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A Day in the Life

Cosmic VarianceBy JoAnne HewettOctober 12, 2005 10:47 AM


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My family and friends are constantly trying to figure out just what it is that I do. As noted in the comments on Clifford's recent post, our loved ones - loving as they are - just don't get it. They all seem to understand that we have accomplished something, but really don't have a clue as to what that something is, or even how we spend our time. My best friend's husband summed it up best: "Just what is it that you do during the day?" he asked. I tried to explain, but his eyes glazed over quickly. I now have a neat one-liner, meant to answer such inquiries: "I get paid to think." For me, that seems to sum it up fairly well. But now I've got this blogging gig, and I can go into a little more depth. I plan to do so in a series of posts, `A day in the life.' In this series, I will list my activities for the day, in the hope that it will become more clear just how us academics spend our time. I hope I don't bore you to death. Today was kind-of a ho-hum average day, so it seems like a perfect place to start. First activity of the day (even before making coffee): Check email. Answer email that came in overnight. Check the blog. Morning at work: Chat with co-workers. Deal with referee reports: write a reply to answer a referee report on my latest paper, print out the large review article that I have been asked to referee (printer jammed several times, so the printing process took awhile), started to read another paper that I have been asked to referee - determined that they included all the correct Feynman diagrams contributing to their calculation. Started the required computer training course for supervisors on detecting sexual harassment (last week we determined that supervising graduate students counts as being an official lab/university supervisor). Talked at length on the phone with my former graduate student, and laid out the groundwork for a new project we are starting (I'm quite excited about it!). Filled out the paperwork to have my desktop monitor, which died last week, fixed or replaced. Cleaned out my backpack (this was not trivial). Read through the latest draft of responses to a set of questions posed by the EPP2010 panel about the future of high energy physics. Continuous monitoring of email. Noticed I had worked through lunchtime. Had a discussion with my long-term associate Tom Rizzo on the Statistical Mechancis properties of TeV mass blackholes. (This evening Tom sent some very interesting results he had computed for his new project!) Left for home mid-afternoon to work on my ongoing deck staining project. Stained 32 feet of railing (slats every 6 inches!) before darkness fell. The deck has to get stained before it cools down and the rains start. Watched the NOVA special on Einstein's Big Idea and saw the stuff missing from our special sneak preview at SLAC. Just before bed: post on the blog. Check email one last time. This was just an average day for any academic. No epiphanies, no frustrated calculations, no nonsensical answers from computer code. Just the average, day-to-day grind work that us academics deal with.

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