Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Need some samples collected from the middle of nowhere?

There's an organization called Adventurers & Scientists for Conservation that is connecting scientists who need data collected in hard-to-access places with the talented, hard-core people who can get there. I think this is a fantastic idea. I hope it takes off!

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I'm working on the accounting for my last trip. I swore I was going to keep on top of entering my expenses, which I did for about 6 weeks and then everything like that (and reading email) went to hell once we really started working 7 days a week. I recorded the vast majority of it in my daily planner, but now once again I'm having to sort out which expenses came from which pot of money, exactly.

There was a withdrawal and currency exchange transaction for which I didn't have receipts this time, and I was sitting here thinking, "Did I change $200 at that place? Or was it $300?" I was about to email Cam to ask if he remembers (yeah right), when I flipped back through my notebook where I write all sorts of misc things, and sure enough I wrote it down. $300 it is! That means I can account for all $4570 that I brought in USD! I haven't figured out yet how much of the Ukenzagapian currency I can account for, but I'm pleased as punch about the USD. I still have to figure out how much I have left in my big grant, how much of our money I spent, and how much money I spent from what Sam gave me. I have receipts all over the place.

When I'm in the field, about 1/3 of the things I write in my book are money-related, and because I'm kind of paranoid about Ukenzagapians overseeing the sums of money I manage, I tend to write in a way that makes it unclear which currency I'm working with (or even that I'm writing about money at all). This is not very good if I have to look back at my notes to figure stuff out. I need to be more clear about this!

While I'm thinking about money, that reminds me that I still have to actually do our taxes from 2010, and I'm still not 100% clear if I have to pay taxes on research awards even if I can clearly account for the research expenses, but I think the answer is yes (because they aren't "qualified educational expenses"). I'd be much happier paying these taxes if we had universal single-payer healthcare and if 60% of it didn't go towards war.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Categorization & frustration

In general, I like organizing and sorting things, but I am easily overwhelmed when something doesn't fit into a category. This is manifests itself in all sorts of ways in my life. Tidying the apartment. Packing. Entering and analyzing data. I hate it.

I tend to deal with this tidying and packing problem by making piles of miscellaneous things, but then I fuss over them for a while, trying to categorize them, before hiding them out of sight. But I can't just do that with data... It is so frustrating sometimes that the world wasn't made categorically! There's always a judgement call to be made in categorizing those boundary points. If I have to do it a handful of times, ok. But if I need to make a whole bunch of decisions that could really go one way or the other... ack!

Obviously, today I'm dealing with some data that aren't clearly one thing or the other. I've been reading about ways in which other people have dealt with this, but the best way to approach it still isn't clear to me.

I talked to John about my dilemma. He also loves categorizing things and has a meticulously organized, data-filled music collection on his computer. When he has music with incompleteable data, he just deletes it. Unfortunately, I can't just delete the difficult ones!

I'm tempted to work on the easy ones for now and come back to the hard ones when I'm less frustrated.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Meeting at the airport

Today I met Sam at the airport- on his way to Ukenzagapia. I had to give him some things for Cam, and my last chance was to bring them to the airport. He is flying the same airline/route that I prefer so I knew exactly when and where to meet him. I arrived before him, met his cab with a baggage cart, handed him a hard drive and a bottle of pills, and then we talked while standing in the line to check his bags. It turns out he had to give me some forms to submit so it was also good for him that I met him there. It was a kind of a weird place (and occasion) to meet, but I suppose stranger meetings have happened.