Absorbed

By JoAnne Hewett | May 2, 2007 12:50 am

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted here! I’m deeply, totally, absorbed in a project. It’s taking all of my energy and every minute of my time. All other aspects of life have stopped. I’m down to eating take-out Chinese night after night cause all other food in the house has been eaten. I have run out of clean knives and forks (still plenty of spoons!) and coffee cups and wine glasses. (Yes, come midnight or so, I need a glass of wine to relax!) I wash each (knife, fork or glass), one at a time as I need it. All 4 suitcases and 6 boxes from my 2 month stay at Fermilab (I don’t travel lightly) are scattered about the house, essentially unpacked, except for where I have ravaged through them looking for something. I did find the leftover girl scout cookies. My tomato plants, lovingly replanted as seedlings into 4 inch pots 2 months ago, are now 2-3 feet tall and are begging to be planted into their big pots for the summer. Birthdays and Mothers Day are coming up and I haven’t done anything. I have referee reports past due. I haven’t read my email. My bills are not paid. I’ve sat so long in front of the computer that my back truly aches and my eyes (and carpel tunneled wrist) have gone. I put my trash out at the curb tonight thinking it was Wednesday, only to discover it’s actually Tuesday and now my neighbors will think I am nuts.

This IS what science is like! When you get so caught up and so excited about something, that literally everything else in life gets put on hold. I’m very excited about this paper, and want to do my best job! I have 3 collaborators, 2 on East coast time, and one in Hawaii. Two of us are in charge of the master text file — me and a collaborator on the East Coast. He is a morning person and works on the file from 8 EDT until mid-afternoon. That means around 10 AM PDT he ships the file to me and I start my day, working until about midnight. Comments from the other 2 collaborators are coming in at all hours at a rapid pace. This means that the collaboration is literally working round the clock! We have a system set up, so we don’t get confused and mix up the “master file” for our paper. It hasn’t failed us yet…

We should finish any day now (seems to always be just 2 days away). And I’ll tell y’all about it as soon as we’re done! OK, maybe I’ll plant the poor tomatoes first!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science
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  • Christian

    Been there! You guys should start using version management. Adds a whole new level of complexity to writing a paper :-)

  • Aaron Denney

    I would definitely concur that revision control, if you choose a good system, can help immensely. (Personally I like darcs or mercurial.)

  • http://irbdavid.com Dave Andrews

    Are there any good revision control systems specifically designed to work with LaTeX? I’ve been trying to get by with a combination of SVN and latexdiff to show changes from one version to the next, but it’s far from elegant :(

  • http://www.nick-andrew.net/ Change Control Guy

    SVN may be the quickest one to setup, assuming that you all have ssh access into wherever you choose to be the master repository.

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  • janko

    cretivity always seems to come in bursts, so you gotta take the chance when it arrives (and when the deadlines call ofcourse :-)

    I like the busy times better than the uninspired inbetweentimes though…

    Good luck!!

  • http://quasar9.blogspot.com/ Quasar9

    Isn’t Nature just amazing
    One tomatoe seed and you get a tomatoe plant
    Each tomatoe from the plant full of seeds, each a potential plant
    I wonder what the universal limit on tomatoes on earth IS
    I’m sure they’ll be one of the first ‘plants’ to travel space – again(?)
    They’ll probably do well in a ‘greenhouse’ on the Moon and even on Mars

  • http://kea-monad.blogspot.com Kea

    Sounds interesting! Good luck, and tell us about it soon.

  • http://backreaction.blogspot.com/ B

    tomato plants? very brave – I’ve given up on plants and only have artificial ones left… it hurts far less thinking of throwing them away with the next move.

  • Eric

    Look forward to seeing your paper. Any hints about the topic?

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  • Aaron Denney

    Are there any good revision control systems specifically designed to work with LaTeX? I’ve been trying to get by with a combination of SVN and latexdiff to show changes from one version to the next, but it’s far from elegant.

    Not to my knowledge. I’m not really aware of any revision-control systems tailored to a specific language. From your mention of latexdiff, I take it that you want to be able to see the differences in the compiled output, not just the source changes? I’ve never felt much need to do that, but it seems like it might be handy.

    My frustration has generally been with reformatting (e.g. rewrapping a paragraph after adding a sentence) introducing a lot of “spurious diffs”, due to the granularity being lines. There are ways around this, such as storing in a canonical form that breaks on whitespace, and reformatting on checkout, but that will lose formatting which can be very important when reading.

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  • http://personals.ac.upc.edu/pchacin Pablo

    Thanks for sharing this special moment with us! I’m right now working on a paper for my PhD thesis, and even when unfortunately I’m not doing it in such a pasionate and intese way as you, I found your post very inspirational . . . actualy, I’m going back to work on my stuff :-D

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