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A good job

Well, by the time the plane was late and then my bag took forever to arrive and the drive home, I got to sleep about 1AM.

Monday morning, I got up, still tired, showered, dressed and off to work. I went into my new office and sorted everything out pretty quickly.

I then went back to my old office, checked my email, cleared a few other little tasks, and packed up my stuff and took my things across to my new office. Kind of depressing that everything I had fit into one box, but I suppose that is the value of the computer and the paperless office, isn't is.

Through the rest of the week, Steve (my new line manager) and I did a few experiments when possible (our experiments are limited by the availability of materials) and I also wrote about a few discussion documents proposing some experiments we can do.

So far so good, I'm enjoying it and think I'll be able to make a good contribution. I've also cleared the decks for most of the things I had to do arising from the conference, the exception being that I still have to write the paper for it, and only have a month or so to do it in. The difficulty will be, though, that rheology papers tend to be quite long, and this one won't be. Although you ever know - somehow when I write things can get quite wordy. You may have noticed...

Back to work, it is fun writing things which are relatively informal, but writing them in 3rd person scientific. One day I'll do the same thing here, too.

Besides that, not too much to report. Slow progress is still being made with the house. Unfortunately, like research, every question you answer raises three more questions. Unfortunately, unlike research, running out of questions on things to do next would be a good thing.

It's a good life.

Speaking of which... (with apologies to Jerome Bixby)

Amy was a late candidature postgraduate student. She was sitting at her desk, rocking back and forth, staring at her computer.

Perspiring in the building heat, Bill took the box of data and came up to the office.

Professor Anthony was sitting in his office playing with an undergraduate. He had lured the student out by making the student think that there was free food available, and now that he had caught the student, he was teaching him to do simulations.

When the student saw Bill coming, he tried to escape, but Anthony held the student there. The student trembled in fear but unable to move because of the need for free food.

Bill hurried past Anthony's office, mumbling to himself. He always mumbled when he passed Anthony's office. Everyone did. It was important to jumble your thoughts when you passed Anthony. The mumbling helped. If Anthony got hold of a strong thought about an experiment, he might decide to simulate it. The trouble was that his simulations bore no relation to reality and didn't make any sense. He would also try to help you with your experiments. And while Anthony mightn't actually mean any harm, he couldn't be expected to have much notion of what was the right thing to do in such cases.

That was if he liked you. He might try to help you, in his way. And that could be pretty horrible.

If he didn't like you ... well, that could be worse.

Bill gave the data to Amy. "Everythin' you wanted, Amy".

"Oh, fine, William," Amy said lightly. "My, ain't it terrible hot today?"

Bill Soames almost cringed. His eyes pleaded with her. He shook his head violently no, and then interrupted his mumbling again, though obviously he didn't want to: "Oh, don't say that, Amy ... it's fine, just fine. A real good day! It's good that the building heating is always on, even in Summer."

Amy got up from her office chair, and came across the office. She was a tall woman, thin, a smiling vacancy in her eyes. About a year ago, Anthony had gotten mad at her, because she'd told him his simulations didn't make sense because the fluid was flowing against gravity. He'd snapped at her. He told her she couldn't start writing up until she had found a justification for why his simulations are realistic. And that had been the end of Amy's bright eyes, and the end of Amy as everyone had known her. And that was when word got around in the department (population: 46) that even the members of Anthony's own group weren't safe. After that, everyone was twice as careful.

"Land alive, William," Amy said, "you don't have to mumble like that. Anthony wouldn't hurt you. My goodness, Anthony likes you!" She raised her voice and called to Anthony, who had tired of the undergraduate and was making him eat himself. "Don't you, professor? Don't you like Bill?"

Anthony looked across the corridor --a bright, wet, purple gaze. He didn't say anything. Bill tried to smile at him. After a second Anthony returned his attention to the undergraduate. He had already devoured his leg, or at least chewed it off--for Anthony had made him bite faster than he could swallow, and little pink and red pieces lay strewn around on the green carpet.

Bill got on his bike, thinking how he was glad to be getting away from the office and wished he could get away faster. Unfortunately, Anthony caught his thought and made some alterations to his bicycle.

As you can imagine when a numericist gets involved in real matters, it ended badly - read the actual story for details...

Anthony looked at the student. He had devoured half his belly and had died from pain. Anthony called one of his masters students to remove the body and measure the flow characteristics. The head of department had once said, smiling, that he might get something useful out of the things he killed.

The people in the department were planning a surprise party for Dan, who had just had his first paper published. Dan gave a presentation on his work and everyone gave really positive feedback and encouragement.

Things like Mary's comment, "It's good that your work doesn't conserve mass. It's really swell."

Then they gave him presents. Just little things, but Dan's eyes watered up with delight. Someone suggested a new technique for measuring his data. Dan said "That's brilliant. I want to try it out right away."

Everyone else was silent for a moment and glanced at Anthony. Pat said, "It's good that you like it, but it would be better if you tried it later."

Dan said, "It's a good thing that I can't try it right away. A good thing."

They quickly moved on and began enjoying the food and drinks. Dan had a few too many, and at some point in the conversation just stopped. He stopped and swore. Everyone turned, went quiet and just stared at him, in that cliched pin-drop, tumbleweed rolling across the street kind of way.

Suddenly, Dan has started working through the data using a technique. As soon as he started, it became obvious that all the previous numerical simulations were wrong and a waste of time. He started to say it when Anthony grew angry. Anthony said, "Bad student" and wished Dan away into a job in a call-centre.

Everyone was silent for a moment before the normal chorus of mumbling and "it's a good thing"-ing resumed.

The people in the department gently consoled Dan's girlfriend, all the while mumbling about how good a day it was.

The next day, Anthony tried making some improvements to the departmental network and destroyed the entire computer system including everyone's data and the backups - but it was a good day.


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