Wednesday, July 30, 2008

...and part 2. This set is from the past weekend; you can see Jenny trying to get rid of a *little* of the water, and what looks horribly like some mould. I will be checking back on that now that we've had some sun, to make sure that it goes away! In the background of the view from the house towards Aidan playing on hay bales, you can see a ranch (=bungalow) home which is the most recent completion by Swift, and the only other one of the 9 lots in this cul-de-sac to have yet sold.

More house pictures, bringing progress roughly up to date; part 1...

As many of you know, we recently moved to Albany; one of the fun - but stressful! - parts of the move was trying to find a new home. In the end, we gave up on existing houses (a variety of reasons, one of the least expected being a high number that had pools which we do *not* want)
and decided to build our own.

This has been generally very positive; our builder (Swift Builders, a smallish family firm) has been very responsive and accommodating - helped we suspect by the very poor market for them right now! - and we are pretty sure that we will end up with something better and cheaper than we could have found otherwise.

This will doubtless be a recurring theme, but: here are some pics of the progress thus far. We've been quite surprised at the speed with which things have sprung up, despite two weeks of *torrential* rain, and it looks as though we may actually be in on schedule. Which is 5 days after Jenny is due to give birth... a little luck on either or both ends would be good!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

This was prompted by a (fairly typically mildly ranty) suggestion over at Young Female Scientist, where it was opined that faculty candidates were commonly not being shown the space included in their position offer.

None of this corresponds at all to my experience, frankly, during the search process last cycle (i.e. I just started my new job).

At each interview site, I was shown the space on offer very explicitly, asked whether it would be suitable, and - in the cases where the answer to that was 'no' or 'not optimal' we then got out building floor plans, discussed what space was possible and how it would work. The specifics of the five places where I got offers:

1. Space available was very poor: a coffee room and a couple of closets with promised renovations. The search chair clearly knew that this was a problem, noted that 'there might be alternatives available but there are some issues with current faculty.' In the end, poor space was the factor which made rejecting this position easiest.

2. Space available was new and pretty, but designed very explicitly for a somewhat different set of techniques and experiments from those I would wish to be doing. Space included a main lab, several adjacent smaller rooms, adjacent student/postdoc office space, and adjacent, new, animal facilities.

3. Space available was decent but not cohesive: several scattered rooms (in a traditionally-built, long-corridor academic building). Very clear sense that much effort would be put into optimising this, and a new wing was under construction for occupancy in <1 year (which is the closest I came to an offer of 'temporary' space); but a total of four or five decent-sized rooms within maybe 100 ft of each other.

4. Space was cramped but very well designed, in a generally-cramped department. This would have limited work possible and size of lab; those effects were agreed by the search chair but it was clearly 'this is what we have.'

5. [The one I took] One of several factors in favour of this place was the space offered: brand-new building, with large main lab, several large adjacent rooms - both next to my office space - and a suite of testing rooms *within* the animal facility immediately adjacent, together with a surgical suite and so on.

So in all cases the space was described, shown, and the end result was exactly as promised with exactly zero fuss.

Now, sure, I made sure that the space offered - like everything else - was in writing in my offer letter, but I assume that anyone would do that with each element of the offer that they cared about, right?

O'm not attempting to suggest that space may not be a concern - see options 1, 4 and maybe 3 above! - but the idea that someone would *not be shown* the space that they would be offered and expected to occupy for the next several years? Bizarre to the point of being close to unbelieveable.

Finally, shared space? As in, part of a large/multi-bench lab? Yeah, this is not uncommon, and I have never yet met a scientist that likes it (as opposed to amin folk who like being able to reassign incremental space!). It would have been a negative factor if I had ever encountered it, I guess - but it's the situation that I came *from*, and it's not _that_ bad.

OK, now that's off my chest :-).

Friday, July 18, 2008

Aidan* is just a delight to be around these days. Favourite quote from the past week: on deciding that he didn't want to do something after all (I forget what): "Because it's so undignified."

He's been at Camp Nassau, an Albany YMCA camp of apparently long tradition and ubiquity, this week; neither one of us is impressed, really. It's fine, just not inspiring nor very personal. As Aidan correctly noted, we'd all rather that he got to spend the whole summer "doing fun things with just me like I do at Grams' house." Sigh. Well, the last week of his summer there *is* no camp, so maybe I'll try to fill that role - although I'm teaching class that week, too...

...anyway, just a note to myself not to forget how much joy he's giving us right now.
Coffee. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

...perhaps a little extreme. Although I do like the Creed of Coffee (a parody of a mantra in Dune:
It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion,
It is by the beans of Java that thoughts acquire speed,
The hands acquire shaking, the shaking becomes a warning,
It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion.

Anyway. A friend in my now-previous lab was superlatively kind enough to bring me back, from Jamaica, what was labelled as 'Blue Mountain.' I was admittedly sceptical! However, I opened this yesterday.. and it may just be the real thing! Certainly superb coffee *and* unique in my experience: massively nutty, touches of caramel almost. Thanks, Stacee!