End Notes

Well, it’s Friday, and the end of the week of standard work days, although not of course the end of the working week. I’m sure I do not speak only for myself when I say that this job does not really get switched off at a specific time every day (as you’ve seen), and it certainly is not contained to any specific days of the week. But I do scale things back quite a bit on Saturdays and Sundays and try to focus more on other things in my life (there are exceptional circumstances, of course). So this will be the last in this short series of “day in the life” posts describing my work day. (The last one was here. You can find all the others listed at the bottom.)

  • 8:30am Finally I managed to get a lie-in! Unfortunately this is probably due to poor sleeping due to the fact that I accidentally fell asleep with the radio on (with no sleep function set) and so my entire night was full of the BBC and NPR. Getting ready this morning I realize that every story on NPR is familiar because I probably heard it at 4:00am already. I have poor reception in my bedroom, and so I listen to the radio over the web on a computer. It did not go to sleep, since the radio streaming keeps it active. If I want to fall asleep listening to something, I usually overcome this shortcoming by listening to a podcast, but this time I did not get to starting it before I dozed off. Anyway, tea, cornmeal porridge, coffee. No shirt ironing as I don’t need to be terribly professorial-looking today, much (see below).

    I’ll be in semi-stealth mode again today (like Wednesday), in order to focus on research matters, but only semi. Again, I’ve avoided scheduling any meetings today (except one – see below). Although I do not leave for work, I settle down to dealing with various administrative matters. This starts with emails about next week’s colloquium, a future colloquium, and things of that nature. Also check blog, and add entries and begin to clean up the post about yesterday for later appearance.

  • 10:00am – 12:00pm Basically a mixture of reading some more research papers, some more email exchanges about next week’s colloquium, and reading the research blog in preparation for the meeting with the team later today.
  • 12:15pm. A bit panicked again since I do not have any idea how it got so late! Need to shower, dress, make a sandwich, pack my bag and get to campus by 1:00pm. And it normally takes me 45 minutes if I’m lucky with the buses.
  • 12:30pm. Now leaving home. Decided that the bus is not the way to go in view of the time, and so will cycle all the way to work. It is a lovely day, and I was thinking about doing it earlier. The other option is to drive, but frankly I feel such a failure (sometimes to the point where I get really angry at myself) if I find myself driving into work during the week. Unless there is a good reason, and this is not one of them since it is my fault for letting time slip.
  • 1:05pm After a very enjoyable ride, I arrive at the University Village. Remarkably, I seem to have made it in an unexpectedly short time. The guys (the graduate students and undergraduate student working with me on various projects) are not all there yet, and have started eating lunch and chatting with each other. They have a table. All is well.
  • 1:20pm – 4:00pm After a bit of gossip and giggles, Team cvj – uh, that’s us (explanation below) – brainstorm and outline projects and describe progress for a solid amount of time. I’m always pleased with how well these meetings work, overall. More often than not, the act of explaining some of the things we are doing to each other generates ideas for how to make progress, or ideas for other projects. And we have fun while doing it too. We all leave with things to do, and – I hope – energized about what we are doing. (I do, anyway.)

    Team cvj? Well, it’s a silly joke, and we don’t really use that term, or the other one I sometimes use for the research blog – “cvjLab” – to mimic the biologists, where it is very common to refer to the lab of a researcher (“Smith”, say), as the Smith Lab, etc. The “Team cvj” thing came from (at least, to my mind) the fact that either intentionally or accidentally, one or two of the students turned out to all use clipboards, and I noticed this and remarked upon how it reminded me of the fact that I used to use a clipboard a lot as an undergraduate student and just earlier I’d stumbled upon it and was thinking of using it again for old times sake. So I began to joke that it was a bit like in the excellent Wes Anderson film “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”, a film about an explorer/oceanographer (played by Bill Murray) who has a ship and a team of people who travel with him on his adventures. When you join “Team Zissou” you are given a red woolly hat and (I think) a blue jacket. So it was as though the clipboard was some sort of symbol of joining my subgroup of activity. Hence, “Team cvj”. And here’s a shot of the guys, at the table, with (top left) Ramakrishnan Iyer in full flow explaining our minimal string theory project to (clockwise) Veselin Filev, Jeff Pennington, Arnab Kundu, and Tameem Albash:

    team cvj sans cvj

    It is – on reflection – rather hilarious that we all (with the wise exception – perhaps – of Jeff) really do have clipboards (mine is the black one which folds over – I’ve had it since my first week at university in 1986! It still has my timetable stuck on the inside). I always make a (joking, really) point of reminding everyone to bring their clipboards to the meetings! (In defense: Given that we sit outside a lot to talk and work, they’re actually really useful for writing on loose sheets of paper while not having them blow around…)

  • 5:30pm. Took the long way home since I wanted to glimpse a bit of downtown and then catch the subway. Home now. Found out that the giant pall of smoke we saw while working was due to a fire in the Hollywood hills which rapidly burned 150 acres. Apparently some people were worried that the Hollywood sign would be engulfed, but it was fine. There’s a story here.
  • 6:15pm Well, I decided to write this post now (sitting in the garden watching the world -mostly people running or walking dogs- go by and smelling the flowers) in order to close out the series and the week. I won’t be telling you anymore about today since I’ve decided not to sit and do any more work. (Certainly not here, as the mosquitoes are beginning to bite.)

    It is Friday night, I’ve had enough, and so I’m going to have some fun. To protect the innocent (and that may be you!) the rest is:



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6 Responses to End Notes

  1. Pingback: Thursday Notes - Asymptotia

  2. TBB says:

    But the “CENSORED” is probably the most interesting thing! As Professor Steven Pollock says in his physics DVDs, one learns better if one “mucks around with things” at home – there’s a lesson in everything! 😉

  3. Clifford says:

    Ah, well…. I can’t go telling everyone everything now, can I? That just wouldn’t do.



  4. Elliot says:

    the week of clifford
    sausages, five-branes, and oatmeal
    cosmic censorship

  5. Pioneer1 says:

    I enjoyed reading. I wish I could write as well.

  6. Pingback: First Day of the Rest of Their Lives - Asymptotia