Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Friday-Saturday, AGU 2009

Friday was my big AGU day, the day of my poster session. One of my group's collaborators had a talk first thing in the morning, so we all got up early for that. It was quite good--one of the best I saw at AGU. We left a few talks later to pick up my poster from Kinko's. Along the way, we picked up some caffeine and breakfast from Peet's Coffee. I highly recommend the California Raisin Roll. It's like a honey bun filled with some creamy filling and raisins, then glazed. After all my (mock) worrying, the poster turned out fine. Huge, but fine. Like a good little group of lemmings, we all trooped back to Moscone South to put up my poster. The advisor had a lunch meeting planned and invited me and my lab mate to join them. My lab mate went along, but I declined. I wouldn't have as much chance to look at the posters in the afternoon as they would. That set me up for another solo lunch outing.

I wandered back to the hotel, checking menus posted in windows along the way to see if anything appealed to me. Cafe Mason seemed like a good option, so I grabbed my laptop and headed back there on my way to the afternoon poster session. I ordered a turkey club sandwich with fries. Not exciting in itself, but it was really well done. Thin sourdough toast, tomato, lettuce, turkey, and crispy bacon for the sandwich and light, non-greasy fries on the side. Perfect for a pre-poster session meal.

The poster session technically started a few minutes before I got back to Moscone South. This was my second poster presentation ever and I was late. Oh well. I met several scientists I knew only by name about my research. All of them gave positive feedback. If I told them my plans for wrapping up this work, they said they look forward to the publication. If they made suggestions before asking me about future work, it was already on my to-do list. In other words, I didn't get much new feedbck on my research, but the reassurance that someone values my work outside of my little research group was valuable, especially with my recent motivation issues. One of the scientists commented that my poster looked very nice, too (someday he'd learn to make a nice poster :P). If nothing else, I got to meet other people in my subfield and they got to associate my name with my work. I'd say the poster session was a success.

My group left the poster session an hour or so early since we had dinner planned in Berkeley. Most of the attendees were in the free beer line anyhow. We caught the BART to Berkeley and found Beckett's Irish Pub for dinner. I ordered a fish fry, which was again excellent. (I'm fairly certain this area does not know how to make bad food.) I didn't intend to order a drink unless something sounded particularly interesting. Of course, my lab mate found a something that fit that description a few minutes after we ordered our food: hot apple cider with brandy. How could I pass that up? It was tasty! I was stuffed and happy by the time we left the pub. We had a bit of time before we needed to catch the BART back to San Francisco, so we wandered the Berkeley campus. Beautiful campus, at least in the dark.

We'd hoped to fit Muir Woods in somewhere, but our flight was too early in the day to make it on Saturday. My advisor suggested a self-guided bike tour of the city instead. Sure, why not? San Francisco only has a few hills. Eight miles later, we'd toured a good chunk of the city between our hotel and the Golden Gate bridge. We ran out of time to cross the bridge. My advisor was sore the day after the long bike ride. I was fine :).

After returning the bikes and retrieving our luggage from the hotel, we made it to the airport with just enough time to grab a bite to eat and board our plane. The San Francisco adventure wound down with a 15-minute delay on the tarmac for air traffic control delays at our destination and a quiet flight back.

Monday, December 21, 2009

AGU09 blogging delay

My last day of AGU and last two days in San Francisco were such a blur that I didn't get a chance to blog about them yet. Rest assured, I will get to it. It might be a few days, though, because I'm leaving for the holidays on Tuesday and have a full schedule until then.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thursday, AGU 2009

I haven't picked up my poster yet. Kinko's called me this morning to tell me that they couldn't laminate anything larger than 36" and my poster is 48" on its smaller dimension. I chose to have them print it on the regular paper anyhow and just not laminate it. So, it's printed. I just didn't get a chance to get it today since I refuse to go there by myself. The advisor and I will get it first thing in the morning. I promise.

Other than the slight snag with the poster, my little group had an interesting start to the morning. Mostly my lab mate. She was supposed to be registered for the conference, but they couldn't find her name on any of their registration lists around 7:30am, when registration first opened. She had an early morning talk that still wasn't uploaded. Our advisor and I didn't have any problems with registration, so he took her presentation to upload it and I stayed with her to get the registration worked out. She ended up paying for it on the spot (again). If AGU later finds that she was charged earlier, they won't actually charge her card. This is not a helpful beginning to the day of her first talk at a major conference.

Once she got her badge, we headed up to the speaker ready room. Our advisor texted her to let her know that her animations weren't working. They eventually got the issue fixed and re-uploaded her talk. The people running the room said that even though they uploaded it, the revisions may not make it to the room she'd be speaking in by the time her talk started. *cross fingers that it works*

We all trooped up to the room where she and my advisor were presenting nearly back-to-back. Her turn came up and the animations worked flawlessly. *whew* The advisor's talk went fine as well.

By the time lunch arrived, my advisor had disappeared and my lab mate left to meet a friend. I was on my own. Since I've never been to San Francisco before, I didn't want to eat at a chain restaurant even if it would be cheaper. I walked probably half a mile in god-awful uncomfortable shoes. My feet were killing me by the time I collected my matzo soup, sirloin with Brie sandwich, and banana from Soup Freaks. Instead of being smart and heading back to the hotel to change my shoes when I was already part way there, I hobbled back to the conference center to feast. All of my lunch was tasty and out of the ordinary. Perfect! I saved the banana for an afternoon snack.

Half way through the afternoon I finally gave up on my shoes. I felt like I was walking on stubs and the bones in my foot were trying to poke through at my ankle. That can't be a good sign. I planned to catch the shuttle bus back to the hotel... until I found out the bus doesn't run during the day. I walked back to the hotel, about half a mile again (everything is half a mile today). It was quite a painful walk, so I wasn't walking very fast by the time I got to my room. My feet were relieved when I pulled off the the modern torture devices.

I hung out at the hotel for a bit to let my feet rest, then headed back to the conference with the intent to see a few more talks. Instead, I ran into the department head and followed him and another professor to the exhibit hall to find free stuff. My favorite two items were a NASA calendar and a star-shaped five-color highlighter from DoE GCEP. Then I joined a bunch of people from my department to find dinner.

We hopped the cable car to Fisherman's Wharf (my first cable car ride!) and decided on the Sea Lion Cafe. It was the most expensive dinner I've ever had at $55 and per diem certainly won't cover it, but it was scrumptious. I had a plate of squash and onions, baby lobster tail, prawns, salmon, sea bass, and jasmine rice. I'd never had lobster, prawns, or sea bass before. There was also a dish of some sort of creamy citrus sauce, which complemented the lobster especially well. A couple of friends insisted that I consume alcohol, so I ordered a Sunset Splash--essentially a mix of rum and vodka with a splash of cranberry juice for color. It was strong and it was yummy. I have yet to find bad food here.

Our department group scattered pretty quickly after a failed attempt to find an open ice cream shop. All my little group has left at the conference is my poster tomorrow afternoon. If it wasn't for that, we'd probably fly out tomorrow. As it is, we're leaving Saturday afternoon. We may work in a trip to Muir Woods Saturday morning. I hear it's all the rage :P.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Let the San Francisco adventure begin! (AGU 2009)

I put the finishing touches on my poster for a Friday poster session while flying to San Francisco (my companions--my advisor and a lab mate--finished their powerpoints on the plane, too). Our plane arrived at the San Francisco airport a little late tonight because of air traffic control issues (read: it's foggy). Then my advisor looked it over and approved it after a couple of minor revisions as we rode the BART (like DC's metro) to the hotel. We knew there were several Kinko's within walking distance of the hotel, but first order of business needed to be food.

My advisor, a lab mate, and I dropped our luggage at our hotel before walking to a Japanese restaurant for dinner. I had some excellent Salmon Teryaki (served with a small salad, miso soup, and rice). I ate a whole dinner in a reasonable amount of time with chopsticks! That is nothing short of amazing to me since I've never been very good with chopsticks. My companions had sushi. I've never been a big fan of sushi, but I didn't mind one of the kinds my lab mate shared with me. I should check with her what it was.

After dinner, my advisor and I set out to have my poster printed. The nearest Kinko's was only a few blocks away... and closed 20 minutes before we got there. Perhaps a quarter to a half a mile away, there was a 24-hour Kinko's. That'd work. Our path took us into an area that had progressively fewer (working) streetlights. Perhaps half the windows had bars on them and there seemed to be an abundance of local spray paint artists. Regardless, we soldiered on and found the store.

A very friendly employee greeted us. He asked what we needed printed and took us right to the computer to look at the file. When he double-clicked to see the contents of the memory stick, the computer claimed it was not formatted and asked if he wanted to format it. He did not understand what the question meant. I informed him that we did not want to format the memory stick. I'm still not sure if this was a mac/PC problem (I have a mac, they use PCs) or something else. He asked if we could send him the file. Sure, as long as I have my poster printed by tomorrow evening and it turns out well.

After our lovely sightseeing on the way to Kinko's, my advisor grabbed a taxi to take us back to our hotel. I jumped through all the required hoops to get on the free wireless, emailed my poster as a PDF (which involved a bit of patience since I was emailing a 20MB attachment), and confirmed the printing options when the friendly employee called me. My poster should be ready by late afternoon tomorrow. Thank goodness! I hope they print it correctly.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The fun of coincident exams and big conference

Flying to AGU tomorrow. Poster will be printed in San Francisco since it is not done yet. I beg the five Kinko's within a mile of my hotel to not have simultaneous printing problems or large orders.

Final exam due in two hours. Stressed? No, of course not.

By the way, I've added myself to the AGU blogroll. I will be blogging what I can during the time I'm at the meeting (see the blogroll for more coverage).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

December Scientiae 2009

The call for posts asks for my wishes that would make my professional life easier. I always hesitate to think of these things because I'm afraid it will make me less satisfied with the current state of things. Occasionally, however, I think it is good to take stock of what can improve to see if any of it can be addressed. In light of that, here's my list, in no particular order (I have an unhealthy fondness for lists):
  1. My work computer dies and I get a new one. The keyboard and touchpad on my little macbook don't always respond very quickly and there are visible ripples that emanate down the screen. That can't be good. If it's going to die, it may as well do it before the warranty is up.
  2. I regain motivation and excitement for research and classes. This semester has been a struggle. I quickly lost interest in my classes and they turned into larger energy sinks than they should have been. Also, once I get the paper resulting from my MS research submitted, my research motivation should improve as I start on a new topic for my PhD. I always like starting new things better than wrapping up the details of old projects. I am hopeful for next semester.
  3. Small windfall of money to help pay for new professional clothes. I have lost about 15 pounds since I bought my last dress pants and they are quite baggy. I'll have to remedy this one way or another by AGU next week
  4. Doctor approval for me to return to my regular exercise activities. I strained a ligament in my knee just before Thanksgiving. The doctor does not want me returning to them until I'm evaluated by the sports clinic on campus. I have an appointment early next week. Since I leave for AGU on Wednesday and will only be in town for a few days between that and heading home for Christmas, so I may not get to jujitsu or rock climbing until January again. That makes me sad. It also makes it much harder for me to work off excess energy or frustration.
  5. More regular advising and help setting goals from my advisor. I haven't heard much from him lately and I feel like I've been floundering a bit. Maybe this is just a natural process in which I need to be more self-directed. I don't know where along the continuum I should be by now
Number 1 is not likely. Number 2 is semi-likely, but its duration may be more questionable. Number 3 is not likely either, so I'll have to work that into my budget. Number 4 is only a matter of time, but I'm not very patient. I don't know if number 5 will happen unless I specifically ask for it. Maybe if my motivation returns I won't need this as much.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

EOS Fall 2009

I have two exams, one on Friday the other whenever I pick it up. I'm glad this god-forsaken semester is almost done. I'm tired of my classes.

I'm also preparing for AGU. I should be in the final throes, but I'm not. I'm still making figures. Then I need to design a poster and dream up content (based on the figures, of course). Anyone else going to AGU?

After the poster and probably after AGU itself, I'm supposed to submit a paper by the end of the year. I don't know if that'll happen. I hope it will just to get it over with. I want to be done with this stuff.

Then I can start on my PhD work and make the mad dash for my prelims and a conference in May. Does it ever stop or slacken?

For tonight, I'm tired. Goodnight.