Thursday, October 14, 2010

The State of Things

Today finally saw the payoff of my going to time-wasting meetings when I didn't have anything to do at work. There isn't much of a down side of a time-wasting meeting if you're wasting time anyway. I have assimilated enough jargon and surface knowledge about my new field that I was able to feign confidence and answer questions at a seminar talk that I gave today. The true experts may suspect that I have no idea what I'm doing, but most of the grad students in the audience seemed to think that I knew what I was talking about. Things should go downhill, as I scheduled this three-Thursday run of seminars to start with things that I know something about and to end, two weeks from today, with something that I know almost nothing about. And then a few days after that is an all-afternoon seminar on something fairly trivial that I know nothing about. And the week after that I'm presenting something at a conference. Then I'm going to Germany. Then I'm giving a talk in New York (the City, not the State).

Life here has been stressful, as I am dealing with prepping for these seminars. They're 75 minutes each. And I'm doing them in a very active, hands-on mode because I am very, very, very opposed to slide talks. Double-especially in cases like today when I was talking about the details of code and things that are run from the command line. You should need a special license to put code on a slide. And you should be required to use a font of at least 36pt for any code on a slide. Preferably 48 point.

These talks are stressful. My kitchen is stressful but nearly done. My kitchen is so close to done that if my contractor disappeared, I would be able to get over it easily. There's a few spots where the paint needs to be touched up. Last night I finished installing the undercabinet lights that had been left almost-finished because I was sick of them being almost-finished. There's a shelf that needs to be trimmed. And some clean-up.

And there are other things that are stressful, too, but I don't want to talk about them. And then there is the whole issue of Daylight Stealing Time lingering and making it pitch black at 7am. There is no reason that needs to happen. And my new computer set-up doesn't leave space on my desk for my fucking sun lamp.

This week I've been on the hunt for dishwasher salt. I ordered some online and then found some locally and bought it, too. So I will have an extra box of dishwasher salt for when my dishwasher uses up all its salt. I also called the local utility company and got transfered to the water-quality department because my dishwasher needed to know my water hardness in grains per gallon. (In case you are wondering, my water has a hardness of 5.5 grains per gallon.) I have also been on a hunt for old stocks of dishwasher detergent. Since I was out of town over the summer, I forgot to stock up on the good dishwasher detergent before the switch over to phosphate-free detergent. Even though phosphates are still legal here, they don't sell the with-phosphate Cascade around here any more. I am wondering if one can toss a scoop of TSP into the dishwasher with the phosphate-free stuff. This whole phosphate bullshit is why environmentalists and politicians need to pass a real chemistry class. Phosphates tend to be insoluble, so they are easy to precipitate out at the water treatment plant. Ignorant tree-huggers are subjecting me to a life of dirty dishes because of their fears.*

I'm thinking of having a party either Halloween weekend or November 6 to celebrate my kitchen. And then sometimes I think that I might just drink alone.

We have been given a take-home exam in statistics class. The exam is sloppily written and has what I believe to be typos in it. Some are obvious typos, like when a term is included twice in a linear model. Others are less clearly typos; at one point we're told to use a probability of 0.5 when I think that it should be 0.05. From an assessment standpoint, I think that a sloppy exam full of typos may be in some ways more informative than a clearly written exam. With the sloppy exam, you are also testing whether the examinee has robust enough knowledge about the field to be able to infer what is actually being asked. That is, does the person who is taking the test understand the subject matter well enough to guess what is being asked based on a sense of what is important about the field and what the questioner meant. I am, however, totally stumped by one bit of completely unfamiliar notation. Not helping: Neither the professor nor the TA is a native speaker of English.

The lack of kitchen plus the stress have now led to the point where almost all of my pants are too big. This required a trip to Old Navy for three pairs of $15 pants. I'm guessing that once the kitchen + stress issues are resolved that my regular clothes will fit again. Hence the trip to ON instead of Banana Republic. I did, however, stop at the Gap and boggle at their vanity sizing. I have never, ever worn a smaller size than I did in Gap jeans. Insane. Maybe I should take up drinking so that my old clothes will fit again. The reason they put alcohol in gasoline is that it is loaded with energy. Ounce for ounce (volume, not weight) gin has more calories than heavy cream.

Last night a friend invited me over to watch Mary and Max, so I watched that instead of America's Next Top Model. As I don't have a DVR (the only show I watch is ANTM), I will have to wait for ANTM to make it onto the web. I did check the results and was happy to discover that Ann got best picture again. I do worry, however, that having Ann win would not make for good story-telling and that something bad will happen with her in future episodes.

Next I should go to the grocery store and fill my new kitchen with food. It's a bit overwhelming, as the last time that I cooked was in early June. Last night I had Nutella and crackers for dinner, which seems so much nicer than cooking. Maybe I can branch out to a friend's secret family recipe for graham crackers with butter. Or perhaps I will try to find the box in which the glasses were packed and head to the liquor store.

*OK, so until a week or so ago both my washing machine and my dishwasher drained to the storm sewer and not the sanitary sewer, so in theory my phosphates drained directly to the waterways. And I have no idea what happens in The County where they may not even have a building code.