reached from our main campus. I knew I was going to be faced with technical stuff trying to trace that problem. That's still not fixed, although that one isn't urgent.

I also agreed to give a guest lecture for my colleague Anita, who has a late afternoon early evening class that runs for two and a half hours and ends at 7:00 pm. This made for a very late start and a very early finish. And did I mention that this was not a class I had formally lectured in before? It was evolution, which I do study and is one of my favourite subjects, but just because I know this stuff doesn't mean it's easy to put everything into some sort of coherent lecture -- especially a two and a half hour non-stop lecture.

What really did me in for the day was that about 90 minutes before I was to give my guest lecture, I was sitting at my computer, working away on slides and notes and thinking about what I needed to do... and my computer screen blanked out.

Actually, it wasn't completely blank. It was just about 0.01% as bright as it should be. Dang near black. I found I was just barely able to see enough to save what I was working on. But not enough that I could read any screen text that might help me fix the problem. I have an "integrated" computer, i.e., the screen and computer are all one unit, so I can't unplug the existing screen and get a new one. There is a port for a second screen, but something is preventing it from working right, and it flips into power saving more after the boot screen. The practical end of all of this is that I have a big doorstop where my computer used to be. Or maybe it's a paperweight.

Still, I do count my blessings. I will take a screen blanking out over a hard disk disaster any day. At least no data should be lost. But it's going to make trying to do anything very indirect and time consuming until its fixed.

I knew today was going to be a hell day, and was saying so to people yesterday. If only I'd known how right I was going to be... But I am convinced that tomorrow will be better!

07 January 2005

Quick update

We're now at the end of the last full week of what some people have called to me the "break." I have been writing two major grants; they are mostly waiting for other people to deliver some written material to me. I banged out a quick letter of intent for another grant and mailed it yesterday. And finally, I have worked on a short little paper with some colleagues that I think will be in the hands of an editor very soon. So I have been surprisingly productive, by some measures, in the last couple of weeks.