nlbarber: (Fish-Fred)
I got a credit in National Geographic! Sort of funny how much of a thrill that is, or maybe not given how iconic that magazine has been for all of my lifetime. It's not a big credit line--in the print version, the text is <1 mm tall. But still!

I gave them the water-use data for the "Tapping the West" illustration, and along with others on the USGS water-use leadership team, reviewed the resulting graphic. We did tell them to put the capital of Nevada in there...
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The plan: Take 7:15 AM flight to Washington National, catch the Metro to Federal Triangle station, and meet up with Eric, a co-worker (well, he's in charge of a large program that I work on one piece of). The two of us would meet with a guy at EPA, then we'd catch some lunch, Eric would depart for New Jersey, and I'd retrace my steps and catch a 4:17 PM flight back to Atlanta, to arrive just after 6. Long day, but not extremely so.

The actuality: Morning flight and Metro trip went as planned, though if I'd only thought to check my work email via the iPad I could have caught Eric's message that he was ahead of me at the Metro station and waiting at Quizno's. Instead I hung around the upper plaza for 20 minutes while he sat in (air-conditioned) Quizno's, until the 10 AM rendevouz time when he came up and found me. 'S OK. We sat in the EPA lobby and planned our meeting strategy before meeting with the EPA at 11.

Meeting with EPA guys (ended up being 2 people on their side) went fairly well--we didn't get everything we'd really liked to have had (discussion was on sharing 'sensitive' data, and what we can do with it and how we have to protect it after they give it to us), and was over at noon when EPA Guy #1 had to go. Eric and I found a sandwich shop, grabbed one of the last 2 inside tables (A/C! It's July in Washington...) and discussed the meeting over lunch. Then it was back to the Metro, and Eric split off to go to the train station while I went to DCA.

It was shy of 2 PM even after I made the very long hike from where the Metro bridge comes in to the Airtran counter. (I turned the wrong way in the Metro station to make it the longest possible hike--last time I took the Metro to DCA I was flying out on the Delta shuttle, and Delta is right where the Metro comes in. AirTran is in the hinterland.) So, check the board, see an earlier flight (2:53, to arrive at 4:46), ask if my gov't fare ticket will change without a fee (yes), and even got an aisle seat. Excellent!

Better yet, when I complete the hinterland hike through Terminal C security and out to the actual gate, the plane is boarding and I can walk on. We push back on time and....go sit on the tarmac because a thunderstorm is in the area. Optimistic predictions relayed by the pilot are no good, and we sit on the plane while the rain pounds, the wind shakes the plane, and the thunder rolls overhead. Then the rain decreases a little, but the storm has moved south and no southbound traffic is being allowed to take off.

After an hour and a half or so (make it 4:30, or past the time for my original flight to depart) we go back to the gate for a potty break and maybe some refueling, then we quickly reload when it looks like we can take off. Push back, and....go sit on the tarmac while Traffic Control continues to study the line of thunderstorms. The potty break did let me strike up a conversation with someone in the gate area who informed me I was still better off on this flight than on my original, as it had mechanical problems in Atlanta and the plane still wasn't in Washington at that point.

We eventually took off at 5:35, and landed in Atlanta at 7:15. 12 hour gate-to-gate trip, just about on the dot.

Oh, and my original flight? Still hasn't landed in Atlanta--the status page says it left DCA at 8:20 and is due here at 10:20 PM. Guess I'm glad I caught the earlier plane despite the storms...
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Web pages timed out all over the place, any page you could get to was draggingly slow, and mostly it was better to just give up and look for your information elsewhere....but these days, so much is only on the Web. Even our internal stuff, like meeting notes.

The problem? KÄ«lauea is erupting. Unlike the earthquakes site which is hosted on an external network of servers that can handle huge spikes in load like when So. California gets a noticeable shake and everyone with a computer (which would be most of the population) goes online to see how hard it was, the volcano pages are generally on our regular servers. Until they got those pages moved to a separate server this afternoon, it was pretty hard to get much done.

Those of us in Water just don't see the traffic that a spectacular volcano generates...even the load for a big flood pales in comparison.
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Three States (geographical States, let's not count the sometimes states of confusion, enlightenment, etc.) today: Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia. Not many if you're trying to cover territory, but pretty good for a work day.

The excursion started yesterday, when I went to the office and collected a vehicle and drove to Chattanooga, TN, about 2 hours from Atlanta. visiting TVA, Chattanooga, and a thermoelectric power plant, all behind the cut )
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I meant to blog something on the San Diego trip (week before last) before heading out again, but it didn't happen. Maybe those notes will get written up sometime, just as a personal memory entry.

Anyway, this week I'm in Albuquerque for a meeting Tuesday-Thursday, the annual get-together for the user group for the USGS groundwater database. San Diego was the meeting for the water-use user group--I'm crazy enough to try to sit on both groups. I'd first thought to come to ABQ on Saturday and have a couple of days for sightseeing, but the amount of travel I've got right now made that less attractive and I changed my flight reservation.

I flew in last night around dinner time, and met up with others from the user group at the airport (after returning my personal rental car) this afternoon at 3. Not much time in the middle, but it was lovely. With very little lead time I emailed [ profile] idiotgrrl to see if she might be available for a MiniLoisCon of sorts, or failing that, just offer some recommendations for half-day sightseeing that wouldn't stress my bum ankle. Indeed, she was available, and in the end chauffeured me around all morning.

We started out with breakfast (huevos rancheros) at the Frontier Restaurant, right across from one of the main entrances to UNM. We made a quick swing by [ profile] idiotgrrl's house for me to meet the cats, but only Spot and Shadow were At Home--I'd so wanted to meet Dufus Claudius, too. However, both Pat and I were amazed that Shadow let me actually enter the doorway of the room he was in before deciding to leave by the cat window.

We then headed off to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, which turned out to be a nice little museum with two primary exhibits--one on life through geologic time with emphasis on New Mexico's geologic history (and lots of dinosaurs), and a smaller exhibit on space exploration, again making the NM connections. They had a really great exhibit/art piece/don't know what to call it in the main lobby, a backlit piece that was a desert scene. What made it unique was the collection of polarized filters in a little holder for you to grab, then view the piece through a filter while rotating it. The scene went through several shifts as the light changed: the mountain lion in the foreground appeared, then showed in fossil form. An eagle flying over with a rattlesnake in its talons appeared and disappeared. Just a really neat idea, well executed.

We didn't do the planetarium show or the nearby exploratorium, but wandered through the gift shop and then sat and chatted in the little snack bar. It was nice that the museum let us both in for free on my Fernbank Museum membership card, too. After that, Pat ran me back to my hotel by the scenic route, giving me a little more orientation to Albuquerque on the way.

After saying goodbye to Pat, I made a quick grocery store run before returning my car, then met up with 2 of the other user group members at the airport to get a ride back to the hotel. Another 3 members appeared while we chatted in the hotel lobby, and the group decided (surprise!) on Mexican/New Mexican cuisine for dinner, at Monroe's. I had a bowl of Cream of Green Chile Chicken soup with a house-made flour tortilla--good, though the flour tortilla at the Frontier had Monroe's beat by a mile.

Meeting starts tomorrow, so any additional sight-seeing will have to be in the evening after work...
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In the usual fashion, I don't have time to make this shorter. An unfocused and un-edited ramble follows...

Washington meetings, Moultrie furniture moving )

After that, it was a pretty relaxing day. The folks next door called from Cancun to wish me a happy birthday, and the kids bemoaned the weather Tropical Storm Alex was causing. I took a short nap, went to Home Depot for some garden stuff and to the grocery store, baked cake-of-the-week (not one I'd choose for my birthday cake), grilled a steak for dinner, and went to Brusters for a kids' hot fudge sundae for my real birthday treat.

Now, what I really need is a weekend. How come tomorrow's Monday?

Prep day

Jun. 23rd, 2010 08:25 pm
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Today was not very productive, as most of the afternoon was spent wrestling with two different printers trying to produce sufficient copies of various handouts for tomorrow's three meetings. We didn't get all that we intended, but hopefully we have enough. We went straight from the office to dinner (at Amphora, a Greek diner), then to our hotels.

6:30--meet in lobby where Eric, who heads up this overall project, will pick us up. (He's at a different hotel.) Go to USGS HQ and grab breakfast in the cafeteria.

7:30 Catch the Interior shuttle downtown to the main Interior Bldg. Drop our suitcases and laptops with someone who will watch them for the day--apparently you don't want to try to carry electronics into the Department of Energy bldg at least, as it greatly complicates an already arduous security process. Catch a taxi to an EPA bldg.

9:00 meeting at EPA--4 of us from USGS, 5 or so from EPA. We're just planning to introduce who we are and what work we're doing on thermoelectric power plant water use. The EPA contact would like a more substantive discussion. Susan thinks we can limit this meeting to 30 minutes. I...doubt this. OTOH we probably need to be out of be building by 9:45 to make the next meeting.

Catch a taxi to the Forrestal Bldg.

10:30 Meeting with a policy group at Dept of Energy coming late to the thermo water use party, who we made contact with when they sent an email requesting some data. We put them in contact with the other DOE group we're working with, but this will be another 'who are we and what are we doing' meeting. After this meeting, find the DOE cafeteria and eat lunch.

1:00 Purpose of trip--meeting with a group of mostly DOE EIA (Energy Information Agency) people. The agenda has 4 items on it, we expect to get through 2 of them. Need to leave in time to catch a taxi back to Main Interior for Eric to catch the last shuttle to USGS at 4:30. He'll pick up his car and drive home to New Jersey.

ca. 4:30 Susan, Tim, and I walk 5-6 blocks to a Metro station ( unless there's an afternoon thunderstorm in progress, in which case a taxi will be employed). Susan goes to Union Station to take a train to Baltimore for a weekend with her sister before flying home to Memphis, Tim and I go to National Airport to fly to Nashville and Atlanta, respectively. My flight's at 8--if we are way early, I'll try to get on the 6 pm. Or the 7 pm. It's a shuttle flight leaving on the hour, but the 6-7-8 pm flights look pretty full.

Posted via Journaler.

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I made it to Denver yesterday with the MacBook Pro, which is operational if not fully well. Friday (recall that I don't work on Fridays....) I was in the office until 8:30 pm, mostly spent wrestling with the computer.

The saga: after the overnight effort, I had a disk image of the hard disk with the problem...and with all my data and applications. I did a system re-install but that didn't fix the problem--the startup process hung before getting to the login screen. I'd had consultations and hand-holding via IM with [ profile] kd5mdk (thanks again!), but he was away at this point. I called the Apple enterprise support folks again and was told that the next thing to try was to erase the hard disk, then install a clean system. After that I could move stuff (i thought this guy told me both data and applications) from the disk image, and see what I had.

So, I erased the disk and installed a new system, then contemplated my situation. It was mid-afternoon, I had to leave for Denver Saturday, and I really needed the computer with some fairly complicated software pieces, not all of which I had to hand for new installations. I decided I really wanted to try to use Migration Assistant to move substantial parts of my old account over, and I made one more call to Apple and got a different support guy who felt I could only move documents from the damaged disk image--MA would be right out. [ profile] kd5mdk (consulted for a third opinion) agreed that was the best procedure, but that if I wanted to try using Migration Assistant it *might* work, or I might go a step too far and have to repeat the disk erase and re-install.

I took a deep breath and did it--used MA to move Documents and Applications from my old account, and crossed my fingers as I re-started the computer. And it booted! Rather slowly, and shut downs are slow, so I desperately need to do a new set up properly when I'm home--clean install again, then do the software installs one at a time and discard the accumulated detritus from years of using the Powerbook G4. I still had to work on the VPN installation, and had to re-install AFS from scratch, but the rest of my critical applications are running.

I must mention the yeoman job the iPad did as my chat platform with [ profile] kd5mdk. Office nannyware blocks all Web chats, the old IM installation I used to have on my Windows box got cleaned off a while back (and I wasn't using it anyway), and if there's a way to make Lotus Sametime talk to other chat systems through our firewalls I don't know about it. The iPad G3 connection avoids the nannyware nicely.
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I'm in a real crunch these days, crunched between too much work for the time available, stuff to deal with for my father's estate, time lost to doctor's appointments for the continuing ankle problems, and some efforts to keep the house and yard from total entropy. This week is worse than ever, with the Monday holiday, and the need to complete stuff before I leave for Denver Saturday for the next database test.

Harried.... )

....and then the disaster. I didn't think Macs crashed this hard any more... )
All that wiped out my planned afternoon of work on files I desperately need to hand off to a co-worker before I go to Denver, so I'll go in tomorrow on my day off and try to both fix the laptop and get my spreadsheets together for S. I suspect it won't be possible to get it all done...
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Lots of storms in Atlanta this morning, with flash-flood warnings out (though not as bad as far). I started this post at the airport waiting on my delayed flight to Columbus, OH, which was held up on its inbound leg. We finally took off, and arrived at 1:30 or so, not quite 2 hours late.

When I got to the local USGS office, though, I found I had it easy. This trip is for three of us working on a project to get together and look at the analysis to date. K., obviously, is based in Columbus. S. is based in Memphis, and was driving with her husband....via Nashville. They left Sunday morning expecting to get to Ohio that afternoon. Apparently they've spent a lot of time sitting in traffic going nowhere. When K. and I left for the day at 5, S. was still on the road but was clear of the flooding problem area.

Hopefully person 3 has arrived now, and we'll be able to work together tomorrow and Wednesday.
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I got home last evening after a full week in Denver, the first of the usual 2 trips there for database testing. I added to the trip this time by going out on Friday, meeting up with friend and co-worker Krissi (same friend as on the recent Disney excursions), and spending the weekend we arrived....working. There was far advance testing prep needed in than we could do (or than the test manager could do), but we did get through a tricky task each and also got our heads in the right place for the coming week of testing.

Sunday afternoon we drove back out to the airport to turn in our personal rental car (the database program manager having refused to pay for our weekend expenses--his budget is *extremely* tight), met up with the programmer for the water-use part of the database at the rental car place where he got a car at the gov't rate, picked up a contract programmer at the airport proper, then drove back to our hotel in Lakewood. Krissi headed in for an early night, but I went with the other two on a drive to Idaho Springs, Central City, then looping back to Golden and Lakewood. It was nice to see something other than Denver, Lakewood, and the Federal Center for a change...we are out here so often, there's a tendency to not do any sight-seeing during the week. The drive was also a chance to get to know Tong (the contract programmer)--I had had no contact with him before, and Todd (the water-use programmer) had been communicating with him by phone and email for a few months but had never met him face-to-face.

Beyond that, it was a full week on the database. We're making radical changes to the aggregate data database (the one that supports The Report) and are 18 months from release, so that testing was in the very early stages. I did a little on that, but spent most of my week in the main NWIS testing the groundwater database, which is adding access to some tables formerly used only by water use.

Today I seem to still be on Mountain Time--I got up late, went to Pastries A Go Go for breakfast as it seemed too much trouble to make coffee at home, went to the library, then home. Lunch was late again at Panera, then I went to the grocery store and home. Final excursion was to the Post Office with a Bookmooch book, then a swing by Whole Foods for creme fraiche, and home again. In between all these trips, picture me either with a book in hand or in front of the computer, but always with a cat in the lap, on the shoulders, or on the desk beside me.
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I'm the webmaster for a couple or three smallish areas on my agency's web pages. I've kept the default server setting to kick out an automatic email to me every time someone gets a 404 error--it's good practice, as you can see if the problem is in your page coding, or was just a user mistyping the URL.

But then there are the 'bots. Web crawlers, whatever. When they start working their way through your pages and use some wild card that your server doesn't understand, you may get an email for every page on your site. And thus tonight, when I thought I'd quickly pop into my work email to dig out a meeting time to put it on my calendar, I arrived in the midst of an email storm. There were only 10 messages when I started the email client, but in less than 20 minutes, about 700 total messages arrived.

Worse yet, it appeared to be an internal 'bot....I refrained from trying to figure out exactly whose workstation that was, lest I be tempted to call and scream at them.
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I'm taking tomorrow off to cook, so the work week was only 2 days long. Nevertheless....

Monday was mostly consumed by a mini-crisis involving a continuing effort to move the Georgia water-use data from one database (now defunct, we've saved data dumps) to another. I'm only peripherally involved, but as a DBA and semi-expert on the new database, I get dragged into stuff. Like Monday's kerfluffle various checks of the old data, and what else needed to be done (and by whom).

That mostly done, I turned to what I had needed to do this week, which was to work with Susan, another member of the national team, on a work plan for our joint project. She contacted me first proposing a call for today, so I sent back an agreement and some draft thoughts on the tasks. We're working on improving water-use estimates for thermoelectric power generation, with the current buzz of also looking at climate change effects.

Today the call happened, and was productive. We'll have another call next Monday with the new national water-use coordinator and go over the plan for his benefit, and see what else he wants us to include before we get to work. OK, we (especially Susan) have already been working on it, but we will now have A Plan. And official funding, which is good.

What else? Oh, I dealt with my use-or-lose annual leave. Thanks to using Family Leave off my sick leave balance the first half of the year while Daddy was in the hospital, even the Disney vacation didn't make much headway on my use-or-lose. I had 15 -1/2 days to use before January 3, and I have work to do--I can't just disappear for December. (Recall that I only work a 4-day week.) I scheduled 5 days--2 at Christmas, 2 at New Year's, and tomorrow, and will take another day and a half somewhere in there. The rest got donated to a member of our IT staff who had a difficult pregnancy and is now on maternity leave, and had exhausted her leave. My supervisor offered to let me carry the leave over if I'd just write the justification (based on the crunch this fall to get out The Report), but I don't anticipate a long vacation next year that would need it. The IT person will make good use of it, I'm sure.
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When you work on a project that operates on a 5-year cycle, getting The Report out is a really big thing. So, ta-da! Released today!
Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2005
And the companion fact sheet
Summary of Estimated Water Use in the United States in 2005

Yes, I know it's 2009 and the report is for 2005. We don't start on the data collection process until the year after the target (so, 2006), trying to use as much reported data (as opposed to estimates) as possible. The 2000 report came out in early 2004, and we'd hoped to do better this time around. Alas, we're 6 months later. Lots of issues with various State datasets, a personal meltdown from a member of the team last year, and then more crises as we tried to wrap things up: my father's illness and death in June, Joan's father's death the next month, you get the idea.

But it's out. I was working on Web page updates until 1 am, after crunching on the downloadable datafiles over the weekend and doing last-minute photograph selection and edits the week before. The emails on the press release are still flying, as it went from being a USGS release to a DOI event--the Ass't Secretary for Water and Science will announce the report at a high-level conference on Thursday. The press release drafted at USGS also moved up, and is being re-written by the DOI Communications Office. The Ass't Secretary is asking questions so she understands what she'll be talking about. Oh, and Friday there's a Congressional briefing on water use, and again The Report will be highlighted.

Now I need to clear the last few months' detritus from my desk, catch up on at least a few of the many other overdue tasks put aside for the final push on The Report, start on a new project for the current FY, and then....I'm going to Disney World. Yes, really--a repeat of last year's trip, just in mid-November instead of early December. I'm ready for the break.
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It's that time of year again: I'm tending an exhibit for my office at the Sunbelt Agricultural Expo, in my hometown of Moultrie, Ga. The big difference this year, personally, is that evenings are going to be alone in the house I grew up in--no Daddy to relate the happenings of the day to. On the other hand, there's a faint hope that I can make progress on a few of the many tasks that need doing as we continue to try to remove stuff from the house and, ultimately, to sell it.
More Expo... )
Weather is lovely--it was positively chilly this morning (for south Georgia, that is), and I didn't shed my long-sleeved pullover until late morning. Some years it's been close to 90 (F), and these metal buildings can really get hot, despite the fans. Chilly is good.
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The Groundwater Users Group meeting started Tuesday and went through today, meeting at the local USGS office on the campus of Portland State University. The meeting was pretty productive, but I was less so than usual as Tuesday I came down with a cold. As colds go it's not too severe, but I'm coughing, sniffing, and wheezing, and my voice is threatening to go. Made it rather hard today when I was presenting a topic and the discussion went long--I ended up taking a coughing fit out in the hall towards the end. But I survived, and I hope I managed to keep my germs to myself.

I skipped dinner on Tuesday for an early evening, and skipped the excursion to Multnomah Falls yesterday to spare everyone else my germs in the 15-passenger van. As they left at about 3:30 for that trip, I took the streetcar to a Safeway for cold medicines, then on to Pioneer Square to a Moonstruck Chocolates store for truffles. This evening everyone went separate ways, so I found a good hamburger at a local chain called Stanfords--there was one three blocks from my hotel.

Tomorrow I catch a van to the airport at 9, and am armed with *real* Pseudophed for the flight courtesy of Dorrie. I discovered to my horror that Pseudophed requires a prescription in Oregon, instead of just being a 'behind the counter' medication as it is in Georgia. Funny thing about colds--everyone wants to give you their remedy for it. I took the Emergen-C (vitamin C plus some other stuff) from Eve, declined Greg's Zicam, and as I said fell on the offer of Pseudophed from Dorrie. Hopefully the ears will stay unblocked so the flight won't be to unpleasant. I'll be trying hard to keep my cold germs away from my fellow passengers.
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I've been in Portland, Oregon all week for the annual groundwater users group (GWUG) meeting, plus a little mini-vacation. "Mini" as in "flew out Sunday instead of Monday to allow for a day of sightseeing". It worked out wonderfully well, thanks to a friend and his wife.

the details of the sightseeing... )

From there we went further south to a beach near Salishan (a high-end development), and had a long beach walk just enjoying the pounding of the surf and the cool air. Then it was time to start back, but we did go on south to Newport to pick up US 20 to head west. Then it was over to Corvallis, where they gave me a glimpse of Oregon State (where their younger daughter is in school), and then north to Portland. A very long day, but lots of fun...
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Between two trips, that is. And two committee meetings, the purpose of the trips. Chicago was the water-use user group (database users, that is), and I'm en route to Portland, OR for the groundwater user group. I'm on both of these because the two disciplines share a lot of issues and a lot of database functionailty.

Odd training, and other stuff )

So I'm on the way to Portland--I used a chunk of the 5 hour flight time for working on my part of the upcoming meeting, but of course found I need an Internet connection to do it all. Tonight and tomorrow I'll be getting together with a friend who retired last year and his wife. Dinner tonight, and tomorrow they offered to take me on an excursion to the Oregon coast. Tuesday the groundwater user group meeting starts, and Tuesday night I'll have a mini-Pifflefest with Kay/oregon_katy. Wednesday evening the GW group will compress our work day and take off in mid-afternoon to drive to Multnomah Falls on the Columbia River gorge. Thursday evening is open--I will probably try to include a visit to Moonstruck Chocolates as part of my evening. Should be a nice combination of work and fun.


Jul. 19th, 2009 11:18 pm
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I'm in Chicago for the week. OK, Bensenville, which is suburban Chicago, SW of O'Hare. It's the annual water-use database users group meeting, and our new chairman picked Chicago for the location then found this hotel. I still haven't figured out why he was so set on Chicago, but I'm trying to not interfere--I limited myself, during the planning, to a couple of mentions of why meeting at a USGS office (even one that's not a committee member's base) had logistical and financial advantages. Hotel shortcomings will be ranted on later.

lunch with friends )

In light of my short night of sleep (up too late doing chores and packing), I elected to nap away my afternoon instead of tackling the Chicago public transit system to go downtown. I'll do that tomorrow (meeting starts Tuesday)--headed to the Field Museum first, then maybe Millennium Park or other wandering in the Loop area, the water tower (I am here for a water use meeting, after all...), and whatever else catches my fancy. It's my first trip to Chicago proper, so I'm just exploring.
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Last week I finally started feeling like I was back in my routine, getting organized for all the various tasks that I'm supposed to be working on, and beginning to make progress. Which is good, because the 2005 water-use compilation still isn't done, and here it is mid-2009. (OK, the 2000 report didn't come out until 2004, but it was early 2004.) I'm supposed to be shepherding the entire 2005 effort, but Joan, another member of the national team, is the lead on the actual report and will be first author.

So, I was starting to make progress, did I say? And then yesterday Joan sent an email to say her father had died, of heart failure. At least I had a couple of months of mental preparation...although her father was 90, I don't think this was expected. The upshot is that she will have other priorities for a while and her schedule will be erratic. I'm tackling several of her tasks, trying to get the report off for final approval before my Chicago trip week after next.

But then I have 2 project reviews to attend this week (only one of 'em mine), a conference call, lots of work on the agenda and materials for Chicago as the committee chair is new this year and not skilled at putting together a meeting, a long deferred review of a database tool that will have to be done via a chat client, a database cleanup task that has to be completed soon, and some Web page work I'm in the middle of. And unfortunately most of this can't I'm thinking the report revision for Joan is going to have to happen over the weekend, or maybe over a couple of evenings. We'll see how it all goes...


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