Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cat Attack!

Dear Diary,

I've submitted a few jobs to the cluster.  Today, I got a friendly message from my good friend in Professor Furche's lab:

"hey tom this is brandon
you have a helluva buncha jobs that are requesting a ton of resources 8cpu/22gb
is this totally necessarYY?

Message from brandon...
                   .               ,.
                  l|"-.  _.v._   (" |
                  [l /.'_ \; _~"-.`-t
                  Y " _(o} _{o)._ ^.|
                  j  T  ,-<v>-.  T  ]
                  \  l ( /-^-\ ) !  !
                   \. \.  "~"  ./  /c-..,__
                     ^r- .._ .- .-"  `- .  ~"--.
                      > \.                      \
                      ]   ^.                     \
                      3  .  ">            .       Y  -Row
         ,.__.--._   _j   \ ~   .         ;       |
        (    ~"-._~"^._\   ^.    ^._      I     . l
         "-._ ___ ~"-,_7    .Z-._   7"   Y      ;  \        _
            /"   "~-(r r  _/_--._~-/    /      /,.--^-._   / Y
            "-._    '"~~~>-._~]>--^---./____,.^~        ^.^  !
                ~--._    '   Y---.                        \./
                     ~~--._  l_   )                        \
                           ~-._~~~---._,____..---           \
                               ~----"~       \

That thing is supposed to be a cat, and it is!  It is impressively drawn!  My copy and paste skills are not as good!  Brandon embedded a message in my bash shell asking why I'd submitted so many jobs.

See, Kieron and Steve's grant are up for renewal soon.  I have to produce something.  Further, the DMRG code right now automatically requests 8 threads in OpenMP.  This needs to be fixed, but I didn't want to fiddle with it for a bit for fear of never being able to run the program when I need it.  If I don't request 8 threads, then it will impede on someone else's job.  Further, I decided to go with the maximum amount of memory because A)  I'm using it anyway and B) it rates my jobs lower in the queue.  I really am a scourge of the cluster.  Yikes.

Another way to hide this large amount of jobs would be to break up the submission to the cluster in tiny, bite-size chunks of 40 or so.  Maybe I'll do that.

Sorry Brandon!

Monday, September 29, 2014

When Nothing Is Something

Dear Diary,

I decided not to come into the office this weekend.  It was awesome!

But it meant that I hadn't run any calculations that I was supposed to.  That was mostly because I couldn't figure out how to compile the program Miles had written.

So this morning I was informed by Steve and Miles that I should switch to a different branch.  Huzzah!  It all compiled!  Now things are running...

Just another example of how doing nothing can still be productive.  But now I have to be really productive.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Sad Truth of Getting Into the Group

Dear Diary,

Decisions on group members are done in the following way:  1)  A group member rotates with us 2)  gives a presentation on their former research and 3) receives a decision from Kieron about whether they are in the group after getting input from all of us.  We'll analyze this process below.

First, the big news.  Kieron called Dave into his office this morning and, after discussing his work, suggested that Dave start to look at other advisors.  So, he'll be investigating other possibilities for life.  He'll still finish the project he started, obviously, but won't start another.  Psych!  He's in the group!  And that fake account of what happened is exactly how Dave tricked me this morning.  Don't ever do that again, Dave!  Now I won't believe any bad news you ever tell me again!  The sky is falling?  Chicken little!  Cry wolf?  Go blow your horn!  Man made climate change is driven by excessive green house gases including carbon in the atmosphere?  Uh...well, ok I'll believe that one...

Let's take a moment to process the process of getting into the group.  One naturally wonders if our input matters.  Of course it doesn't!  We're not the professor!  At most we'll have to only put up with people in our offices for a year or two; Kieron gets a life sentence!  But let me chime in on the psychology of the process as I see it.  Without knowing exactly what you want, the thought process for me (and I suspect others) devolves into whether I'm a good fit in the group and whether the answer to that question can help meunderstand why I'm in the group.  Having published one paper as a secondary author and seeing now that Dave is about to put something out in his first two months and, well, it makes me wonder if I can possibly work up to Dave's impressive start.  And if its good enough.  I have no barometer for these things.  Since I have to make a personal website now and add him to email lists, I should have voted no.

But I voted for him.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

New Year, New Jobs

Dear Diary,

Today I took action.  The state of our union will be stronger, more efficient, and able to better our cause for a job change.

I will be relinquishing my secretarial duties during meetings to spend more time increasing my productivity for the group.  I have also passed on the cookie duties to Aurora.

David will take over the material acquisition position for the group since a new ordering system must be learned.  Aurora has done a wonderful job making sure our supplies are un-dwindled and now Dave must prove himself in the same way.  Ok, so he's not in the group, but he can handle it.  Previously I had only bought the same cookies each week which led to unenthusiastic cookie time.  This is the most important duty in the group.  I'm not kidding.  My cookies were a shame that persisted far too long that will be corrected with a new cookie procurement (though the cookies might still be the same each week--for the better!).  No one knows what happens when the perfect meeting meets the worst cookies (though I have bought some bad cookies); a paradox we will never meet with Aurora in charge!

With other duties, I did a disastrous job with the notes.  Rampant misquotes, incorrect facts, and too lengthy minutes.  In a closed trial, I was deemed incompetent by a judge, jury, and executioner of myself.  I have sentenced myself to a well-deserved exile to improve our union.  Justin will close these weaknesses in the notes and provide an accurate historical record for future Burkies.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fail Mail

Dear Diary,

Mail is never good.  I have trouble thinking of pieces of mail that I've actually enjoyed if I didn't expect them.  Most often it's mail asking for a fee to be paid (the dreaded 'fee-mail').  Today I got the worst mail of all:  my grade from the workshop in Montreal!

Should I bother opening it?  Maybe if I just never know then it can't hurt me.  Maybe it's written in French and I'll have no hope of deciphering however they write their grades and numbers.  That's the advantage of getting a paper copy in the digital era.  There's no paper trail left on some server somewhere!  Oh, but what if Kieron or Steve gets the grades...ok, may as well open it...

A B+?!  What?!!

A disgrace.  I've really left myself down this time.  I have only myself to blame.  It is good for credit (oui).  But how will I explain this to Kieron, Steve, and the hard working taxpayer??  I tried everyone, really.  I thought I did alright on the test.  I figured out that you can't contract arbitrary tensor networks (it's an open subject).  Ok, maybe I guessed on some of the steps in DMFT, but I thought my homework was good enough for a A-.*  Maybe I could get a pass if I had a paper out, but we're still stuck on the thing I started on a year and a half ago!

Well, I did have a chance to get away and vacation.  Further, I got to learn about a few things that have come in handy very soon.  And I was in the middle of a review of a paper which required a lengthy answer to an angry reviewer.  I'll blame them.  Fie on you nasty reviewer for making me answer your uninformed questions and reducing my grade another .4 points!


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Fellowship Win

Dear Diary,

I got the Fellowship!

Either my presentation was dramatically improved based on everyone's suggestions or something else.  But my application went through!

Thanks everyone!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How to Print

Dear Diary!

I just saw it!  More rare than a Yetti! More obscure than a Dennis Miller joke!  Less visible than the invisible man!

I just saw the printer's IP address!

Exactly everyone who has passed through this building has wondered what that number is so that they can print from their laptops!  And me being the (sometimes) lone office occupant must answer their questions about what it is with the obligatory, "I don't know."!

But I saw it as I turned it on to restart it from an error!  It flashed up there and now everyone may print!  Hard copies for everyone!  Will anyone believe me?!  Does it even work?!!

But this is totally worthless information in the end for me, personally. I went paperless a while ago...What irony have to have the office with a printer and endless print-iness but nothing to print.  Maybe that's why I'm trusted with it...

I suppose its better than the opposite where all I do all day is print and that's all that matters to me until the apocalypse occurs and I'm left weeping over a broken printer because, while I am the last soul on earth, I'm printerless.

Yay paperless!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Interview

Dear Diary,

I never know what to think of an interview.  I felt like it was an improvement over an abysmal practice session, but who knows?

Maybe I should have included more real world applications.  That might have been more the style that would have been appropriate.  We'll see what happens.  I had some answers, but I can always improve.

What I am sure about is that I look good in this finer wear.  I'm going to leave this on all day.  I went with the blue dress shirt, matching tie, and sunglasses with a jacket.  These sweet new shoes I picked up this weekend are stylish and amazing.  They will also permit me to dance at an upcoming wedding.

Ok, now to bottle up my enthusiasm (and fashion sense?) and sell it!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Riding along to a colloquium talk

Dear Diary,

Today I went back to my alma mater:  CSU Long Beach so that I could see Kieron give the weekly colloquium.  Kieron did a really good job!  I really am learning from an excellent speaker and master physicist!  Not only was I impressed, but so were the current students (none of whom I currently know).

I did get a chance to reconnect with my old advisor, Andreas, and sort through some things while Kieron visited others.  That's somehow still going on but winding down.

Kieron even mentioned me and my work (he needs more Dr. Who's!--Who doesn't?*).  But I wonder how much crowd pleasing that could have been.  Would we have been run out of town with pitchforks and knives if we hadn't glorified the Long Beach name?  Well, maybe not so violently, but Kieron did make fast friends with one Zoltan who was my favorite professor during my time there.  Ok, well, Zoltan prepared me for more than just physics.  He also taught me lessons about life (so it was literally the School of Hard Knocks!).

I'm glad they got along!

*-Joke.  Pun.  Haha.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Advancement Came to Me

Dear Diary,

I have been selected for an interview for that Fellowship I applied to!  Wowie!  I'm super pumped for the opportunity to talk about my research and career goals in front of a panel of real physicists!

...Hmm, that sounds a lot like the advancement to candidacy.  Why have I been putting it off, you ask?  Well, I wanted to get the initial project I was given  out of the way.  I am was so optimistic!

But now the advancement has come to me!  If I had played my cards right, I could maybe just do both at the same time!  Over the weekend, I'll have to prepare a presentation on things I've done, places I've been to, and interview questions both technical and simple!

But the sartorial choices are key!  I'll need to find some proper dress shoes and choose whether I wear the blue or the red dress shirt.  I just got new ties for both, so this is an excellent time to ponder endlessly about which one will be cooler to wear (it's supposed to be over 100 the next few days!).  Hmm...maybe the purple shirt...with the skinny black tie!  Eh...or the blue...or red...or plain white...

Oh, and I'll get a haircut!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Another Fellowship appears!

Dear Diary,

Kieron has brought another fellowship to my attention!  And I might even be the person they're looking for on this one!  Even better, I actually want to apply for this one--I want it!

What's this?  It's due tomorrow?!  Oh boy!

So I turned to the master of the fellowship:  John, former group member!  He provided some material on this particular fellowship and it was very helpful.  Now, I just need to scramble around and get four letters of recommendation, a few essays written, and modify my CV.  Then if I get through, I'll need to prepare for an interview.

[Editor's note:  It pays to hear about and start early.]

Friday, September 5, 2014

The business of America is business.

Dear Diary,

A quote I ran across about science from William Jennings Bryan (wow, he is the 1800s!) after the Monkey-Scopes trial:
Science is a magnificent force, but it is not a teacher of morals. It can perfect machinery, but it adds no moral restraints to protect society from the misuse of the machine. It can also build gigantic intellectual ships, but it constructs no moral rudders for the control of storm-tossed human vessel. It not only fails to supply the spiritual element needed but some of its unproven hypotheses rob the ship of its compass and thus endanger its cargo. In war, science has proven itself an evil genius; it has made war more terrible than it ever was before. Man used to be content to slaughter his fellowmen on a single plane, the earth's surface. Science has taught him to go down into the water and shoot up from below and to go up into the clouds and shoot down from above, thus making the battlefield three times as bloody as it was before; but science does not teach brotherly love. Science has made war so hellish that civilization was about to commit suicide; and now we are told that newly discovered instruments of destruction will make the cruelties of the late war seem trivial in comparison with the cruelties of wars that may come in the future.
Walker Percy seems to agree:

You live in a dangerous age, more deranged than usual, because in spite of great scientific and technological advances, man has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he is doing.
He also seems to think you can get all A's but still flunk at life.  Ok, back to physics!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Classic Element of Theoretical Work

Dear Diary,

Dave, my new office mate, is busy doing something.  He had an issue finding the number of particles from a density, so he asked me what could possibly be wrong.

I immediately leapt to the error that I always (and still sometimes do) make:  we work in one dimension, so integrating the density requires just integrating the density.  Then, all of a sudden, maybe Kieron asks a 3D question in the ABCs and you forget to put in the Jacobian (4*Pi*r^2).  But once you realize that, everything is solved!*

He then promised to take me to dinner, but I'm not sure if I earned it just yet...and now he's excited dancing--sort of mosh pit style.  You go, Dave.

*-Oh no...here comes a harder question about Thomas-Fermi theory and Lieb-Oxford bounds...

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

So much physics

Dear Diary,

Looking back over the past few weeks of posts, I've been accidentally ending everything with some sort of statement that I'm going to get to work or being productive.  And that is only half as useful as you'd think because I do get to work, but nothing seems to get done!  I'm going to give up declarations like that for the next few posts and see how bad the withdrawal symptoms are.

Yesterday, the project I've been working on for quite a while came to a head.  It was both Steve and Kieron in the same room getting on the same page.  When two professors talk physics, it's the students who are in the middle!  I decided to type as fast as my little fingers could go so I could reread their comments for later.  The script read something like:

Steve:  How are you?
Kieron:  Not too bad. You?
S: Fantastic.  I'm headed out of town.
K:  So am I.
Dr Who:  I haven't done anything.
K:  Have something for us when we get back.
S:  [Complicated physics that was above my head]
K:  [A brilliant response]
S:  [Another brilliant response]
Dr Who:  [I say something]
K:  Uh....so like I was saying...[more brilliance!]

I pasted that verbatim from my notes!*  But we finally figured out what's been plaguing everything and some possibilities to fix it.  I swear I had the final suggestion running around in my head, but I hadn't gotten an opportunity to say it.  It seems like it's important to be on the same page as your bosses so you A)  don't get off track and B) keep them in the loop.  Kieron really liked the figures I showed him; I'll do more of that.  Steve had some great test calculations for me to run that illuminated everything.  I will admit that I brought this whole thing up a bit ago and it took even me to realize the full implication and fix of what was going on over the last week and a half since I first mentioned it.  Now that Steve and Kieron have set me straight...err...hmm, I'll back away from that one.  Close call.

On to progra-...!  No!  Whew, that was close.

But all that's past us now.  I can---er...yikes.  It has been a long time since working on this project, but I honestly feel like I'm accomplishing my goals as far as learning the material;  I guess I can learn!  But I have little to show for it as far as papers.  So....uh....nevermind.

Ok, it's ti-....No, I won't do it!  I won't make a declaration about heading back to work or progressing!  Oh, shoot, there it was...

[*Editor's note:  That is not actually what was said at the meeting.]