Friday, April 29, 2005

Adventures in Boredom

I didn't write yesterday because I couldn't think of anything to say. I don't have much to say today, either. I'm just waiting for my jobs to run so that I can analyze the performance of my program, and then write it up. I'm also waiting for the stupid queue to come back up. They have maintenance every Friday, at which point they shut down the queue. Then they run a couple of big jobs for people who need lots of processors, and then they reopen the queue to the rest of us mortals.

I've written a program implementing diffusion, too, but I wrote it weeks ago and I can't remember how well I got it working. But I hope I should be able to get all that stuff done and written up before I leave for Sweden.

My next big trip is to the optimization conference in Sweden. I leave on Friday, May 13, and return home on Thursday, May 19. The conference doesn't really start for me until the Monday, but I guess some days of jet lag recovery were built into my travel schedule. I'll need it, because the time difference from here to there is seven hours.

I'm going to arrive in Sweden on Saturday the 14th at 7:45 a.m. local time. That's the thing I hate about travel to Europe: you always arrive early in the morning, and face a full day of miserable jet lag! I should get to Stockholm before noon, so I've been figuring out things I can do to keep myself awake all day. In my experience, it is best to stay awake all day the first day, and not take any naps. Naps just make me sleepier. I do anticipate turning in quite early that evening: before 9 for sure. I just have to keep my eyes open all day.

When I was 13, we moved to England for a year, and I remember how awful the jet lag was then. But I had my Dad to keep me awake and keep me going. On subsequent travels to Europe, I've always had either a parent or a friend acclimated to the time zone to keep me up. This is the first time that I will have to depend on my own strength of will to keep me vertical.

I found some easy activities to do on the Saturday. I'll probably take a bus tour of the city, and maybe walk around Gamla Stan (Old Town Stockholm) a bit. Then on Sunday, I will visit the Vasa Museum, the Royal Palace, and/or the National Museum of Cultural History. If I'm energetic enough, I might do one of those things on Saturday. It just depends on how much I can sleep on the plane. Probably not very much, based on my past experience, but I will try really hard to get some sleep. I don't want to be nodding off during the poster session on Monday the 16th, and I need to be as conscious as possible if I expect to schmooze effectively. It wouldn't do to be cranky when I'm trying to meet people!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Adventures in Health and Fitness

This morning I went to Weight Watchers and became a lifetime member. I was able to keep at or below 179 lbs for six weeks, so that makes me lifetime. Actually, the second week of maintenance, I dropped five pounds in one week for some strange reason, so my final weight is around 174. That was just before my Sandia interview, so I guess I was so nervous that I didn't digest all the calories in my food, or something. Whatever caused it, I'm not complaining!

All told, I have lost about 68 pounds. I am now at about the same weight that I was when I began college. I was delighted to find out that I now fit into a little black dress that I had saved from back then. I imagine I would fit into my prom dress too, but I haven't tried it on. I'm going to a semi-formal banquet on Friday night, and I plan to wear that black dress, provided that I can find the shoes that match it. Otherwise, I'll wear the purple suit from my advisor's assistant.

I now face the challenge of keeping the weight off. I can tell that this is going to be more difficult than losing weight, in some ways. I have already caught myself thinking that I don't need to watch what I eat anymore, because I don't have to lose any weight. But I mustn't think that way, unless I want to gain it all back! I plan to continue going to Weight Watchers meetings as close to weekly as possible. (I'll skip the weeks I'm on travel.)

In other news, I'm going to take my brown belt test next week. The most daunting task is that he said he expects us to do 25 push-ups in a row (without stopping) for the test. I can do 20 bad push-ups in a row, so I'm thinking I might be able to swing 25 really lousy ones. The trick is remembering to breathe.

I feel so much more coordinated nowadays, and I attribute that directly to karate. I am a lot quicker on the draw, and I fall less frequently. When I open a cabinet and things start falling out, I'm able to stop them from falling, and it's just about automatic. I just know the location of my body in 3-space better than I did before.

I have a bit of an identity crisis with one of the girls in the children's class. When she started karate, she had absolutely no body awareness. She also doesn't have an innate athletic ability like some of the kids in the class. She's still a little clumsy, but she's doing a lot better. In particular, I think she's become a pretty good kicker. I'm impressed by her tenacity, because even though two girls who started a month later than her already have their yellow belts, she's still sticking it out. I think we've gotten her to about the best that we can at this level. I told my teacher that it's time to test her and give her a yellow belt, because holding her at this level any longer is not going to do her any good. She needs to try something more complicated in order to learn more. So I think he will probably give her the test on Thursday, or maybe next Tuesday.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Adventures in Debugging

If you recall, I wrote last week about my program that must have had some sort of error in it, because it worked for small numbers of processors, but not for 32 processors. I've never dealt with this sort of debugging before, so I got lots of advice from my friends. They scrutinized my files, but couldn't see anything obviously wrong with my program. One suggested that I just take everything out of the program, and get it down to the simplest program that did not work correctly.

I stripped it down to a simple "for" loop that printed out the numbers 1 to 5000. It was at this point that I began to realize that it was definitely not a problem with my program. So I asked my advisor about it today, and he got on the phone and asked the guy who runs the cluster to help me. He looked at it and couldn't see anything fundamentally wrong with it, and invited me to come over to his office and he'd help me figure it out.

I went over to his office right after lunch, and sat there for almost an hour as he tried to debug it. Eventually he put it all together and realized what the problem was. It was a problem with the way the job was spawned, and had nothing to do with my program. My program was actually running just fine, but the output was not finding its way back to the output file. I felt so relieved when the problem was figured out! He hasn't implemented a solution to it yet, but I was just relieved to know that it wasn't an error I had made. A huge weight was lifted from my shoulders (and placed on his!). So it means I can continue running my program at lower numbers of processors until they get it fixed.

Just the Laughs I Needed

I was alerted to this hilarious page by my sister Rachel. In an effort to ruin my life, she introduced me to the funniest thing I have seen in a long time. It made me laugh so hard that I had tears streaming down my cheeks. Luckily, I thwarted her nefarious plans by viewing it early in the morning, so I didn't have to explain to my office-mates why I was having so much trouble breathing. Anyhow, if you haven't already done so, take a look at Longmire Does Romance Novels and try to keep breathing!

Friday, April 22, 2005

Adventures in Not Getting an Offer

So I just got a call from the guy who I interviewed with at Sandia. Unfortunately, they have decided to continue to look for someone to fill that position.

He was very nice about it, telling me that they were very impressed by me, but it's just that my skill set doesn't match the job. I told him I understood, and thanked him for the compliments. He said he thought I could fit in at Sandia, but in a different department, and he was happy to recommend me to a different area if I would like. I told him that it was nice of him to suggest that, and that I would probably feel the most at home in the optimization area.

Then I explained to him how I had burned a bridge with the manager of the optimization department in the past. I explained how when I was a summer intern in 2001, I had refused to work on what I was hired to do, because of my Quaker heritage. The manager of the optimization department had done his homework and talked to the guy who I had worked with in 2001, and asked me if I still felt that way, and I said yes. And I explained the background of something I had mentioned in passing during the interview, about how I got into karate. I had said that I thought my family would not approve of my interest in karate, and he'd asked why. I deliberately interpreted the question in another way at the time, replying that it was because of bad communication that I thought that, but today on the phone I filled in the background, explaining that it was because of the Quaker heritage. But I explained to him, I have had a change of heart, and I don't feel the same way as I used to. It's certainly something important to consider, but I am not so kooky about it, perhaps.

He said he is good friends with the manager of the optimization department, and he will talk to him about me and my evolving morality. So if I'm lucky, maybe I'll get an interview from that department. If I don't, well, I guess that will have to be okay.

My office-mate remarked about how remarkably gracious I was on the phone. Perhaps this is testament to the fact that I didn't really want that job. Perhaps it's also testament to how I recognize that suitableness as an employee is not the same thing as suitableness as a person.

Of course I'm disappointed! It would have been nice to have a job in my pocket as a backup in case I didn't get any other offers. It would have been nice to have a bargaining chip to use against other offers. It would have been nice to have the security of knowing where I was going to be in a few months, and knowing that my incredible shrinking bank account would soon stop shrinking. But that is counterbalanced by the fact that I probably would not have enjoyed that job as much as other jobs that I could still possibly get. There are plenty of other fish in the sea, and I need to go fishing some more.

Places I Would Apparently Like to Live

According to

Interestingly, neither Albuquerque nor suburban NYC are on the list, but my hometown (Lexington, KY) is:

Greenville, SC
Cincinnati, OH
Knoxville, TN
Chattanooga, TN
Little Rock, AR
Hickory, NC
Clarksville, TN
Asheville, NC
Johnson City-Kingsport, TN
Portland, OR
Richmond, VA
Tulsa, OK
Palm Springs, CA
Bloomington, IN
Charleston, SC
Charlotte, NC
Olympia, WA
Lynchburg, VA
Fayetteville, AR
Nashville, TN
Lexington, KY
Norfolk, VA
Louisville, KY
Springfield, MO

I guess I am a southern girl at heart. But I think I will adjust to wherever I end up.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


So I just got a message from the assistant to my would-be host at IBM that they're going to have to postpone my interview. Two crucial interviewers have to be on unforeseen travel.

This is frustrating. Now I won't be able to interview with them until the week of June 6-10 at the earliest. I tried to be as gracious as I could about the whole thing, but I have to confess that I am disappointed. I made so many arrangements around those dates that I am now going to have to undo. For example, I arranged for another woman to cover my children's karate class next Tuesday, and now I don't need her to do that for me. Also, since I wasn't going to be here next Wednesday, I got permission from my leader to skip a week and get my Weight Watchers Lifetime Membership the following Wednesday.

Also, I was able to cancel my airline ticket, but I can only use the money I paid for the ticket towards the purchase of another ticket. I can't get a full refund. So I have a $300+ credit with the airline, but that's money I could use in my checking account instead of in their coffers.

Next month, I'm going to a conference in Sweden. My would-be host at IBM will be at that conference too. I plan to track him down and introduce myself. It's funny that I'm going to meet him in a foreign country before I meet him here.

I told Jeff that I'll just have to go up to him in Sweden and tell him about the wonderful offer I have from Sandia. (That is, assuming I get an offer from Sandia!)

Adventures in Computing

I am almost done with the work I need to do for my thesis. If I can just get this final program to run, and run it a number of times, taking statistics, I should be completely finished.

The trick is getting the program to run. There is some major mistake that I must have made in my program, such that it works for small numbers of processors, but not for larger numbers of processors. I took it over to my programming guru officemate, and unfortunately he could not figure out what I had done wrong. So I am back to square one.

I'm thinking of rewriting my code in C++ instead of C, because C++ is much more careful about memory allocation than C. C will let you get away with just about anything.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Questions for My Reader

Yay! Somebody was enough of a sucker to ask for questions! Actually, it was my sister Laura, so I suspect it has something to do with the plot to ruin my life. I will pose some particularly difficult questions just for her. Laura, please answer the following:

1. If you could change one thing about the English language, what would it be and why?

2. Which of the seven dwarfs do you identify with the most, and why?

3. What is the deal with Peter the Android/Tedley Toad? Are you still a Simple Girl of the People, even after the guano/scissors scandal?

4. Suppose that your life was like a video game, in that you could save your life at any point and go back to that point by reloading the saved game, but you only had one slot to save in and you could only reload your saved life once. You could overwrite your saved game as many times as you wanted, but obviously you could only save at a point in time later than the time that you previously saved. When would you save, and at what point would you reload your life?

5. To what degree (no pun intended!) are you actually responsible for global warming?

Friday, April 15, 2005

Five Questions Guaranteed to Ruin My Life

My sister Rachel received a set of five questions from a friend, and then decided to pass the meme along by posing five questions for the first five people who responded to her post. One thing that must be known about my sister is that it is her entire purpose in life to ruin my life. Thus I dared her to pose five questions guaranteed to ruin my life. By taunting her in that manner, I was able to prevent her from gaining any satisfaction from ruining my life with the questions, which in turn ruins her life! (Actually, despite her best efforts, Rachel hasn't ruined my life yet! I take great satisfaction in that because it means that I have ruined her life! Hey, what are sisters for?)

Like my sister, I offer to the first five people who comment here a chance at answering five questions posed by yours truly. No guarantees on what effect they will have on your life. (No guarantees that I have five readers, either!)

And so, without further ado, I answer the questions:

1) If you had an unseen servant to do your bidding, would you use it just for utilitarian purposes, or would you play pranks? Describe pranks in detail.

I would use my unseen servant mostly for utilitarian purposes. Actually, pranks can be utilitarian, so maybe I'd use it strictly for utilitarian purposes! A fun prank that I would use it for would be the following:

You know how sometimes you aren't really watching where you're going and you think there's a step down but there's not really? You get surprised when your foot reaches the floor before you expect it to. I would make my unseen servant lie on the first step of a staircase and as people tried to descend the first step they would be very surprised. I wouldn't want them to get hurt, though, so I'd make the unseen servant catch them if they fell.

2) Once we take over the world, what exactly will the Feminist Atheist Badass Agenda be?

Clearly, to take over the universe. To boldly go where no man has gone before!

3) Is Pop Star Booty on tour this summer?

Yes. Booty and the Androids (as the group is more correctly known) are hitting the road this summer on the "Electric Love" tour. Look for them in high-class venues throughout the world. They will presenting some of their old hits (such as "One-Three-Four-Five-Eight-Seven-Six-Five") along with new tunes from the forthcoming album "Electric Love." You may have heard their latest hit single, "Integrate Me," a fusion of techno-pop, reggae, and supercomputing.

4) If Jesus and Elvis were in a fist fight, who would win?

This is a tough question and I can only speculate. It depends on the circumstances of the fight. If they were in an isolated location with nobody else around, I'd have to put my money on Elvis, who had a black belt in something-or-other. I did, however, recently come across a web site called, so if any of those guys were around, they'd probably rush to Jesus' aid and Elvis would lose. Except, we mustn't forget the Theory of Conservation of Ninjitsu (explained succinctly here). Thus what would happen is that all the Karate for Christ people would rush in and perform extremely poorly against Elvis until he whittled them down to just a few. At that point, things would get more challenging for the King and he would probably get the snot beaten out of himself, but manage to hang on and defeat Jesus. So I guess I'm gonna go with Elvis either way.

5) What is your favorite memory of your sisters (separately or together) from when we were kids?

I don't think I have a specific favorite memory, just general memories. Unlike most siblings, we all actually got along pretty well, and I have fond memories of family moments when we were all together, playing games, going on trips, making each other laugh, stuff like that.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Final Exam Scheduled!


Title: The Diffusion Equation Method for Global Optimization and Its Application to Magnetotelluric Geoprospecting
Date: Friday, June 24, 2005
Time: 3:00 p.m. (CST)
Location: 4405 Siebel Center

Be there or be square!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Adventures in Job Hunting

I guess I was so busy doing nothing last week that I didn't mention that I had finally scheduled my interview at IBM. I'll be going out there at the end of this month; April 27 and 28 (Wednesday and Thursday) are my big days. I'll leave in the afternoon of the 26th, and then I'll return from there late on Thursday night. I'm sure I'll be occupied the whole time, but if I weren't, I would have liked to see Susie, a cousin of mine who lives in New York City. In some ways it's too bad that there is a late flight out of there; I would have enjoyed the opportunity to meet up with her. On the other hand, I'm pretty busy these days so it's probably better not to take the extra time.

I need to get my shoes fixed. I guess it must have been during the car accident that the rubber bit from the bottom of one of my heels came off. I noticed that one foot went "clap" and the other went "clop" but I didn't figure out why until several hours later. I need to get that fixed because I can't keep wearing them in that condition and I really don't want to buy new shoes. Those shoes are perfect for my outfits.

I also realized that I'm going to have to figure something out about changing clothes at the airport. I'm not too excited about the idea of walking across O'Hare airport in a suit and heels. In particular, I think my feet would be quite angry with me afterwards. I'm thinking I'll place some comfortable clothes and shoes in my carry-on garment bag and change once I get through security at the airport.

In the meantime, I'm waiting for our Apple cluster to get back on line. They're fixing some busted nodes and running the benchmarks for the Top 500 list. It should be available again on Friday. This means that I will be spending some time here over the weekend, doing some performance evaluations and implementing the diffusion on top of the 3-D function evaluation. I don't mind, because it will be worth it to get the work done that much faster.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Thinking about a Final Exam

Today I met with my advisor for our weekly meeting. There's really not much left for me to do on my thesis, so he encouraged me to begin scheduling a final exam. Right now I'm shooting for mid-June as the happy date. I've just sent an e-mail to my committee members asking for an overview of their schedules for the summer, in particular, dates that they will be out of town or otherwise occupied.

I'm pretty excited about the prospect of taking my final! I am looking forward to graduating. My job outlook seems pretty positive, too, so I shouldn't have to go long without employment.

I'm going to have a huge party after I graduate. I'm going to rent a room or a pavillion at the park district, and invite everyone I know and can tolerate to the party. I don't have many plans for the party, except that I want to have a cake that says "Congratulations, Dr. Rebecca" on it.

Ideally, I'd like to rent the lake house at Crystal Lake Park in Urbana, and rent some paddle boats and canoes for my guests to enjoy during the party. We'll have to see if it's still available.

Monday, April 04, 2005


I am finished telling the long saga of my interview, and now I can talk about something more interesting: Spring!

Spring is my favorite season. Growing up, I was prejudiced against it, but I think that living on my own and moving to a colder climate allowed me to develop an appreciation for Spring.

Spring is the reward we get for surviving the Illinois winter. Every week, another beautiful flower blooms and I declare it the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. The bright green of fresh leaves brings joy to my heart.

While I was gone to New Mexico, the daffodils began to bloom. To me, this is a sign that Spring is truly here. Snowdrops and crocuses are the prelude to Spring, but when the daffodils come out, it is Spring.

Our magnolia is beginning to bloom. It is truly stunning when its pink buds open into stars. The neighbors' saucer magnolias are not yet blooming, but generally they bloom a week or so after the star magnolia. I think that magnolias have to be one of the most beautiful trees, and Urbana is full of them.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Adventures in Interviewing (Part 2)

My counselor has likened the job search to dating, and I have to agree. You enter into the search with certain expectations, and the employer enters with with their expectations, and if there's a match you have a job opportunity. If it doesn't work out, it's probably not because one or the other of you is bad or somehow flawed; there's just an incompatibility and you're not meant for each other.

Chemistry is also a factor in the job search. As in dating, there has to be a psychological or emotional match before a job offer can be extended. My counselor told me of cases where he was completely qualified for a job and did not get it, and other cases where he did not entirely fit the job description but was offered a job almost immediately.

I think that my opportunity to interview was based more upon my reputation than my skill set, because I do not have some of the most important skills for this job. In particular, the job description called for a person with expertise in C++ and object-oriented programming, and experience in large-scale software projects. I know some C++ and object-oriented programming, but I would never call myself an expert. Furthermore, I've never worked on a very large-scale software project. I freely admitted these shortcomings, but it did not seem to perturb my host or any of my interviewers. I pointed out that I was trainable, and that I would be interested in developing those skills, which I feel are my weakest point as a computer scientist.

I have mixed emotions about taking a job at Sandia. The biggest problem is that 90% of the funding in the department I would be working in comes from the nuclear weapons program. I would be working on a computational framework to solve large-scale multiphysics problems, and while there are many different large-scale multiphysics problems out there, the one sponsoring this project is the nuclear weapons problems. I feel uncomfortable with the idea of being indirectly responsible for improving the design of nuclear weapons in some ways. On the one hand, I don't think it's right to encourage further nuclear weapon development. On the other hand, if we're going to have nuclear weapons (which we inevitably are), it seems like a good idea to remake them in a safer fashion and make sure that the ones we already have are not in danger of exploding when we don't want them to.

The computational framework could and would be used for other multiphysics problems, too. The department I'd be working for has a big contract with Goodyear to design safer tires. They also performed the analysis to figure out what happened to the space shuttle Columbia a couple of years ago, and modeled the effects of planes crashing into crucial infrastructure. A big question is whether the non-nuclear applications of the software make up for the nuclear applications in any way.

The good news about working for that department is that the nuclear weapons budget is being cut by 5% this year, and this has made them realize that they should begin to diversify their sponsorship. I am a creative thinker, and I could picture myself helping make connections in other areas as this transformation takes place. Would it be worth taking nuclear money at the beginning if it meant I could help transform them into a "peacemongering" organization? This is a question that only I can answer for myself.

One interviewer did ask me point blank whether I was okay with working on nuclear weapons. I gave him the answer my friendly neighborhood ethicist helped me to formulate (thanks, Laura!): I was already aware of the prevalence of nuclear weapons research at the lab. I come from a long line of Quakers (a direct descendent of Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island), and while I am not a Quaker myself, I have certainly been influenced by them to consider the morality and ethical impact of my behavior. Another important value in Quakerism is integrity, however, so they can trust me to make a decision for myself as to whether I can accept their job offer.

I've discussed the negatives, so now it's time for the positives of the job. It would sharpen my computer skills, which need to be improved if I'm going to claim that I'm a computer scientist. It would be an intellectually stimulating environment, full of friendly people. There would be a lot of interdisciplinary work, and freedom to work in many areas and change departments if I'd like to. The women who interviewed me gave glowing reports of Sandia's commitment to retaining women and helping them to thrive. I interviewed for a staff position, not a postdoc, so there would be the stability of not needing to uproot in a couple of years. I would get paid a lot of money, and the cost of living in Albuquerque is very low.

I was also very impressed with my host, who would be my manager if I were to take the job. The unusual events of Wednesday gave me a chance to see how he reacts to stressful situations, and I was really impressed with how he advocated for the three of us who were in the accident. I greatly appreciated his sensitivity to both my physical and emotional condition for the rest of my visit, and I was impressed with how quickly he found out the liability information for the man who was driving us to lunch. (If he was on Sandia business while in his personal vehicle, and got into an accident, whose insurance pays? Answer: his own, but Sandia will reimburse him up to $500 of expenses not covered by his insurance.)

So there are many pros and cons to working there, which I will need to weigh if I get an offer. My friends seemed to think that based on my description of how things went, I should get an offer. I hope they're right.

Right now I feel like Sandia would be a really good place to work, and if I got an offer, I would probably accept. But I turn once again to the dating analogy. Do I just feel flattered by their interest in me, which makes me turn a blind eye to the activities of which I disapprove? How much am I trying to fit myself into their mold so that they will make me an offer? Is it a crush, or is it true love?

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Adventures in Interviewing (Part 1)

My adventure began as I packed for my trip. Jeff laughed at me for taking our second largest suitcase and a garment bag, but I had a lot to carry. In the garment bag I packed three suits for my two days of interviewing (just in case I needed an extra), and my suitcase contained twice as many as necessary pairs of underwear, four pairs of panty hose, and three pairs of shoes, plus a sleeper, my toiletries bag, and a casual outfit to wear home. I also packed some gifts for my friends who I was to see on Thursday evening after I was free from interviewing. For Mike and Nancy and their future baby, a tiny Illinois t-shirt, and for Greg, a mini Illinois basketball and goal. And for Mike and Nancy because they so desperately miss the harsh Illinois winter (not!), a University of Illinois snow globe. The snow globe had to be transported in my carry-on, but I put the other two items in my regular luggage. It was heavy to transport everything, in particular my backpack which contained two books and all my important interview papers in addition to the snow globe, but I reminded myself that much of that burden would be left in New Mexico with my friends.

I arrived in New Mexico safe but slightly nauseated. We had some serious turbulence about a half hour outside of Albuquerque; upon several occasions our plane seemed to drop from the air. Luckily each of these instances lasted mere seconds, but it was enough to make me queasy. The child in front of me, however, had more trouble stomaching the turbulence, and lost his dinner. I arrived on the ground wishing that I could have lost mine, because I might have felt better.

They had reserved a rental car for me, and I made it to the rental car office without much trouble. The kind woman behind the desk (a fellow Rebecca!) gave me some careful directions to my hotel. I found the hotel easily, and headed up to my room. I called Jeff to let him know I'd made it safely, and then I settled in to bed.

The next morning, I woke up and took a shower, then dressed in an elegant olive suit with a knee-length skirt, given to me by my advisor's assistant Jodi. I brushed my hair and pulled it back in a golden barrette. After that, I applied my makeup, which Marvis helped me select and learn to use in 2003. (My beauty is the joint effort of many people!) I also put on some department-store quality panty hose that I had purchased from a discounter for 90 cents per pair, and my tan pumps with inch-and-a-half heels. I looked at myself in the mirror and realized that (aside from the purple left knee) I was looking absolutely gorgeous!

I met my host in the lobby of the hotel at 7:30. He picked me up instead of having me drive there, because it is difficult for a visitor to obtain a pass, but easy for him to bring a visitor in his own car. He took me to the badge office, where I obtained a visitor's badge for my two day visit, and then to my first appointment in the HR office. After that, we stopped by the cafeteria and picked up some tea. The woman at the cash register complimented me on my outfit, which made me feel even more confident.

My host talked to me about Sandia's organization, and his department in particular, for about an hour. At 10 o'clock I was scheduled to present my seminar. Before the seminar, I made a stop in the restroom, and repeated the mantra I am brilliant, I am beautiful, I am going to give a great seminar! as I freshened up. As we walked to the seminar room, I was really delighted to see my friends Mike and Greg, both of whom work at Sandia in other departments, show up for my talk. It helped me feel even more confident. I also saw someone else whom I knew from my internship in 2001, but I didn't get a chance to talk to him before he left after my seminar. The seminar was very well-received. I had practiced it several times, including once in our seminar, so I was quite confident about it and I didn't make any mistakes or stumble over any words. There were a few questions afterwards, but I was able to answer those easily.

After the seminar, the rest of my two days would be spent talking to various members of the department in which I was interviewing, and of other, related departments. In addition, I would be taken to lunch by two interviewers on Wednesday, and another two on Thursday, and I was to go out to dinner with my host and another interviewer on Wednesday night. This is where the story gets interesting.

After my seminar, I had one appointment before lunch. That appointment must have gone fine; I don't remember anything remarkable about it. Then I met the two guys who were going to take me out to lunch. They decided to take me to a nice Mediterranean restaurant across town. We got into a car belonging to one of the guys, and set off. One thing you have to know about Albuquerque is that the roads are perpetually under construction. In this particular case, the on-ramp to the interstate was under construction. We were traveling down the on-ramp when the car in front of us came to a dead stop. The man who was driving happened to be looking at the traffic at the moment, and did slam on the brakes when the other guy pointed out to him that he needed to stop, but not in enough time to avoid hitting the other car. Moments later, the pick-up truck behind us crashed into the car we were in.

Coincidentally, the next vehicle coming down the on-ramp was a fire department vehicle. Apparently they barely avoided getting in the wreck too; all we saw was there were flashing lights a few moments after we crashed, without enough time elapsing for someone to have called the police. The driver of the fire department vehicle took over and made sure that everybody was all right, and called the police and paramedics.

Everyone was all right, aside from being shaken up and having a few bruises and sore muscles. The paramedics came anyhow, and they took my blood pressure and made sure that everyone was all right. And we may have all been okay, but the vehicle we were in was not. It was totalled. It was interesting to see the crumple zones, and to see that car window glass breaks up into small, inert shards that don't stab you when the window breaks. Strangely, the airbags did not deploy in the accident, which was surprising to me. The paramedics had us stay out of the car, because they were afraid that the airbags might go off if the vehicle was jarred.

They asked us questions, presumably to assess whether we had sustained any brain damage. But when they asked me who I was with, I couldn't remember. I had met those guys maybe five minutes before we got in the wreck, and any memory of their names flew right out of my brain in the accident. I explained the situation, and they did not seem concerned about the state of my memory.

Unfortunately, it was a particularly cold and windy day in Albuquerque. It was especially uncomfortable for me to stand there in the wind, because of what I was wearing and the fact that I had banged my already purple knee on the dashboard in the collision. The paramedics let me sit in the ambulance for a while, but they had to go on to their next call long before we could leave the scene. So I think I stood outside in my suit and heels for at least an hour.

While we waited for the police to sort things out and for the wreckers to arrive, the man who had been driving tried to call people at work in order to get us a ride back to base, and to make my host aware of what had happened. The problem was that it was lunchtime so nobody was at their desks. Eventually he got hold of a secretary in a different department, who had carpooled in with her husband and didn't have a car, but managed to secure a government pickup truck and came to pick us up. Unfortunately, that made four people in one seat, so we wouldn't be able to get back on Sandia property in that state (everyone must be wearing a seat belt). She solved the problem by dropping us off at a nearby restaurant and calling her daughter to pick her up, leaving us with the keys to the pickup truck.

The restaurant was a local fast pizza/sandwich place. I had the best pastrami sandwich ever, presumably because I was famished, although it probably would have been quite tasty under any circumstances. The guy who hadn't been driving when the accident occurred took the wheel. We didn't get back to Sandia until nearly 3 p.m. By that time I had missed two appointments with two interviewers. My host felt really bad about what had happened, and he made sure that I was feeling capable of continuing. I told him that I was a little bruised and windblown, but otherwise just fine.

The story of the accident spread quickly, and preceded me into most of my appointments. Everyone was very nice to me and I enjoyed talking to them all. In the evening, my host and another interviewer took me out to a very nice Italian restaurant in the university district. After I got back to my hotel, I immediately called Jeff and told him what had happened. He was very calm about it, because he's been in several accidents, whereas this was definitely the most serious accident I've ever been in. When I lay down on the bed while talking to him, I realized that my neck was extremely painful as a result of the accident. After I got off the phone I soaked for a half hour in a hot bath before turning in early for the night.

The next morning, I dressed in a pants suit and flat shoes. If I hadn't packed the extra pair of shoes, I would have been wearing those same heels and hurting my knee again, so Jeff can stop laughing at me now. My host picked me up and took me to the Sandia medical clinic, because he thought we should have a record of what had happened. The people at the clinic didn't know what to do with me, because I'm not an employee, so they just wrote down the fact that I was sore from an accident that had occurred the previous day while I was interviewing. That caused me to miss my first interview of the morning, but the rest of the day was spent meeting with others. Two other employees took me out to lunch. I had decided that if we got in a wreck that day, I would have to take it as a sign that I didn't belong at Sandia. Luckily, we had a safe journey to a local Mexican restaurant, which had delicious food.

During my interviews, I met with many people, including three women, my host (who would be my boss if I were to take this job), his boss, and that boss's boss. I asked all of the women what things were like as a woman working at Sandia, and got nothing but positive replies. At the end of the day, my host asked me what I thought of the job, and whether I thought I was interested in working there. He also told me about the procedure they use in offering people jobs. I may not hear anything from them for more than a month, because he has to collect the interview review sheets from everyone who interviewed me, and then if they decide they're interested in hiring me, he has to go through all the bureaucracy in order to get higher-level approval and the money to hire me. I might hear sooner if they reject me than if they accept me.

On Thursday evening, I went out to dinner with my friends from Illinois. We had a great time together, and the gifts were a big hit. I made it back to Illinois all in one piece the next day, although I was dead tired because I had missed so much sleep and had awakened at 5:30 in order to catch my plane. From the Albuquerque airport, I had called the student health center on my cell phone, and scheduled an appointment for late in the afternoon for an examination of my neck. They thought my neck was going to be fine, and I think they are correct, because it is hurting less today than it hurt yesterday or the day before.

I have now recounted all the events that took place during my interview, but none of my opinions or feelings about how it went. It has taken me well over an hour to write all this up, and I need to head home now. I'm afraid you'll have to wait until "Adventures in Interviewing (Part 2)" for the analysis. Stay tuned! I'll be back in the office tomorrow, and if I'm lucky I'll find some time to write that.