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October 19th, 2011

I'm a scientist, Jim, not a writer!

Got back from France last Thursday; good to be home.

On Friday I sent in my Tablet column (650 words) and a reflection for Give Us This Day (250 words). Saturday I had a great time entertaining the fantasy writer Midori Snyder and her husband and their Italian friends -- tour of the gardens, pranzo at Bucci (my favorite restaurant in Castel Gandolfo, overlooking Lake Albano). Life is good. 

Sunday I got a panic email from an editor in Toronto -- where was my 5000 word chapter for their upcoming book? I thought it was due the end of the month, but OK, I can finish it by the end of this week.

Then on Monday, looking for something entirely different, I stumbled across the contract (good thing I hadn't filed it away, I would never have seen it if it were where it belonged) and discovered that the due date was in fact September 1. Oops. Quick, finished the chapter. It isn't good; but it is done. I now have something less of a moral dilemma -- though I do have another article on the same topic of the same length due the end of this month, rather than trying to pawn off the same old article to both places I can now just write another one with all the bits that I didn't have time to cram into this one.

Meanwhile, I was supposed to be busy re-writing a paper we submitted last July, just now returned with the referee's reports. The changes they want are minimal. ("Why didn't you reference my work?" one of the referees asked. Because it has only been presented as a meeting abstract. Because even the abstract volume it appears in hadn't been published when we submitted our paper. And because it's lousy work...)

And meanwhile-meanwhile, trying to set up an experiment I have been meaning to do for more than a year, we downloaded software to get a scale to talk to a Windows computer. The software expects to talk to the COM 1 serial port. This computer has a USB port with a USB/Serial wire. I know there is a way to fool Windows into recognizing the wire, but not being one who does Windows I don't know how to do it. There are several Windows experts here, including the guy who gave me his old laptop for this experiment. It's just a matter of getting to it...

Tuesday, I had a visit from a fellow meteoriticist. Tour of the gardens, pranzo at Bucci. Life is good. Plus there are now three new meteorites in our collection; life is very good indeed. (Except that meant another hour spent, doing all the paperwork processing the samples into the collection... photographing them, entering the data in the computer, printing out the labels, figuring out where I am going to keep them... more delay in finishing the paper revisions.)

Also on Tuesday, we learned that one of our employees is now a daddy; his first child was born Monday night. Welcome young Carlotta!

Today... finally I finished the revisions of the paper and sent it off to my co-authors for their comments. (Why does Microsoft Word need 8 MB to store a 14 page paper with seven figures? Have I mentioned how much I hate Microsoft lately? I checked the internet for a few tricks for shrinking Word documents, and got it under 3 MB, small enough to send by email, but that's still absurdly large.)

The experiment with the scale and the computer involves watching the evaporation of liquid nitrogen. (Sort of like watching paint dry.) I had suspected that we shouldn't have much trouble getting liquid nitrogen -- if only I could remember the Italian for it -- because we are located right next to a dairy farm; and my instinct has proved correct. This morning, Francesco and I went to visit the farmer, saw the nice dewar of LN2 that they use to freeze bull semen, and watched while the farmer ordered a dewar for my lab and arranged for it to be filled the next time they deliver the LN2 to him. Now if only I can get back to making the computer and scale talk to each other...

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