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2007-07-24 - 5:52 p.m.

...a lot of little things....

It’s been difficult to update recently, between Europe, visitors, preparing for new students, and my general state of fatigue.

Europe was fabulous, in spite of the final mix-up with the trains that prevented me from having an evening with my choir. But at least I ran into the choir director on the afternoon before I left, and we had a lovely little chat. He wants to organize a trip to – you guessed it! – Vancouver in the coming years. It will mean quite some work for me but I think it would be a lovely experience for them.

I am still running on fumes of enthusiasm from that trip. It remains very clear to me that I have to keep my European collaborations alive and going. The science I am thinking about with both groups of people just makes me feel alive. After months of drudgery, it’s nice to recognize that science still excites me. I hope that I can remember this feeling, as I have been plunged back into daily routines of administrative paralysis at Mountain U., and daily issues with landlords, park noise, city strikes, and defective laundry machines.


This week’s excitement involved my trying to get a phone moved from one outlet to another in my lab. I was told that I am ‘not authorized’ to move my own phone, even though I will be footing the bill.

The next excitement involved shorting out one of the circuits in my lab, because I had a computer and a teapot on the same circuit. My lab was wired with 12-amp circuits. !@!@! 12 amps? For a laboratory?? I had more than this in my turn-of-the-century house, and this lab is supposed to be part of a state-of-the-art technological center...

Part of the problem is that there are supposed to be five circuits in the lab, but half of the room’s outlets are wired to just one of them. The electrician on duty suggested that I have two new circuits installed, for a small fee of $3000. Yes, I should foot the bill. Is there something wrong with this picture???

In fact, we were still looking for circuits 4 and 5 when the electrician had to go on his break. He told me that he would come back to help find the rest of the circuits (for a fee) if I filed an internet request form. After trying to fill out the internet request form that sent me about 20 times to a “URL NOT FOUND” page, I took matters into my own hands and found circuit 4 on my own – the contractors have tightly secured a bookcase to the wall in front of it.

I now feel like Robert deNiro as the renegade plumber in Brazil, illegally trying to pry the bookcase off the wall (the contractors stripped the screws) so that I can run an extension cord from one side of the room to the other. And all this is done with excessive stealth, because I don’t want to get caught by the facilities police.

Circuit 5, by the way, is apparently still floating around somewhere, although I have no idea where it could be. Oh, the last ever helpful thing that the electrician did before leaving was to lock my fuse panel. Apparently I’m “not authorized” to reset the circuit breakers. Sigh. I can hear that Brazil theme song chiming away in my ears.

My in-laws left on Saturday, and I fell into a sleeping stupor for most of Sunday. And yesterday I noticed that my sister-in-law ‘borrowed’ a book from my bookshelf. I am trying to give her the benefit of the doubt – perhaps she ‘accidentally’ packed it and just forgot to tell me that she’s borrowed it. There is a chance that I would have just given it to her if she had asked to borrow it. There is an equal chance that there is an inscription in that book from a dear college friend. Overall, it is disturbing that someone would feel justified to take things without asking.

So what else? My students have started in the lab this week. This means that a lot of work is getting done while I work on other things, but right now we are still on the steep end of the learning curve. That is, a lot of my time is spent telling people what to do. But that’s okay. Work is getting done for me in my absence, which is very very cool. The rest of my time is spent trying to figure out what the hell happened to MS Office in the 2007 version. I can’t find ANYTHING. Not even the ‘Help’ button. I’m thinking rather unpleasant thoughts about Mr. Gates these days…

So, after unsuccessfully searching 45 minutes for some graph formatting functions that used to be intuitive, I’ve decided to call it quits for today. But I will end on a positive note. Yesterday there was a very thin letter in the mail for me with the following text:

“Dear Auntie Teranika, Uncle K, and Unknown Little Person, Thank you for buying me books for my birthday. From Ben”

Unknown Little Person. ULP. I have an ULP inside me. I like that. Ben, for those who don’t know, is Blighty’s 11-yr-old, who had a birthday in June, and will begin attending Hogwarts in the fall. Frightening to think that he will soon have a wand in his hand. Thrilled to know that he has inherited Blighty’s sense of humo(u)r.

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