Friday, November 02, 2007

Today was a rather good day.

I went to bed before 8 last night, but woke around midnight with a bit of a headache. I shuffled down the hall in search of acetaminophen and a distraction. I read a few blogs until I grew sleepy and wandered back down the hall.

I yawned and stretched for one last time as I came slowly toward consciousness. It was nearly 8 in the morning and I smiled when I realized my head didn’t hurt. I drank cold coffee leftover from yesterday morning and read the few bloglines entries that I missed last night. Chienne continued to stare at me, eager for her morning walk, and I glanced at the clock again with the knowledge that I was in no great hurry to get to work. There was a seminar in the afternoon and tasks that had piled up, but nothing so pressing as to hurry me through a stroll around the neighborhood.

I put on shoes and grabbed a sweatshirt and clipped a leash on my canine friend. We set off to the west and I thought that the lake looked pretty as it reflected the bright blue of the sky. So we continued to move in that direction.

When we crossed a street to enter the park that leads to the shore, Chienne started to prance happily. Her head was high, ears flopping with each stride, tail aloft. I allowed her to roam as far as the flexi-lead allowed. It was rather nice not to have to respect people’s property and I allowed the hound to sniff and explore to her heart’s desire. A fire truck was coming, so I stepped in the gravel to the side of the street, sparing a moment to wonder what he was doing.

“Getting water?” I asked the dog as I noted another red vehicle by the water as we moved closer, two men moving busily about it. She was pulling me toward the flock of birds on the shore and I followed, watching the water change its ripple pattern as it got closer to the shore. There were three birds with feathers of snowy white and one of dappled brown. I counted four mallards with feathers that were nearly iridescent. One of them got in a heated discussion with a female. There was much squawking and bobbing of heads and I smiled as I watched them communicate intently, drifting away from the rest of the swimming animals as they focused on each other.

I decided to sit on the ledge that conveniently presented itself several feet from the water whose level must be down. It was cool - nearly cold, but I could see the bright orange legs on several of the ducks as they settled more comfortably in the water - sometimes flapping their wings a couple of times before snuggling them around their bodies and fluffing and wiggling their tails. Some tired of our scrutiny and began to move farther down the shore. They quacked at Chienne as she tugged on her leash, trying to get the noisy toys in the water, but I held her back and watched as they moved along, still catching glimpses of the legs situated far back on their bodies as they busily propelled the birds through the water.

I got up and dusted off the seat of my pants and called the dog to follow me. When I turned to see if she would obey, I saw water spraying in the air around the fire truck. It was a rather fine mist at an impressive height and the light refracted to create a bit of a rainbow. I watched for a minute while Chienne continued to sniff longingly after the ducks, took a moment to feel pleased I’d come this way for our walk and headed up the hill toward home.

I checked email upon our arrival, decided everything could wait, and began to type away at the novel I decided to write this month. I plan on being pretty low profile about it and estimate my chances of failing to get much farther than I currently am at about 40%. But I typed words, watching them appear on the screen of my laptop to tell a story I’ve only just started to plot. It takes forever - writing - but it’s oddly soothing and exciting for me.

I closed the laptop at around 10, got ready for work and made the drive while listening to music. One of my favorite pieces from Haydn started to play and I listened to the trumpet sections at volume that was likely too high. I wiggled my way into a parking spot on the end of a row and walked briskly toward a waiting bus. It pulled away without me, but I managed to beat it to the final stop since it takes a circuitous route in getting there.

I did a bit of work and while an algorithm was running, I spent time writing a lengthy email to a new friend I enjoy a great deal. I was nearly finished with my message when I paused to introduce myself to the new post-doc when she arrived in our shared office. That desk has remained empty for some time and I’ll admit to cringing at the news that yet another woman had been hired to try to make this particular project work. There was Winnie. Then Dawn. Now there is Marlie, very sweet and undeniably smart. I fear this project will crush her as it has those before her. And I hate the thought with great passion.

I ate lunch at the afternoon seminar, pushing the bread that was a bit too fresh off the back of my teeth with my tongue. I smiled involuntarily when the speaker called one technique ‘an abomination unto the Lord,’ and wished he had time to tell more stories. I’m not sure I learned very much, but I was entertained. It seemed enough - especially as the cookie I had was quite yummy.

I went back to my office, answered more email and agreed to a meeting with a collaborator.

“It’s simple if you have all the software, but tedious if you don’t.” I said to her as she pulled over a chair. “So we’ll move the data to my Windows laptop,” I said, pausing while I found her USB drive and transferred the files, “and import with this program and check these options and click here. Then here. And again here. Then we’ll open and make sure it looks OK…and it does so we’re happy. Now we’re done with this computer, so we’ll move the files back on your drive and eject!”

“We’ll move the files onto my iMac now and use this command line from this other program. Now if you download the Matlab files that go with this other program, you can read that format in and save each one as a workspace so you can load it later.”

I glanced over at her to see she’d stopped taking notes. “So…” I said, smiling, “you could download two programs and some extra files, try to install them all properly and make notes on how to do all these little steps in the right order. Or you could go back to your office, let me do this and I’ll bring you the USB drive when I’m done.”

I dropped off the files about 30 minutes later. I set up more data to run - properly this time, I hope - and moved some files onto Meanie - my USB drive with the green ribbon - and am almost finished analyzing them.

Friend decided to come out for dinner and drinks. We’re each working on our laptops and sipping Italian soda mixed with liqueurs and vodka. It was nice to catch up through the commute and over cheese biscuits and salads. It’s pleasant to have someone around the house, which is good as my parents will drive south to visit me either tomorrow or Sunday. They’ll stay for the week and while I’ll likely complain a tiny bit, I’m eager for them to arrive.

I felt both productive and relaxed today. There’s a line I often think of from The Screwtape Letters. Something about how a man, upon arriving in Hell, reflected on his life and thought sadly that he spent a vast majority of his time doing neither what he ought nor what he liked. Today, I spent time in both categories - doing what I wanted and what I should.

So today was a rather good day.

2 comments:

ae said...

I'd like to reiterate that I am fascinated by your writing. I've told you this before, albeit, as an anonynous fan.
I know this comment is perhaps a little off your post, but I am considering getting a mac while some of my work still required PC programs. I presume this is the same situation you are in. Are you being able to manage with a imac and a PC laptop?

post-doc said...

AE-
That's very kind, especially as I've been feeling terribly boring of late. Thank you.

The iMac + PC + many USB drives is a system I use at the office. I also have my PowerBook, a PC in the office and a few tiny storage devices here at home. So the answer is yes, it is a workable system. But the better solution by far would be to get a new Mac that runs parallels so you can have Windows right on your Mac. That would erase the need to transfer data back and forth all the time and greatly streamline your workflow. But USB drives are cheap and generally big enough to hold whatever I want to move around. As long as you don't mind always knowing where one of the little guys is, my guess is that you'll be fine. (And using a Mac is worth any minor inconvenience - I'm now one of those people who whines every time I have to use a PC for very long.)

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