Orientation began early Monday morning. Sign-in was at 7:30 sharp. I had been given directions to get to the office where I was to sign in and get my one-day base pass... but the directions didn't account for the construction going on in and around the base. Luckily, there was enough of a map in my folder that I could find another way to the appropriate building. Then the door I was supposed to look for had been moved to another building... but it turned out to matter, because that door wasn't really what I was looking for. Strange, I know, but it all worked out eventually. I made my way on-base to get my badge and my permanent parking sticker, then wandered around until I found the building where they were having orientation proper.
There were about ten or twelve people there aside from me. It looked like a fairly broad mix of occupations... one or two other technical types like myself, a few people working in support or administration, et cetera. It was like most corporate orientations in that we were given far too much information in far too short a period of time, thus ensuring that we wouldn't remember any more than the barest rudiments and the terrible soundtracks on the videos we were shown. Fortunately, they had the sense to give us phone numbers and contact information and web pages for all of the stuff we were given... and better yet, date-prioritized to-do lists in the 6" thick (!!) binders full of paperwork. Once we were done getting briefed on our insurance, we were turned loose to go meet the people we would be working with.
Most of the people at orientation had representatives from their departments (usually the manager) there to meet them. I had a phone number. Pat, my contact from the visualization group, came over to meet me and take me out to lunch. It turns out that about half the group went with us, which was awfully nice. All but one of them were people I had met when I came to interview, which was even nicer. We went to Olive Garden. After eating at Paisano's the preceding week I was distinctly unimpressed, but hey, they treated me, and I'm not about to complain about the hospitality. After lunch, it was back to the group offices. I sat down with Pat and Phil, my manager, to sort out how I would get started. This is where things get a little bit complicated.
See, right about now there are a lot of summer students at Sandia. Moreover, office space is at a premium under normal circumstances. Finally, even if there were an office free in the building that houses the rest of the viz group, I can't occupy it. That entire building is inside what's called the tech fence, and until my clearance is granted (which will probably take between 6 and 12 months) I'm not allowed inside the fence without being escorted at all times. So, in the meantime, I need an office outside the fence. All of the offices nearby are occupied. The closest thing that was available was a small, shared office in a trailer on the opposite side of the base, 2 and a half miles away. It's quite cramped. My computers haven't arrived yet, so I'm using what amounts to a dumb terminal to talk to a big Sun somewhere else. I've been encouraged to work from home for most of this week because I can actually get considerably more done from my living room than I can from my office.
Fortunately, things are going to get better before long. I'm spending all of next week in San Diego for SIGGRAPH (a large computer graphics conference). The summer students all leave in early-to-mid August. My desktop machine has already arrived and will be ready to roll in the middle of next week. My laptop is supposed to ship next Friday, so it should be ready sometime the week after next if all goes well. There are a couple of buildings within walking distance of the tech fence that might have offices opening up.
Those are the downsides. I put them all in the category of minor hassles. The lab's attitude toward facilities is great for a research type. About a month ago they asked me to spec out a laptop and a desktop. No particular restrictions (other than a list of suggested machines), just... whatever I thought I'd need. I'm accustomed to "here's your (very limited) budget, do what you will" or "here's a machine I have available, make do" policies. This is a welcome change. The people have also been great. The impression I've gotten is that they've accepted that I'm pretty good at what I do and that they're more interested in having me work as part of a research team than in making me prove myself and jump through a numbered series of hoops before they'll take me at face value. It's about time. I'm sick of having to prove myself over and over before people will listen to me. Yes, I know, the real world usually works that way, but the Ph.D. ought to be worth some credibility. It looks like I've fallen in with a group of people where that's true.
Anyway. Back to reading papers about volume visualization and programmable graphics hardware. With any luck I'll be able to post an update or two from SIGGRAPH next week.