Callicrates (callicrates) wrote,

Random thoughts and events of late

Warning: this entry is not especially well-structured. It's a general
roundup of some of the stuff going on in my life these last few months
that hasn't already been covered in willowisp's journal.

I'm in Seattle this week for IEEE Visualization, an annual
computer graphics conference. This week also marks four months to the
day since I started work at Sandia. Travel tends to put me in a
reflective mood, so I figure this is as good an opportunity as any to
write the update I've been thinking about.

After four months, Albuquerque begins to feel familiar to me. willowisp and I have visited our favorite restaurants often
enough that I don't need to stop and think about where they are and
how to get there. Moreover, we have a list of favorite
restaurants. We're still looking for good non-sushi Japanese
(Minato's has been commended to me; any other suggestions?) and very
good steak (think Ruth's Chris for comparison), but Chinese, Italian,
reasonably good steak, random American, pizza... we've got our
regulars. I don't know the greater Albuquerque area like I would like
to, but I'm pretty comfortable in the areas where I've had occasion to
spend time.

I'm settling into my job, too. Volume visualization is related to my
architectural walkthrough (my dissertation work) in the same way that
rollerblades are related to traditional two-by-two-wheel roller
skates: there's a learning curve involved, but if you're comfortable
with one you can make the switch to the other fairly easily. I've
learned a lot. I still have a lot to learn. This doesn't bother me
as it would have six years ago: I've long since proven to myself that
I can hold my own at this sort of thing. I'm learning the work
environment, too. Sandia (being a lab run on behalf of the Department
of Energy, a large bureaucracy, by a division of Lockheed Martin,
another large bureaucracy) has a large and intricate set of procedures
that don't always make sense and are seldom obvious. I find it tricky
to strike a balance between when I should speak up ("Wait a minute.
I think there's a better way to do that.") and when I should keep
quiet and look for a better grasp of the politics involved. It's so
much easier with scientific work where there are well-defined channels
through which current and previous work is disseminated and
well-defined ways to find out what people are doing now and why. I
don't have any huge complaints, though. I would have to face politics
and occasionally nonsensical policies no matter where in the research
community I might go.

I'm really coming to like Albuerquque as an environment. The climate
is so very different from anything I knew when I was growing up or in
school. Yes, it can get hot during the day, but the low humidity
means that so long as I stay in the shade I'm quite comfortable. The
sharp temperature difference between midday and night (25-35 degrees
F, 14-20C) makes it much easier for me to sleep than in Chapel Hill
where in midsummer it would get down to (if we were lucky) 75F and 80%
humidity at night. In Chapel Hill in July, we left the air
conditioner running 24 hours a day. We often didn't get much rest for
all the uncomfortable tossing and turning. In Albuquerque in late
July and early August, we opened the windows at night and were much
more at ease. Sunrises and sunsets are very pretty here.

I feel like life has been insane since we've arrived. This trip to
Seattle is hopefully the last major piece of travel in the queue for
now. We're hopefully going back to Chapel Hill for a few days in
early December, and we're visiting family over Christmas, but apart
from that... we may actually be able to spend the next five weeks at
home. I sure need the downtime. I'm sick of airports and airplanes.

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