Friday, September 30, 2005

The Week in Review

Today I got out of work early because they were cleaning our air conditioning units as part of the mold remediation project. They'd already replaced all the carpets in our building and now they are cleaning the air system.

Overall, the rest of the week was pretty good too:

  • On Wednesday afternoon, I went on a tour of the lab for new employees. That was a lot of fun. I got to ride on a souped-up school bus with a dozen or so other new folks, on a guided tour of the lab with a very colorful and interesting guide. The guy had roots in the Oak Ridge area dating back to the 1800's. In particular, his grandparents were kicked off the land that is now the reservation to make way for the Manhattan Project. They were given a hundred bucks compensation. His father managed the theaters in Oak Ridge during the war, and he used to tag along. At that time, the city of Oak Ridge was inside a fence, and you had to have an official badge to enter. He was also there when the city was first opened to the general public, in 1949. The first civilian who entered the city without a badge was a famous star of Westerns, Rory Calhoun. Highlights of the tour included the new Spallation Neutron Source building, which was interesting, and the Graphite Reactor, where the first sustained nuclear reaction occurred in November, 1943. We even got to see the record book, where they recorded that the reactor went critical. The Graphite Reactor is on the National Register of Historic Places, so everything from the era has been preserved. It was interesting to see the analog sensor readouts.

  • I went to Weight Watchers, after one month of chaos, and lost 0.8 lbs in that time. Despite having been unable to do my regular exercise, eat my normal diet, or keep a consistent daily routine, I did not gain any weight. I'm not going to definitively say that I have really lost 0.8 lbs, because the measurements were taken on two different scales and in two different locations at which the acceleration due to gravity differs slightly. Also, here they weigh you with your shoes on and subtract two pounds, whereas in Illinois you take your shoes off. But just the same, the overall message is the same: I did not gain a substantial amount of weight, if any. I made healthy choices most of the time, despite all the chaos.

  • I have nearly mastered the art of writing with the non-dominant hand. I can now write cursive that is about the same quality as a fourth-grader with neat handwriting. I am also about as slow as a fourth grader with neat handwriting. I still do whatever I can to avoid writing by hand.

  • I talked to the division director. The division director, who is my mentor's boss's boss, likes to meet with every incoming employee. I had a pleasant chat with him yesterday afternoon. As it turns out, he has been charged with recruiting new people from the University of Illinois. I told him that I knew how to recruit computer scientists from the University of Illinois, so he promised to take me along when he goes recruiting. I am looking forward to that!

  • I submitted an abstract for a talk at a conference. This morning, my mentor came by my office and informed me that today was the deadline for the SIAM conference on parallel processing. I didn't really react one way or another until he encouraged me to submit something. So I told him that for the paper out of my dissertation, we had concentrated on the optimization method, but that I thought there was enough stuff on the multilayer parallelization there that I could give a talk at that conference. He told me to write up an abstract, and he would take a look at it. He looked at it, made a few corrections, and told me to submit it. Then he showed me the forms I had to fill out for the lab. You have to get all your papers and presentations cleared by the lab before you can officially release them. So I filled out those forms too, and now I just have to wait until November to find out if it got accepted. And if it did, San Francisco here I come!

  • My (former) advisor from Illinois is coming to Oak Ridge for a visit the week after next. I am pretty excited about this because I will get a chance to see him. I e-mailed him to tell him about the abstract (because I'd put his name on it too, since the research was done when I was his student). It's kind of funny to think of him as my former advisor, and us as colleagues, not student and teacher. It's also weird to think about my grad student days, and the fact that I am no longer a student. Until June, I'd been a student my entire life. So it's weird to think that I'm not anymore. Sometimes it feels like I'm just here for a summer internship, especially since I'm here by myself, although the weather is starting to clue me in that this is not the case.

  • I have learned a lot this week. The work I am doing seems to have a fairly steep learning curve. Sometimes I get frustrated when I don't understand, and I talk down to myself and think of myself as an impostor, that it's just a matter of time before everyone finds out how stupid I actually am. Coincidentally, the topic of the Weight Watchers meeting that I went to yesterday was "positive self-talk." People get so down on themselves when they don't lose as much weight in a week as they wanted to. But really, they should be thinking about the fact that they've already lost as much as they have. Instead of beating up on themselves, they should be pleased with what they have accomplished. I realized that I also needed to talk about myself more positively, in the learning department. I really have learned a lot. Two weeks ago, I knew absolutely nothing about wavelets, multiscale methods, and working at a national lab. Now I know a few things about those topics. I'm certainly no expert on any of them yet, but really, if you graphed time on the x-axis and the amount I know on the y-axis, it's an upward trend. The learning curve is steep, and so is the slope of that graph. It just seems like so little because I'm only looking at a small part of the overall picture.

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