Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Because everyone else is doing it, that's why.

Couldn't resist changing the format of the blog a bit. Not sold on the color combination, but I like the fact that it is much wider now. New office, new look to the blog. What can I say? If DamnGoodTechnician and drdrA can do it, why can't I? The only thing I can't seem to do is change the header text color independently of the body text, but I'll live with it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What do you do when...

What do you do when you find out that someone whom you have known and trusted for a long time is blatantly lying to you?

What do you do when it's unclear whether they are doing it maliciously or are completely out of touch with the reality around them?

What do you do when the person's inability to accept responsibility for their actions threatens to destroy your relationship with them, which to this point has been quite good?

What do you do when the situation is affecting your ability to meet deadlines and perform the way that you need to in order to accomplish your job?

What do you do when the person is your Dad?

I realize that this post is a bit off-topic and borders on too much information. However, what I have been painfully learning the past few weeks is something that should be obvious, but that which I had previously ignored. This job does not happen in a vacuum. There are always personal factors that can crop up at any point and without warning. Two weeks ago I had no idea that there are significant problems at the heart of my parents' relationship and now I can barely recognize the charred remains of that perception. The significance of this to me is obvious, but what you should take away from it is the second-to-last point above. Like most new faculty, I have been operating with zero "head-space", meaning that with all of my responsibilities both at work and at home I have effectively stretched myself to the max in order to move everything along at a pace that I am happy with while ensuring that the Wee One still knows what I look like in real life and not just pictures. We can argue the merits of this approach or whether there is another way for junior faculty to live, but the unfortunately reality is that when you are spread so thin it doesn't take much to blow everything up. Once the current situation stabilizes a bit, I plan to be a bit more selfish with my time at work and say "no" to a few things in order to create a little space to mitigate the damage the next time Godzilla strikes. If you can avoid learning this lesson the hard way, then maybe you won't have to pop Tums like a pregnant lady.

Monday, February 23, 2009

dolphin callers

I have worked hard this semester to fill our seminar series with good talks. Nevertheless, I have had a few talks pushed down my throat. The one this week was just such a talk. It was given by an alum of the program who has recently finished a PhD at a prestigious institution. Alum originally contacted several members of the department looking for a post-doc, but has since found employment at a private company. Our chair suggested that we should still have Alum in for a talk and I tried hard to accommodate this by giving Alum an early pick of the potential dates. However, Alum took forever to get back to me and ended up with one of the two dates I had remaining on the schedule. The "I will email you when I damn well please" attitude ended up being the norm with Alum including a three week wait for a title. Despite initiating a discussion over a month ago about whether Alum wanted to meet with faculty on their visit, it wasn't until Wednesday night that I received a list of 7 (!!!) faculty members that Alum wanted to spend half an hour with (each). Well, for Fuck's sake, let me just drop everything and coordinate that in a couple of days, I'll get right back to you. Surprise surprise, 6 of 7 people were busy because most of us plan things more than a couple days in advance, but apparently, that's not how alum rolls.

Alright, so I set up a what I could and it worked out alright. But the talk turned out to be totally worth the pain. Not the subject of the talk, I have no idea what alum said, but how it was presented. The whole things was a roller coaster ride, where the valleys were normal talking at a regular pitch and the peaks were a squeaky and tense quiet-shriek delivered through a face locked in a expression somewhere between the crying family at the end of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and the kids who have their dreams crushed on "American Idol". There were only about half a dozen of these "episodes", but I was riveted to the build-up of each one and trying to predict where the pinnacle would be reached. It was quite the performance and was even punctuated with a substantial burp at one point, which was particularly delightful. This is not to say that the talk was horrible, but it was fairly close to a 1.0 on the PISSOFF scale, I would say, but probably because the whole visit was a pissoff for me. Maybe I'm just sensitive to time-suckers right now, but most speakers don't come in expecting the world on a plate.

PLS turns 100

I recently realized that this is my 100th post on this blog. I had thought about a bunch of different things to do as a little celebration of a tiny milestone, but with all of the things going on right now I just haven't had the time to put anything different together. Nevertheless, I didn't want it to go by unmentioned. So, thanks to everyone who has stopped by to read (~4,100 visits as of today), I hope that you at least find a mix of entertainment and some insight into the early days of taking up a TT position in teh academia. I know that blogging about my experiences has helped me, both in the cathartic sense that allows me to keep from smiting colleagues on occasion, and in the sense that I have gotten a lot of helpful advice from readers who have already passed through these halls.

It seems fitting that I am posting the 100th post from my new office, having almost entirely moved in over the weekend while listening to The Weakerthans. BTW, if you have had some time to listen to The Weakerthans and you're not a fan, I don't think we can be friends. Just so we're clear on that now. I'll be posting about the move and the new locale in the future, but the change has been remarkable from both an aesthetic and productivity stand-point. I have even furnished the new joint with some office pets. I finally feel like I have a real office, and not just a basement room, and I can't be happier.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wrong week to stop sniffing glue

Three days ago I was told that we would be moving to the new building next Friday, the 27th. For a variety of reasons, that day is now not very good for me so I contacted The Guy and asked if it could be moved a little bit one way or the other. Now sooner had I hit send when I get a phone call from The Guy who asked, how about tomorrow. "Um, like this tomorrow?" was my response, as if there was the possibility that he meant another tomorrow, defined in a separate dictionary from the one we generally use for the English language. He paused and said, yeah, like tomorrow. So, at 11:30 AM our lab found out that the people responsible for moving the chemicals were coming in an hour and a half to move our stuff to the new building and that movers will be here at 7:30 tomorrow to move anything we have packed and ready. Since we are actively working we had packed almost nothing, but the advantage to being a new lab is that we are light on our feet (not in our loafers) and spry because we are not encumbered by 22 years of shit built into every crevice. TWO HOURS is all it took to undo all of the setting up I have done for the last 5 months. The whole lab is all boxed up, save for a few items that will not box well and some that I am moving personally. The next step is to clean my office, which will probably take longer than boxing the lab. It will be great to move over to the new building, but I will be the only one on the floor for at least a week, aside from my students, and there will surely be some issues associated with being the guinea pig. Little things like not having a photocopier in the building for the next couple of weeks are probably going to drive me crazy, but it's temporary. I'm hoping we can set up and be working again early next week. What are the chances? At least it gave me a great excuse to cancel class for tomorrow since I am completely unprepared to teach this week thanks to Godzilla. This is one of the better distractions I can think of right now.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Can I get a gong?

Odyssey has posted a formula for determining when a speaker should be placed on the "Never invite again. Ever" list and I agree with all of the points listed for the PISSOFF metric posted there. I suggested switching to a seminar format that resembled The Gong Show and I think there is some real merit here. Just like the show, three judges could be assigned to man the gong and if it turned out that the speaker was horrible, why listen to a full 50 minutes (or longer, ugh) of garbage when you could have the satisfaction of gonging someone and going off to do all of the things you need to? It would also function as feedback to the presenter that they need to work on their presentation skills. It's a win win. Of course, the more I started thinking about this, the more applications to other parts of this job became apparent.

Faculty meetings immediately jump to mind: long tangent that is wasting everyone's time. Gong! An unprepared committee member decides to read the minutes from the committee's last meeting rather than summarizing the key points. Gong!

Unproductive committees.

Thesis defenses / proposal defenses.

Undergrads relating a long story as an excuse for missing class/assignment/exam.

Colleague hovering around to criticize your teaching or research for no reason (The official term for this would have to be the PiT Gong).

Deadwood lab putting in a request for yet another departmental TAship (a whole post for another time).

I'm sure I will come up with more and that you have suggestions, but this could revolutionize my life. Maybe after I have tenure.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Poor public perception of grad students?

I came across the following video when a friend sent me the link.


I thought it was pretty funny, but it got me thinking about the public perception of grad students and what they do. I realized that I can't think of many cases where grad students come across in a good light in the mass media. In movies, for instance, grad students either come off as malcontented jerks (e.g. Road Trip), obsequious (too many to name) or even murderers (88 minutes. FYI Pacino, you owe me 90 minutes of my life back you mailin-it-in MoFo). Even in movies that center around academic quirkiness, (Weird Science, Real Genius) grad students are portrayed as unsocial shut-ins or maladjusted individuals at the very least.

So, I wonder what the public perseption of grad students really is. What would someone on the street say if you asked them what they thought of when someone utters the phrase "graduate student". While college students are celebrated in hundreds of movies it seems as though grad students are seen as the extension of the high school AV club. So, WTF? Am I missing positive references to grad students? Are there any?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Saved by Science

If you have 8 minutes to spare, check out this very cool slide show about what lurks behind the scenes at museums. It's not just crazy collections managers. Carl Zimmer also wrote a piece in Seed about the photos.

Movement from the bowels

I couldn't rightfully call it a bowel movement, because we are leaving the bowels behind. It's semi-official, we are moving this week! The chemical safety lady was here to tell me this morning that my chemicals are being moved Thursday and even though I have not heard anything official from anyone else, they have been saying all along that they did not want us to be half moved at any point, so I assume that the rest of our lab is going at the same time. I guess that will put a few things on hold in the lab, including just about everything I am working on for this upcoming grant. I could probably have assumed that was going to happen, as soon as we got all of the reagents and materials. Nothing like being told to wait for 6 weeks, then being given 3 days notice. Whatever, it will all be better soon... it will all be better soon... it will all be better soon... it will all be better soon...

Update: WTF?
I just strolled over to check out the new digs and see what kind of progress they had made in the last couple of days, because the last time I was in there it was NOT ready to move into. Looks like they have made ZERO progress. My office looks great and all, but something about having a 10 foot high, two foot wide floor to ceiling window between my office and the hallway WITH NO FUCKING GLASS IN IT makes me aprehensive about moving my shit. If they had a bunch of workers in there fixing these minor problems I might have some faith that it's all going to get done, but the building is deserted. In the labs, they still have not dealt with the minor oversight of completely forgetting to plumb in DI water (you mean the faucet doesn't produce molecular biology grade water?) and none of the doors can lock yet. This will be fixed by Thursday?

Thursday, February 12, 2009


I got an email THIS MORNING that read as follows:

Today is the one significant opportunity for you to provide input to the Presidential Search process prior to selection of candidates by the committee. If new President is going to be someone who fully appreciates the Mission of Employment University, as a national research university, this is an important time to participate – and to also look ahead to the coming interviews, which are likely to be in April.

Hey, thanks for the fucking warning, let me drop everything I'm doing and come join the party. I really appreciate that they took the time to highlight that this is the ONE opportunity we have to weigh in here. Could you possibly go out of your way to make it more clear that you don't give a wet fuck about what we have to say? At least they didn't stress the fact that there would be pizza to get us there.

Happy Birthday Big Guy!

I don't have time today to do this justice, but I would certainly be remiss by not celebrating Darwin's birthday today.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hey little guys!

PLS - Hey tubes, you guys look like you're all ready to go, why are you still here.

Tubes - Well, remember that machine you had trouble with a few weeks ago?

PLS - Yeah, they told me that was all fixed and the problems were in my imagination.

Tubes - I guess not, despite the passive aggressive note scrawled in black over you log entry that read "Machine if fine for use". When we went across campus to deal with the ass-wipe sous chef tech, he couldn't even get the machine to turn on.

PLS - Really? Even though I called twice this week to make sure everything was set.

Tubes - Yup. And the machine is now going to be down for 2 to 3 weeks, which means that you won't get us spun before you upcoming grant deadline.

PLS - Hey, that's great! I'm sure the reviewers will understand.

Tubes - p.s. Sous chef tech blamed the problems with the machine on your previous long run that never ran more than an hour out of the 48 that you had it set for. And thanks for figuring out this sweet rack.

PLS - Dude!

Tubes - Fuck.

PLS - Sigh.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


The next time someone random requests a sample that took me a serious amount of time, energy and frustration to procure, as though the stuff grows on trees, maybe I will try this strategy.

ps. I love xkcd.

One more metric

Any bench technique that required X amount of time and Y resources in Postdoc Lab requires 4X time and 2Y resources in New Lab. Both factors decreases proportionally to the number of times the technique is performed.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Reviewing Foreign Manuscripts

I recently got a manuscript to review from a specialty journal I occasionally publish in. It came at a time that I was very busy and I only briefly looked over the abstract before accepting it. I've had a lull of reviewing that has lasted about 2 months, so I figured it was time to put in my dues and the paper sounded interesting. I wish I had read the abstract more carefully because the text is a train-wreck and I probably would have been able to tell that was going to be the case if I had not been rushing. In this particular case, the data suck almost as much as the grammar and I don't have any problem tanking it. However, grammatically putrid papers that have a story to tell always leave me conflicted.

On the one hand I can only imagine how difficult it is to write coherent science in another language. It's tough enough for natively English speaking scientists to write science well and I'm pretty sure my career would be over if I suddenly had to write everything in Japanese for my science to get noticed. I give scientists from other countries, especially ones where the system of writing is fundamentally different from ours, a lot of credit for even turning out something that is readable, let alone coherent. As a grad student and even early in my post-doc years I often spent hours correcting all of the grammatical issues in these papers, with some reviews reaching in excess of ten pages. If the science was good and the only thing holding the paper back was the communication of the results, I felt like I could be a major help to foreign scientists by spending the time to make comments to improve the way the paper reads.

These days I just don't have that kind of time to devote to being a high school grammar teacher. I will happily critique the science of any paper I am working on, but my patience for dealing with the communication side of things has dwindled dramatically. I have sent several papers back in the last year or so with the critique "this paper can not move forward until it is heavily edited, preferably by a native English speaker". I realize that this is a significant hurdle for foreign authors, but I have never really felt that it is the reviewer's duty to correct grammar and if the shoe were on the other foot, I would ensure that my work in another language had been proofed by someone who speaks the language I am writing in. I have done this for colleagues in the past and will if asked again in the future. But I see that as very different than my editing responsibility as a reviewer.

I'm curious how others deal with the good science but incoherently written papers that come from foreign authors (realizing that the same can happen from English speaking authors, which is a different problem). I'm sure there is a range of reactions.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The ah-ha! moment

I've been a bit distracted lately with everything going on at work and outside of that, which made a moment last week that much more special. We've been working on producing preliminary data for a project that should be a slam dunk. Getting those data should have been easy - all of the techniques are ones I have used with success in other systems before. Despite the project being straightforward on paper, the reality is that the organisms just won't cooperate. There are several complicating factors, but in the end the data are just not coming and for reasons that are not readily apparent.

There is still some time before we submit the grant, but we needed a work-around to show that we know what the hell we are doing. I was talking about the project with the grad student working on it when I suddenly realized how we could use different data to show what we wanted to, while simultaneously showing competence in a technique that we will need to use if the grant gets funded. That thought, combined with the fact that I had (for once) thought ahead and previously bought the reagents to do the new technique on the off chance that we needed to, and it was one of those moments that make me love this job. I won't know for a couple of days whether this will be the answer, but it sure as shit is better than beating our heads against a wall with our previous approach. I think this project is going to put me on the map as an independent investigator, so if this works...

Mincing Words

Got tagged with the music meme over at Damn Good Technician, so here's what I came up with. Odd how many titles could fit the question.

a) Put your MP3 player, iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc. on shuffle
b) For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
d) Tag at least 5 people
e) Everyone tagged has to do the same thing
f) Have Fun!

"Back to Black" Amy Winehouse

Now that's a bit depressing.

"injury" Rancid

Okay, that might be worse.

"Twisted Logic" Cold Play

Probably true.

"Not About Love" Fiona Apple

"Chork" Line Three

I don't even know what that means.

"Got to Stay" The Pietasters

In this economic climate, that sounds about right.

"Terrible Storm" Tegan & Sara

Probably some do.

"Uncorrect Proofs" The Weakerthans

"Ball and Biscuit" The White Stripes

Doesn't every guy?

10. WHAT IS 2 + 2?
"Doorsteps" Forest City Lovers

"Fantome Dinosaure" Hot Springs

I guess if I had an imaginary friend, that would be a kick-ass one.

"In the Dark" Certain Breeds

Maybe my research life...

"A Few Good Men" Dropkick Murphys

I would settle for being one.

"Ask Me To Stay" United Steel Workers of Montreal

"Silence" Kate Earl

"Rockabye" Ani DiFranco

"Cruel Mistress" Flogging Molly

"True Patriot Love" Joel Plaskett Emergency

This actually does scare me in the sense that some people take "Patriotism" in the US.

"Severed Hand" Pearl Jam

I would think that this would be difficult to keep a secret for long.

"The Crane Wife 3" The Decemberists

"Don't Lose Touch" Against Me!

"Mincing Words" NQ Arbuckle

Friday, February 6, 2009

Bad Prof!

See, this is why I shouldn't be allowed to be in charge of people. Yesterday I was not getting shit done. It just wasn't happening and was not making any progress with my lecture for today. Between my lack of motivation, a bunch of distractions and being asked to do stupid things, frustration was running high in my office. Oddly enough, my two students had also hit the wall in the tasks that they were working on. Rather than get us all back on track and productive again, I asked "who needs a 3:30 beer?"

Needless to say the lab cleared out in mere seconds and we all headed out to a pub. It was a good lab bonding experience, but it also meant that I was underprepared for class today and that one of my students missed a late-day class yesterday. Not the end of the world, but perhaps I shouldn't drag all the people around me down when I go.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What I was supposed to know.

The combination of needing a distraction from non-academic things and procrastinating finishing *cough* starting *cough* my lecture for tomorrow's class means that I seem to be drifting back to the blog more today than most days. One of the posts I've been meaning to put up is a list of things that I have realized recently that I was supposed to know, without being told. So, for those of you who will be starting new jobs next year (assuming that anyone is actually hiring), here are some of the things no one told me.

1) You can't just book travel yourself here. No, you need to get it approved ahead of time, then make all the arrangements before calling the one travel agency we are allowed to use and telling them all of the arrangements you have already made so that they can basically hit the button for you. For this "service" they charge you $30. If you book anything yourself, you are paying for it out of pocket. Not knowing this nearly cost me $1200.

2) We have an arbitrary departmental deadline for grad student applications for the fall if we are hoping to support these students on a TAship. The deadline is in January.... for a September start. I was told about this 3 days after the deadline.

3) If you agree to running the departmental seminar series you need to enter grades for all of the students "enrolled" in this course, even though they get no credit for the class. You need to do this even if someone else is listed as the "instructor" so that you can not access the class through typical online means. If you fail to know how or when to do this, you will be asked to fill out a separate "change of grade" form for all 47 registered students. By hand.

4) If you want someone from outside the university to be on the committee of one of your grad students, they need to be added to the department as an adjunct. However, they can not then be the member of the committee who fills the "outside the department" slot. No. As adjuncts, they are part of the department and therefore take a "within the department" slot, even though the teach at another institution and are only adjuncts to be on your student's committee. Makes sense, right?

5) If you ever order anything from a company that no one at your university has ever ordered anything from, do it WELL in advance of needing whatever you are ordering.

6) New classes take FOREVER to get approved, so get that party started right away if you plan on teaching something that is not already established in the department. Otherwise you could find yourself teaching a section of Intro Class in your third semester.... hypothetically, of course. Fuck.

I'm sure there are others, but these stick out the most right now. Good luck.

Screw you Hasselhoff

One of the entertaining things about having a blog is seeing where the people who visit are from. As one might expect, the majority of people who visit this small corner of the internet are from North America. Many of the hits from outside of this continent are one-offs, who probably got here by mistake, but the UK, Australia and France always show up on a regular basis. What has been really surprising to me is the European country that is most reader-represented. None other than... Finland! So, David Hasselhoff might be huge in Germany, but I'm huge in Finland!
Why? I have no idea.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

An Interview with PLS

Alright, new meme that was passed on by Ambivalent Academic. Her questions are below in bold, followed by my answers. Here are the rules:

1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me" AND leave your email address (or blog link) in the comment! I will interview the first three commenters to ask for it.
2. I will respond by emailing you (or commenting on your blog with) five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions. (If you don't have a blog, I can post your answers here).
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

1 - You've alluded to the fact that you work with a non-standard model organism -- if it's not going to give the game away, why that particular organism? What can you do with it that is not possible in other organisms?

Hmmmm, this is going to be tough to explain without talking about the organisms. We work on two groups of organisms in my lab, both of which would be considered things that are off the beaten path of science. In the work that I do I am interested in fundamental processes that have broad importance, but investigate these question using non-model organisms because they give us the best chance to address the question, even if there are fewer tools to use. For instance, one group we work on is interesting because of a particular trait that has evolved many times in the lineage. I am interested in understanding what happens to the organism when this trait evolves, because it pops up in all sorts of different organisms and the process by which it comes about is unknown. The reason why we are using this particular group to examine the trait is because the species that possess it are closely related to those that don't, making comparisons easier. Model organisms have mostly been chosen because of either their significance to humans or because they are amenable to work with, but rarely because the organisms have something particularly odd about them that makes them exciting. I like to work the other way around, finding the odd balls that can answer question, then dealing with how to get the data I need.

2 - When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up (besides a scientist)?

Anything that involved the ocean. I wanted to be a any part of filming all of the nature shows I watched on a constant basis. If it involved spending time underwater, I was interested. I guess it's a good thing I never signed up to be a submarine pilot for the Navy, or something.

3 - What would you want to do/be NOW, if science wasn't an option?

That's easy. While I would love to be a chef, I think the hours would not fit well with the amount of time I like to spend with my family. My mother was a chef, which left my dad cooking dinner for several years from Tuesday to Saturday. It's no coincidence that we refer to those years as the "Atkins before it's time" years. My dad can grill... and only grill.
Since being a chef is out, I would instead indulge my love of brewing beer and work towards becoming a brewmaster at a small brewery. My wife and I have often talked about moving somewhere tropical and opening a brewpub. This mostly comes up on cold snowy days. I would have 5 standard beers (A kick-ass IPA as the headliner, an oatmeal stout, a red, some variation of a wheat beer and a pale ale for the jerks who came in to a brewery and asked for a Bud) and a rotating seasonal as a sixth. I would also carry a decent selection of bottles, but none of the typical domestic swill and nothing with the words "light", "ultra" or any variation on that theme.

4 - What's the weirdest/most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you as a grad student or post-doc?

I can't think of anything off hand, probably because it's been a long week already. I can tell you something embarrassing that happened to today, though. Hot off the press.
I recently ordered a rack for some special tubes that we use on a semi-regular basis. It's a simple rack with two levels, each with a a bunch of holes in it, so that the tube can go through one level and be supported by the next. When it came I put one of the tubes in and it would not go through the "top" hole. It took about three weeks to get the rack, so a series of profanities followed this discovery. The rep from the company was in today and I brought up the problem with the rack, which his company specifically sells for the tubes I use. As I was showing him how the tubes did not fit, I had an epiphany! When I turned the rack over the tube slide easily through the top hole and sat in the smaller, lower hole. Most lab equipment is not designed to work up-side-down, and the rack was no exception. At least I never sent it back, I guess, but now one more person in the world thinks I'm a dumbass. Sweet.

5 - What do you imagine your child(ren) will grow up to be?

Thinkers and innovators. I don't care what they (only one now, but perhaps more in the not so distant future) decide to do, as long as it is something where they are able to use their minds to accomplish their work and are not stuck doing some repetitive task while checking the clock to see how much longer they have until they can leave. I grew up to do something completely different than anyone in my family and I wouldn't be upset if my child(ren) do the same.

Thanks for the questions AA!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What gets cut?

It's no secret that this is a demanding job and that 40 hours a week just isn't enough to get it done well. Maybe some weeks, but not most. Many of us balance our time at work with trying to raise a family, which takes constant coordination with an understanding partner, who often (but not always) bears more of the parenting load. At work we do our best to balance teaching, our labs, service and all the external work (reviews, letters, etc) that continually comes up. While the work load fluctuates over time, it is rare that there is not something on the front burner with a couple of others on various back burners. The "down time" is when I have enough time in the day to chat with my students and see how they are doing, write on the blog, and *gasp* think a bit about the direction our research is going and ways we can improve our approach.

So, what happens when something important pops up in your life without warning that can't be ignored and becomes a Godzilla in the Tokyo of your life? Where does the time come from to deal with unexpected turn of events and what work gets sacrificed on the alter of your personal life? I don't know yet, but over the weekend my Tokyo residents were sent fleeing for their lives. While everything is fine with my wife and daughter, I have nevertheless been pulled into a family situation that is a bit of a mess and is going to get worse before it gets better. I will probably continue semi-regular posts because this is something I really enjoy, but there's a good chance there will be some significant gaps in the coming weeks. I will be around, but a bit less than I have been as I naviagte my new time landscape.