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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Weekly update.

It is another beautiful day, wonderful to be outside and wandering. I made multiple trips down to the markt, rather than carrying everything around with me. Unfortunately, I was too impatient to wait at the florist, and when I returned, all of the sunflowers had gone. If they are not at the Tuesday markt, there will be no flowers for me this week. On the other hand, I got to the markt early enough (deliberately after an early run) to get the voll-korn croissants from my favorite baker. When the crowd before the Wein und Kaese cart clears (currently it is stacked two or three deep!) I will get cheese. Until then, coffee and waiting for them to find the internet passcode at Liebevoll (which, obviously happened).

My German is not progressing much, although I am more confident in using it. The language seems to be reawakening in me, but the time lag is prohibative. I'm a bit afraid that the only way I will get better at this point is by emersion. Which, I concede, is tempting. My "Americanness" is showing rather clearly, in ways I think I would not have noticed in the past* -- in the fact that I am the only person in the cafe with a computer out, and that computer is an Apple (a very definate status symbol, and one which embarrasses me a little -- I use it because it is, quite simply and without challenger, the best tool for the myriad of tasks I do), and I drink my coffee faster, I drink more water, and I'm fatter (conspicuous consumption, anyone?). I am also one of very few people I see "execising" outside -- when I run in the mornings, I seldom meet another runner (I was very excited to do so today!). At the moment, I rather feel that it is tatooed on my forehead.

The week has been busy and slow by turns. I think we're making real progress on the joint project, and am very much looking forward to the arrival of our experimental colleague next week. Hopefully by the end of this weekend, I'll have the first test cases running, any by the time she arrives, something to show her. The worst of the jet-lag seems to be subsiding (I have now slept through the night twice!), and I hope that my productivity increases correspondingly.

There have been some interesting fights on the project so far -- the biggest one about priorities and what should be included at what stage. Some of the 'purer' contributors are advocating for a more ... intellectual? picture, that is less focused on the experimental system and more on the model describing it. In the past few years, I have found myself more and more on the side of the experimentalists in believing that model is not intersting in and of itself, but rather in its relation to the system studied. This fight seemed to center on using the model to test limiting behavior (which _is_ important for validation) and then exploring all of the ramifications of the model's response. The project certainly could be taken that direction, but the resulting knowledge would be only narrowly interesting. I am hunting larger prey.

In the course of our discussion, I think that we did, finally, come to an understanding of the larger goals. The colleague here has come to the project much later, and did not understand the scope of our work. He seems now to be on the same page, but I suspect that his contribution will be only technical (which we need, I'm not impugning that). The group here has been very isolated, and it will take them some time to establish wider relationships. Part of that will be the development (or re-development) of a recognition that different work is also meritous. Their isolation has made them technically adept, but scientifically maldeveloped. In this age of truly inter-disciplinary research, that will prove fatal.


*One benefit of the last few years -- probably the largest -- has been spending lots of time with a friend/colleague who _never_ lets me get away with "just is" responses and whose powers of observation are astounding. Because of our interaction, I pay far more attention to subtler details and implications.

Location: Currently, Berkeley, United States

I'm an academic scientist who is both abroad and a broad. I am on the road so often that I have a house solely so that my cats will have somewhere to live.

Okay, fine. If you really really want to, and don't care how long it is between mail checks, you can send email to ascientistabroad  {a}gmail{dot}com

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