Tuesday, June 01, 2010


Two weeks from tomorrow I'm flying up to Boston to spend the summer at MIT. I'm dealing with weird last-minute things. Like someone who needs a TB test to be cleared for work but who grew up on a country where they give kids a vaccine that causes them to test false positive for TB later in life. A summer housing coordinator who does not answer my emails and who has a habit of going on vacation in the early summer when everyone is coming to campus for summer housing. And I need to find someone to trek around the MIT campus collecting signatures for a ritualized room reservation procedure. I'm trying not to obsess about very important tasks I delegated (one to the head of the physics department) that I haven't heard back about yet. When some of the people you work with are too important to nag (like the head of the physics department) and the rest are undergraduates who are dealing with end-of-semester issues, you end up doing a lot of crap yourself that you don't really have time with in addition to your full time job. One concession that I made to myself: I configured my MIT email account on my work laptop. That is the only personal, non-work thing on that laptop. No iTunes library. No non-work bookmarks on Safari. No Twitter. (Yes, this is all a technicality, as I tweet from work on my phone.)

The stress is starting to get to me. Two more weeks when I can go to work in person. Most of the time I don't talk to anyone at work, but every now and then I need help from the person who used to have my job. I have two weeks to figure out enough so that I can work independently for the following six and a half. I fly home from Boston on Saturday, July 31, and on Sunday August 1 I'll be flying up to Pittsburgh to present at a conference. Without a single day in the office to run my talk by my collaborators.

I've been having trouble sleeping. This is both good and bad. I've been waking up between 4am and 5am. This is good because my 30-mile commute takes much less time when I get on the road by 6am. It is also good because then I get to leave work in time to still do business hours errands. It will be nice if I can swing a 9pm - 5am sleep schedule during my time in Boston. It's truly amazing how much work one can get done in the early morning when everyone else is sleeping. It reminds me of someone I know who used to live in a bad neighborhood and who would stay out extra late because not a lot of trouble happens at 5am.

Today's walk at work was in the opposite direction from the radioactivity, towards the goose pond. At the pond I saw two goose families (with goslings in the awkward fuzzy grey stage that the pass through between the cute yellow phase and the regular goose phase), many colors of dragonfly, small greyish fish (some with bright fin-tips), some koi, awesome plants, an Eastern Bluebird, and a swimming snake.

I did not photograph any of these wildlife because last week, on the suggestion of a blog commenter, I went out to get a photograph of the radioactive weeds. I was standing near the yellow arrow in the Google map image reproduced below.

I aimed my phone across the street, took a picture of the weeds (they are near the brownish area of radioactive stones) and within seconds a cop came by and made me delete the photo and wrote me up. No unauthorized photos of radioactive weeds! Apparently aerial photos of the whole site are legit. So you will just have to imagine the goose that hissed at me.

The security at work reminds me a lot of airport security. I can't take photos, but you can clearly see things on Google Maps. Maybe it's just my background. I used to work at a DoD facility with meaningful security. I grew up a mile or two from a Department of Energy nuclear lab that is all fuzzed out on Google Maps (see below) (and that has had dudes with machine guns at the checkpoint as long as I can remember).

View Larger Map
People carry laptops with hard drives totaling many terabytes of data on and off site daily. So, really, secret weeds?