26 February 2007

Grant Hell: Version 1.0

Grant hell took on a new form today: electronic submission.

You'd think that would be a good thing, right? Save a few trees, at least.

Well, yeah, sure, it saves a few trees. I'm all for that. Except that it's costing me brain cells.

I mean, my synapses are Burnt Out. Something I was familiar with is suddenly total foreign. Something I knew how to gauge is suddenly unfathomable.

OK, I'm exaggerating.

But this is the very first time in my personal grant submission history that we've MISSED THE DEADLINE. And not with just one. I'm not sure yet, but I think we missed it with 2 out of 4.

Part of it was just bad luck. One of our PIs had a bunch of Appendices and they were scanned PDFs, and as anyone knows, scanned PDFs are HUGE. So when they attached the scanned PDFs to the "submission package" the package promptly went cross-eyed and crashed all over the computer screen with a resounding SPLAT.

OK, I'm exaggerating.

But the reconstruction of the Crashed Package took a long time. Too long and the Magical Witching Hour of 5PM (otherwise known as The Deadline) came and went.

Like the first domino in a line, the Crashed Package thwacked the package I was working on and - I think - knocked it right out of contention.

I had my package done in time. Well, barely. I sent it on to the Lady in Charge (LiC) at 4:56, which was really a minor miracle, since I got the science (which had to be converted to non-HUGE PDFs) less that half an hour before. And I even left the LiC, 4 minutes to attach the other required items to her email and send it on to the Research office. Barely, barely, barely enough time, but she could have done it.

But, naturally, she couldn't do it before the Magical Witching Hour because the Crashed Package was in the process of being Uncrashed.

Lessons learned:

1) PIs will send the science to be attached to the package before 4 PM or be laughed out of the building and soundly beaten with chopsticks.

2) Appendices will not be allowed under any circumstances. I don't care how wonderful you think they are, they aren't nearly wonderful enough. Get over it.

More lessons will follow, I'm sure.

14 February 2007

Is it over yet?

It was one of "those" days. You know the kind. The days when everything you do turns instantly to shit as soon as you touch it? Yeah. Those days.

I got up at 6AM to do some work-work. I suppose that was my first mistake. And then I had a decaf coffee. Mistake No. 2.

From there, things just sort of disintegrated. I dropped stuff (not Ms. Baby, lucky her). I broke stuff. I couldn't seem to talk straight. Work got weird.

And then I tried to make lunch. And I burned pasta. Burned. Pasta. I didn't actually know that was even possible.

And had I been paying attention, I would have taken that as a sign and NOT tried to go to the store to get milk (which we were - and still are - out of). It was a disaster and we never even left the driveway.

Picture this: Kids in car. Kid paraphenalia in car. Mommy in car. Keys in house. House locked.

House locked. Keys in house.

And I mean ALL the keys - house keys, car keys, work keys, what-the-fuck-does-this-go-to keys - all of 'em.

It was 20 degrees outside and snowing and I'm sitting there in the car - keyless - and all I could say was "Oh no, oh no, oh no". By some miracle the car was warm-ish inside, so I left Ms. Four and Ms. Baby in there and walked around the house, repeatedly, trying every door and checking every window. No luck.

I tried to pick the lock with a diaper pin. No luck.

I tried to pry open the garage doors. No luck.

I tried The Force. No luck.

I considered the cat door. No way.

Desperate, despondent and finally realizing that the brain was clearly on strike today, I called the mothers-in-law. Both of them. They both said don't break a window and both offered to come pick us up. Having no choice, since The Husband had jury duty and was in the middle of some trial (no, actually, I'm not making that up), I agreed to be rescued. Just as we arrived at mother-in-law's house, The Husband called. The Situation was explained and arrangements to retrieve his keys were made and carried out. Three hours later, we were reunited with the keys and back inside the house.

And that should have been the end of the story, because isn't that enough already?

But wait. There's more.

The Husband finally got excused for the day and came home with roses for me and Ms. Four, (it was Valentine's Day, after all). All smiles, I took the roses to the kitchen sink to put them in water. Nice, cold, fresh water. I had to use the sprayer, because the damn sink was so full of dishes (stupid sink), and somehow - don't ask me how - I managed to squirt myself in the face with the nice, cold, fresh water.

Fitting end to the day, non?

04 February 2007

My Writing Life

I love all these books and blogs about "The Writing Life" where the authors, who are usually members of the Lucky Few Full-Time Writer's Club, describe how they get up at 5AM or 11AM and proceed to write for 6 or 8 hours. Then they do some editing or blogging or correspondence or chit-chat with their agent or some-such. Then they read some Great Author before retiring for the evening.

Sounds great, don't it? If only the rest of us were so lucky. Here's what my "writing life" is like:

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First of all, I have been unable to write anything at all due to sickness and interference from work-work for so many days I've lost count of how many exactly.

Today, however, The Husband is gone for the day. Ms. Four, at her cousin's house for an overnight, is still gone for a few more hours. And Ms. Baby is down for her nap.

Now is the time to write.

*pause*

I should really be working on the taxes. I should really be figuring out if I can take that home office deduction because I work from home much of the time these days. I should...

Ah, but this is such a rare thing -- alone in a quiet house. How can I NOT write.

The usual question looms: write WHAT? Which project? Should I be working to finish the 2006 NaNo? Should I do some editing on the March Novel storyline? Should I just journal and call it good? Should I blog? Should I comment on other people's blogs?

What to do?! What to do?! I could waste the whole of Ms. Baby's nap trying to decide. Gah!

OK, OK. Deep breath. I'll use the timer method. Yes, that'll work. I'll set the timer for 20 minutes and keep my fingers moving for that entire time on the 2006 NaNo (provided Ms. Baby's nap lasts that long...).

That, at least, will get SOMETHING done. Well, some writing anyway. Laundry, dishes and vaccuuming can, of course, get stuffed.

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I set the timer for 20 minutes. I type - uninterrupted, amazingly - for the whole time. I manage 649 words! I decide to continue until I finally get to SEE HOLGER (a character in the novel we've heard much about but have yet to actually meet)!!

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10 minutes later: The phone rings. Ms. Four is on her way home. I hang up the phone. Ms. Baby wakes up.

*sigh* So much for writing today, thinks I.

I fetch Herself and find her still sleepy. And Ms. Four isn't here yet.

I keep writing and, in spite of circumstances - or perhaps, because of them - I manage another 394 words AND finally get to meet Holger!

Yea, me!

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Y'see how it is? And this is a good day, one when I actually get to write at all. Most days, my word count remains at zero. It'll be a miracle, of sorts, if I ever get anything even close to publishable, let alone in print.

But others have done it, I'm sure. At least, I think so. Well, I hope so. Maybe I'll be the first??