Sunday, June 13, 2010

Things I've Been Doing Lately

Well, I mean in addition to freaking out about things that I had assumed that other people were going to do months ago and apparently have not done because they are not returning my emails or phone calls. I'm hoping that they are consciously avoiding me and feel as though they should be doing the things that I asked them to do back in March and not that every single email that I've sent in the meantime has disappeared into the ether and that they have no idea that they should be doing things that I've asked. I'm thinking that since I sent messages with no attachments from my @mit.edu account to their @mit.edu accounts using MIT's SMTP server that the chances of everything disappearing is pretty low.

Anyway.

So, let's see. I go to work. Sometimes I am very productive. I talk to people who tell me things that I need to know, and that helps me get things done that I need to get done. It also helps me prepare for the big-deal meeting I have with my boss on Monday. One of them is a super-smart person who is on the border between being technical staff and support staff. The TeraGrid was supposed to send me my password through US Mail, but it never arrived. (Did they send it to my home address? To the math department? To the university mail room in general where it got redirected to who knows where because I don't have a mailbox in computer science?) The solution was actually pretty obvious once she looked up in the system that my account really has been activated. I clicked on the "I lost my password" link, and the TeraGrid emailed me a password reset code. Why do they send passwords through the US Mail if you can just click on the "I lost my password" link and reset it over email? Unclear.

Over the past three weeks I have had to pick passwords for so many things that I do not know what they all are anymore. My credit card made me pick a password for "Verified by Visa" (no opt-out choice!), so I wrote it on the back of the card with a Sharpie marker. Something else asked for a new password, so I used my Grandma's birthday concatenated with her maiden name with the vowel replaced by a symbol. I don't remember what this is the password to, though. My brokerage account also made me reset my password this week; I wrote that on the white board in my den.

Friday I was working in the computer science office, which I share with a handful of Professor Jon Stewart's minions. Professor Stewart has them working on various parts of a project: Some are writing code to add to his library, some are designing algorithms, and at least one is using the algebra of finite fields to prove that what everyone else is doing works and works well. He asked me some algebra questions, which is reasonable as I am an algebraist by training, but I wasn't really sure of the answers. It was a really technical question about cyclotomic polynomials and how certain results do and don't extend to fields of characteristic two. That is the difference between math and computer science; in math I got to choose which fields I wanted to work over (ideally uncountable ones of characteristic 0), and in computer science everyone is stuck with finite fields of characteristic two. I knew enough about what was going on to decide that the proof he was looking for was probably a mix of a counting argument and a bit of definition chasing. Later I found some books on my desk that would probably be helpful for him. Let's hope that I'm not useless at helping people in both math and computer science, as I'm running out of things that I have a chance of knowing something about.

Today I made two trips to Target in preparation for spending my summer at MIT. I still have not figured out the optimal way to pack for the summer. Always I end up bringing clothes I end up never wearing and always I end up wishing for things that I decided against bringing. My goal for this summer is to minimize the number of pairs of shoes that I pack. I am thinking that I will bring the Keen sandals because I have fallen in love with them (and they are machine washable!), the brown Converse sneakers because they are awesome and my orthotics fit in them, and a pair of pumps with 3.5" heels and pointy toes (because my dress pants are all too long and I didn't plan ahead to get them shortened). One of my main principles about packing for the summer up at MIT is that I only bring things that are totally awesome and high quality (the Keen sandals, clothes from Banana Republic, etc.) because they can stand up to anything or I bring things that are ready to fall apart or otherwise die or self-destruct, as then I don't have to bring them home with me (last year I brought a towel that was older than many of the people that I was working with). The other summer question is do I pack travel-size toiletries and then buy full-size when I get there or do I save myself a trip to CVS by packing full-size. (I'm opting for bringing full-size, as I am afraid that I will be allergic to a new brand of contact lens solution. I'm allergic to some preservatives used on optical products, but I'm not sure which ones. Back when I wore gas permeable contact lenses, I had to buy the expensive aerosol saline because it was preservative-free.)

I've been packing the kitchen. This is not as bad as moving, as I bought a set of plastic shelves at the hardware store, and all the boxes will go on shelves in the basement. (Except Grandma's dishes that are going in a closet.) Looks like it will be 17 boxes of stuff being stored and two boxes going to Goodwill. We'll see how much of the stuff gets unpacked back into the kitchen after the remodeling. There was an awful lot of stuff that I'm pretty sure was never used since moving into the house. And is there any good reason for me to have as many dishes as I do considering that I never have guests? I have the "everyday" dishes for eight people that my parents owned when I was a little kid (sunflower-patten Mikasa Mediterranean). Then I also have dishes for eight people that are the ones that my mom bought when I was in late elementary or early middle school to replace the sunflower dishes. And I have Grandma's china, place settings for twelve with every type of plate and bowl that Emily Post would know what to do with; these dishes are older than I am. And we haven't even begun to talk about the mis-matched silver. I'm thinking that if I only had four plates, four forks, etc. that this would cut down on the number of dish "situations" that develop in the sink when the dishwasher is full.

Now it seems too late to do much packing today, so I will let that slip to tomorrow or possibly Friday. The tricky part for packing for Cambridge is that today it was 30 degrees (Fahrenheit) cooler in Cambridge than it was here, and yet it's hard to think about packing pants and long sleeves and fleece when it is as warm as it is today -- especially when I know that by the end of the summer there will be no need for any of that either. Depending on how successful my packing strategies are, I may have to make a dash to the post office on my way to the airport. When you're going to be somewhere for over six weeks, parcel post can be a better idea than a baggage overage.

I think that tomorrow I will check to see if the fraud detection folks correctly recorded my message to them that I will be making a lot of large purchase and sending them to Cambridge, MA. For reasons that I don't want to go into, I am being pressured to use the slush fund to buy a ping-pong table ($300). And for more legit reasons, I need to buy T-passes for 37 people. And ferry passes for 90 people to the Harbor Islands. We'll see how many of these transactions go through.