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Vogon Poetry

Warning. The following is an expression of frustration, fatigue, and a whole host of negative emotions. If you don’t want to read about the frustrations of someone with a good life and very little of significance (to anyone but him) to complain about, this might be a good post to skip. Of course, if you are the sort of person who is happy reading about other people’s misfortunes, you might want to read on. You might also want to consider professional help.

So, after finally leaving the lab at 12:15 last night, I expected to go straight to sleep and then sleep in. After getting back at about 12:45, dinner (the first thing I’d eaten since breakfast) was followed by me getting into bed at 1AM. I know that some people consider this a reasonable hour. I generally prefer to live when the sun is up. You’d think having spent 14 hours or so in the lab without a break that I would just put my head on the pillow and that would be it. You’d be wrong. My brain wouldn’t shut off, and it took me at least 3 minutes to get to sleep. Vayehi erev, vayehi boker

It’s 6:30AM! I wanted to sleep. I did not want to be awake. I do not want to be awake. I am. Up I get, functioning on less sleep than I ideally need. I get in here, another fun filled day of watching a line slowly tend towards steady-state (meanwhile, another night like last night and I am tending towards an unsteady-state) so that I can change it and get the next data point. It is tempting to stop it early and get the data from a close but not quite value. I have not and will not.

Today I let Shinoj (an RA in the group) set up the experiments. It took longer than it would take me, but it gives him some experience, and he’s been very helpful to me. Besides, he’s a nice bloke and a good drinking partner. I also spent most of the day taking a new post-grad, Leonard, through most of the basic-"I wish I knew when I started" stuff and some of the "I did know and should’ve done stuff" and even a couple of the "I knew and did and was better off for it" things. I promised Leonard I would let him set up the experiments tomorrow.

While I am more or less successfully able to get one facet of my results, the other one (which I find more important) has, so far, eluded me. It was not just the wrong port. A couple of trips ago, I had a piece of software up and running and taking lovely pictures. Justin (have I introduced him yet? If not, he is my principal supervisor, generally a good bloke and someone I have enjoyed working with and would recommend to any prospective post-grads. Please remember that when he becomes portrayed as the source-of-all-evil as I start writing my thesis full-time.) bought some software which was supposed to be much better than what we are using. I find it different, more advanced, more complex, probably more scientifically useful, but different nonetheless.

Here is a warning. If you are ever commissioning a new ANYTHING for me which will replace something that is functioning and usable, and you decommission the original something without asking me, and if you tell me, "oh, this is better, you will never need the original" then be careful. If I do need the original and can’t use it, I will hunt you down. And your children. In fact, any descendents you may have. And your siblings. And your parents. And any other ancestors. And your cousins. …with great vengeance and furious anger…

Just in case anyone is concerned that I actually mean to do violence, I will point out that it is easy to think such thoughts when by yourself in the lab at 7:50PM watching a line which has been slowly tending towards an asymptote suddenly jump up, and after fixing it, watch it recommence its descent from its new, elevated position. Besides, someone once explained voodoo dolls to me – they are not designed to do harm. They are designed to let you think that you are doing harm, so that you can face your adversary with a calmer, more relaxed attitude.

Today in the weekly meeting, it was announced that one of my other group members, Tristan, was nearing completion. He has one more set of experiments and then he starts writing. It was also said that he shouldn’t have any more distractions. (Like me, he wants to get involved in everything which happens in the lab and, where possible, make it better – I believe that this makes for a good group member, but it can sometimes slow your progress.) A little later in the meeting, it was announced that there was a project that needed doing, and someone would have to teach Shinoj how to do it. After going through all the relevant mid-phd students in the area, who all declined, guess who it fell to. So much for no distractions and letting him write. I don’t understand how people can not share the knowledge or experience with other group members.

A little while ago, Justin popped into the lab. Hearing a human voice is always a pleasant change from the relentless noises of this lab. It was nice to have a chat about the various aspects of academic politics. I will not repeat it here. I also reminded Justin of an email he inadvertently sent to me a couple of years ago. The one I promised I would delete upon graduation… :)

DAMMITTTT!!! One of the pipes just leaked. This means that I basically have to start the data point over again. If it doesn’t happen in the next 20 minutes or so, I will leave it to the morning.

I’m caught in the lab
I can't walk out
Because you will not reach steady-state

Why can't you see
What you're doing to me
When you make me stay here much too late

I’m at the end of tether
With some thoughts unkind
And I can't finish my thesis
Without data behind

So, if the data I take
Is hampered by a bad break
Would tears start to well up in my eyes?


Here I go again Data’s back where it’s been
You can see these tears are real
I'm crying

I can't go on much longer
With my closing eyes
And I will have sweet dreams
If I get my prize

Oh let this data survive
And dry the tears from my eyes
And to this run, oh please don’t die

And, its now 9PM, and I was unable to collect that data point. I'm going to try again tomorrow. And then I am going to go home (Melbourne). And it does not look like I will have the success I was after. And I am tired. And hopefully what I have collected plus what I will get tomorrow = enough to finish the chapter successfully. Hopefully it matches my theory too, but if not, that's what the discussion is all about. Goodnight. I've got to go pack.

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