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Arguing for the 40-hr work week

Many of you know of my latest obsession with time-management.  I recently read (or at least skimmed) the book: I Know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam.  In it, she argues that there actually are a lot of hours in the week (168 hours to be exact) and it's more about how you choose to use those hours.  She advocates for people to track their time to see if it lines up with their goals.  So, I did this for the last week.  There are plenty of apps that make this relatively painless to do.  I used aTimeLogger for Android.  I broke my time down to sleep, work, transport, housework (including cooking, which I enjoy), getting ready (including getting the kids ready), hanging out with the kids, and play (mostly my own downtime - either the kids are playing nearby or are in bed and I'm hanging out in the evening).  

On average, during the week I am putting in 8.4 hours of work per day, which is a 42 hour work week.  I'm pretty pleased about this given the amount of research that demonstrates the effectiveness of this approach.  Also, I like to bust the myth that academics are workaholics who are 'married to their jobs'.  I love my job, but I have other stuff going on too and my tracked time supports this.  On average I am sleeping 8 hours per night during the week and 9 hours per night on the weekends (woo hoo!).  I spend at least 2 hours per day with my kids and much more on the weekends.  

It took some time to get to this schedule.  Having kids made me focus on the important stuff at work and to delegate as much as possible.  This means I say no to a lot, like travel :( and reviews :).  I also have a housekeeper, two babysitters, a lawn guy, and a handyman on speed-dial.  I pay a lot for this stuff, but it makes my life run more smoothly than without.  

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Driving in reverse: the hidden story of Greenland and my trip to the land of the rising sun.

This is a guest post by Liz Logan, Postdoc at UTIG/ICES:

 

These days I just tell people I am a climate scientist. That is -- in the broadest brush strokes -- true. It’s more accurate to say that I am a computational glaciologist, a numerical modeler of ice sheets. I use computers to see how Greenland or Antarctica might react to being poked: in the form of warmer air or warmer ocean or just a sea-level-induced jolt of bending.

So that is ultimately why I found myself in Japan, Land of the Rising Sun. It’s true that my work in computational glaciology brought me there, but a nicer way to describe it is that I’m searching for a history. I want to help tell the story of the Greenland Ice Sheet. At least, the Greenland Ice Sheet from ten thousand years ago until now. What did this massive beast do over that time? Lots of interesting things happened between then and now. To be sure, lots of interesting things are happening at this very moment.

No doubt you have seen images or videos of icebergs calving. Large crashes of ice, plummeting into chilly Arctic waters. Cracks in the surface opening like a shotgun, pieces of ice the size of eighteen-wheelers hitting the water’s surface: sounding from a distance (or sometimes, under water) like a bag of popcorn heating up in the microwave. Or perhaps you watched -- mouth agape like me? -- as an iceberg the size of Manhattan slowly detached from Jakobshavn Glacier in Greenland, grinding its death against the glacier behind it, for several minutes, tipping over and beginning its long and slow funeral procession down the fjord and out to sea?

I was in Japan on a decidedly less sexy mission. I was not there to place a camera on a gloomy and windswept rock, trained on the mouth of a glacier, hoping to catch a moment like this. Nope; I was there to merge code. For one and a half years prior I had been tinkering with a colleague’s ice sheet model and was ready (or so I thought) to take my tinkered version and ‘merge’ it with his original, pristine version.

What I had been doing -- I like to envision -- is what mechanics do to old cars: chop out a piece here, replace it with a new part. Turn on the engine, see if it goes. Chop out another, and so on. Only in this analogy I was effectively taking an old pick-up truck, chopping off the flat bed, and stapling on (in reverse direction!) another engine on the back end, that would drive the truck in reverse.

Imagining myself the Marty McFly of ice sheet modeling, I wanted to take my colleague Ralf Greve’s ice sheet ‘forecasting’ model and go ‘back to the future’ with it: in addition to it being able to tell us in some way what the ice might do in the future, I wanted to make this model be able to tell us what the ice did in the past. To do this I needed the model to tell me about how the ice sheet was sensitive to things: how pulses of melting on its tenuous glaciers or more snowfall than usual speeds up or slows down the glaciers that drain out to the ocean. When I knew how (numerically, in a computer simulation) the ice in Greenland is sensitive to things like this I would be able to use that information to, effectively, produce a ‘best fit’ approximation to how the ice sheet behaved in the past.

Why did I care? It turns out we can learn a lot about how the ice sheet is currently moving and changing if we know better what it did in the past. In other words, our forecasts will get a lot better if we can make them ‘pick up’ from where history left off. And we all want better forecasts, right?

As it turned out, the back-facing truck that I was trying to staple onto the original, front-facing truck needed a bit more tinkering, and so no merging of the code happened in Hokkaido, Japan. But I did spend time with Ralf, a professor at the Institute for Low Temperature Science at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, learning more about his model, telling him about mine, and how we could better fit them together. I came back to the University of Texas, Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, and have been driving in reverse ever since. (And now, we’re merging!)

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Gender-equity status tied to funding

This is an interesting take on improving the workplace climate.  Funding agencies in the UK are now tying funding decisions to whether or not an institution has demonstrated adequate or exemplary accommodation for diversity.  The program, called Athena Swan in the UK, has a number of resources available for departments/institutions to perform a self-assessment on workplace climate.  Part of their process builds in statistics and data to demonstrate effectiveness.  I see this as a positive trend because by tracking our efforts to be a more inclusive environment we might be able to see which efforts work and which do not.  The program in the US will be called STEM Equity Achievement Change (SEA Change), but so far there is very little information on when this program will be rolling out or what it will entail.  I hope that this can provide departments with the tools for handling difficult situations because very often the people in charge have little experience in issues like this. 

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Amazing news of the year: Grad students get jobs!

Liz Logan and Lauren Andrews both successfully defended their PhD theses within a week of one another late last year (2015).  They are both now continuing their work in glaciology through gainful employment!  Liz has accepted a postdoc with Patrick Heimbach and is enjoying life on main campus in ICES.  She is working on modeling accumulation in Greenland.  Lauren is moving to NASA-Goddard to take a postdoc with Tom Neumann (and others) to work on deriving Greenland strain rates from the Landsat archive.  

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Graduate student Lauren Andrews publishes in Nature!

Lauren Andrews interpreted the complex nature of the subglacial drainage system from Greenland using a suite of observations from the surface (GPS-based velocities and uplift; weather station data) and the subsurface (moulin and borehole pressure variations).  It's not a simple story, but it highlights the complex nature of the Greenland subsurface environment.

Read some news coverage of the article here and here.

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