Boring filler post

Apologies for another boring post. First item: the weather suddenly turned nice up here. Highs in the 50's! Lows that don't go below freezing! The snow has almost entirely melted and turned everything into mud! I celebrated with a bike ride, and ended up with a layer of mud on my backpack, pants, and bike. I also managed to explode the glass out of my front window while trying to open it to enjoy the nice weather.

I'm not looking forward to doing taxes: I have to file in two countries, and at least a state (MA), if not a province as well. Taxes have always made me nervous--I know that I'm relatively smart, and not math phobic, but the logic behind the tax code is so non-intuitive that the whole process gives me cold sweats (i.e., "Does this answer make sense? I have no friggin' idea! I have no idea what they hell they want to know!").

To back up a step, I spent last weekend visiting Jofish in Ithaca, NY, while Perlick was in town as well. Perlick already wrote about the visit on his weblog, so I feel absolved of responsibility to do so.

It was great to have a long weekend away from Waterloo and see really good friends. But it made me painfully aware that my social circle up here is pretty much five people (my graduate group and the spouse of one of the grad students). Now don't get me wrong--they're all great people and fun to hang out with. Okay, well, one of them makes me want to slap him upside the head half the time, but at least four are great people and fun to hang out with.

As for how the term is going: classes have officially ended; my last remaining job is to get a final report in by April 21. But I need to expand on the 'I should be tooling' thread keeps popping up during the term when I post to my blog.

One thought that has been recurring during my visit to Cornell, and while here at UW, is that I'm not working nearly as hard as a 'real' grad student ought to be. I have a combination of general free-floating guilt, fear that I am not achieving enough to get out in a reasonable amount of time, guilt over choosing a lightweight schedule this term, and frustration about not pushing myself to learn. I fear that (1) the big turd from the sky is going to land on me, as punishment for slacking, and (2) I'm not getting as much out of the grad school experience as I ought to be--i.e., I'm not taking it as seriously as I should.

One problem is that I'm not a self-starting learner. For instance, I had a draft copy of my advisor's textbook for a few years while at my old job, and I barely cracked it open. However, I audited his "basics of building science" class this term, which pushed me to read the book; it was very worthwhile and rewarding--it helped glue together what I knew, and filled in some missing gaps

Instead of focusing on learning, I end up finding jobs around the lab that need doing and taking care of them, such as keeping continuing research going, building an organization system for the group's tools, or dismantling and disposing of old unused projects. Unfortunately for my academic career, I'm not working on the piles of academic literature that I should be pushing through. After all, I find it a lot more fun to hammer apart stucco than read, "Measurement of Ventilation and Drying of Vinyl Siding and Brick Clad Wall Assemblies." Unfortunately, I think that is another example of why I am ultimately better suited for the working world than school.


This country is teh r0x0r

I was just reading the New York Times, and came across the article Carmakers in Canada to Cut Emissions; if it's expired try this one from the Globe and Mail.

OTTAWA, March 23 - Major automakers have agreed to cut the emissions of greenhouse gases by the end of the decade, Canada's minister of natural resources said Wednesday.


The successful negotiations in Canada are a distinct contrast to the situation in the United States, where California's attempts to legislate emissions have run into strenuous legal challenges from automakers.

This reinforces my perception of Canada as a country like the US, except with a much bigger landmass and 10% of the population... and they selected for the most sane and progressive ones. Hmm... perhaps think of an entire country of Minnesotans, or something like that.

The article interviewed an automotive engineer at an environmental consulting company: However, he added, Canadians' preference for smaller cars - DaimlerChrysler's introduction of the Smart microcar has been very successful - will ease the industry's job somewhat.

That's one thing that struck me when I came up here--that SUVs are not nearly as ridiculously prevalent as in the US. I was pleasantly surprised seeing how many Toyota Echoes there are in the parking lot (then again, a university parking lot is a pretty skewed sample). I've even seen Smart cars rolling down the street--I was so happy and surprised that I waved and gave a thumbs up.

After all, this is a country that actually signed the Kyoto Protocol.

Meanwhile, back south of the border, it is illegal to export a Smart from Canada into the US, according to Smart Canada's website. Actually, I remember reading that Smart USA was going to market their larger convertible in the US.

This leads in to another topic--Jen suggested that I throw a Canada Day party up here next year (July 1). Canada Day used to be known as 'Dominion Day'--it seems to be a basic national holiday--official explanation is here. It seems to be basically a celebration of, "Yay, we're Canada. Go us." So if any of you want to come visit, and be out of town for July 4th, let me know.


Summer Tour Schedule Update

So I've started to iron out which week I'll be visiting the Bay Area--probably from a Thursday to a Thursday: April 28 through May 5. Unfortunately, that means the only weekend I'll be in town is the one that both Christy/U-Boat and Leper/Elizabeth are out of town. Bummer.

But the reason why: the following weekend (may 7-8), my mentor/former boss is throwing his 50th birthday party, and invited me. So I'll be flying YKF (Kitchener Waterloo) -> SFO -> BOS -> YKF. So I'll need to go to Boston, hang out in black tie, and drink expensive wine at his party. What a rough life :)

But it also means I'll be in Boston both at the beginning of May, as well as the end of May. First visit is likely to be brief, but I hope I'll be able to see some folks.


Updates, miscellany, and the Summer Bat Tour Schedule

My life's been boring since my return from Jesustan, er... rural Georgia; that's why I haven't posted anything as of late. But to keep you updated, I submitted my first of two reports for my class ("Modeling of Heat Transfer Through & Around A Building Foundation Using WUFI 2D"); I was relatively happy with it. In case you care, WUFI is a piece of German heat and moisture simulation software that is in relatively common use in the building industry. It's well-known enough that my coworkers smile when I mutter under my breath, "I did it all for the WUFI. For the WUFI..."

Anyway, there are two more weeks of classes, and a three week exam period: I am planning on handing in my final report for this class at the end of that (five weeks from now, around April 21).

After that, my plan for the summer is to mostly be in Waterloo and do research, but I'm going to definitely take advantage of my open grad school schedule to go visiting. For instance, I have an airline credit that I need to burn off before mid-May; I will probably be spending a week in the Bay Area in the window of April 23-May 11. Chez Panisse in Berkeley, anyone?

During the last week of May, my old high school friend Psycho Security Guard will be flying out to Toronto, and we will be road tripping to Boston to go to the wedding of our friend Air Force Guy. My original plan was to drive across New York and Massachusetts. Then I realized: it would be a lot more fun, and a comparable drive, to drive out to Montreal, hang out for a few days, and then come down to Boston via Vermont/New Hampshire ("Hmmm. Buffalo. Montreal. Buffalo. Montreal. Yeeeaaah.... I think we have a plan..."). Crusher and Cat's wedding is also that weekend; I'll probably be spending the week after that in Boston. So if you're flying in for that shindig, extend your trip and hang out in Boston with me!

In August, I'll be back in Boston yet again--my old company has an annual symposium (nicknamed "Summer Camp"), which is both a 3-day seminar, as well as a big barbecue party in the boss's backyard. It's gradually grown over the years, to the point where there are now 200+ people milling about in the yard; culinary accoutrements now include multiple fryolators, a barbecue that could sleep two, and a walk-in beer cooler. Yeah, it's a good party. It means I'll be back in town the first week of August (as well as a window before or after that).

And speaking of travelling--if any of you have a desire to hang out in Toronto, well, I'm more than an hour away, so my offer of crash space is about as useful as saying, "Hey, you're visiting Boston? Sure, come and crash at my apartment in Springfield!" But seriously--I'd be more than glad to host people here in Waterloo.

In other news, I've been up in Canada for over six months now (since the end of August--it was six months at the beginning of the month). Wow. It actually feels both like a long time (i.e., it feels like I've become well and fully settled in), but also short ("Wow... is my grad school career already 1/4 over?"). I've heard that it takes about six months to get one's place all settled and set up to feel "right"--so I'm about on schedule.

Chief Grad Student remarked on the relatively warm weather recently, saying, "Man, this is almost like spring." To which I replied, "Yes, except for the part about the ground still being covered with snow, and the complete lack of greenery. Other than that, why yes, it's exactly like spring."

Sorry, no interesting photos this post--camera is still unhappy. I need to take care of sending it in for repairs.


If You Die First, We're Splitting Up Your Gear

I've spent the past week doing a job with my advisor's consulting company; we're working for a building material manufacturer in Georgia, outside of the Athens area. Our work involves installing hundreds of sensors in walls and roofs, and wiring them back to a data collection system in a test hut: this picture shows how I'm often rigged up for it.

As for the title of the post, it comes from one of those goofy paramilitary catalogs that I've gotten in the past--there's a T-shirt with a fully kitted out soldier (night vision gear, etc), with that as the caption. Enh. Military humor.

Anyway, in case you're curious, the chest carrier I'm wearing is a Tool Chest Radio Chest Harness, made by Conterra--it's meant as a radio and tool harness for ski patrol or paramedic types. It works very well--I used to wear a tool belt on jobs like this, but decided this was the way to go if I was crawling through crawl spaces or attics. It holds all my basic tools (pliers, cutters, tape measure, markers, utility knife, screwdrivers, electrical tape, earplugs), and stuff doesn't fall out if I shift position. It's pretty practical. Plus, if I toss a shirt over it and take a break to get something from the Seven-11, the clerk probably thinks, "Oh shit... is the FBI doing rolling stakeouts around here again?"

I also have a load of other items tied on with lanyards (hammer, cable stapler, cordless drill), and I'm wearing a climbing harness. This last piece was for safety--I was installing sensors up near the roof ridge, about 20+ feet up, and I really don't like heights.

Also, due to working in a corporate environment here (the client's site), we have to wear full safety gear--steel toe boots, and safety glasses. I have a pair of side shield prescription safety glasses--pretty close to black frame ultra-ugly Army-issue BCDs (a.k.a. "Birth Control Device Glasses"--I think you can figure that one out). I have a ready answer if anyone comments on them--"Oh, the BCDs? Hey--they work really well... I haven't gotten laid once while wearing them."

It's been a fun trip--really long days, but the crew I'm working with is great to hang out with, and Athens, GA is a very fun college town/cultural pocket. We went to an excellent brewpub that Bo Lawler recommended (Copper Creek Brewing Company), and some really nice restaurants (Basil Press, East West Bistro, Last Resort Grill). But rural Georgia outside of town.... yikes. Reminds me of the T-shirt that says "I See Red People". Bush bumper stickers, and a very high per-capita church count. It was all very amusing for my Canadian cohorts--they could chortle and say, "Hey--they're your countrymen." Grr. Well, I get to head back to Canada tomorrow.

Technical difficulties

Hmm. Has anyone ever seen a digital camera do something like this? All of the pictures coming out of my camera (as well as the LCD display) have started looking like this, starting a few days ago. It's as if the CCD lost part of the spectrum or something. I've given the camera a hard reset (at least 'restore factory settings'), and pulled/replaced the batteries. Weird... and annoying.