Saturday, August 14, 2010

Boring and useless

A little light relief before I wade in (though the comments and blog posts have been light relief enough already).

Just before leaving, I was told I had an additional ¥750,000 in my budget. Which had to be spent (at least allocated) by yesterday. Don't get too excited, it's only about $9000 and is to be spread amongst various colleagues, but it's still better than a slap in the face with some raw sushi, as they say in Japan. Anyway, my existing iMac is about 3 years old, so clearly I'm first in line for a replacement. But even with extra software, that hardly gets through half of it (I don't need a really powerful machine, it's not for computing). I thought that some could usefully be put towards paper charges, given that we have several unbudgeted manuscripts working their way through the system (they can't all be rejected, surely). On top of that, I had my eyes on a bunch of interesting books that I could learn from osmotically if not actually read.

Oops, we can't pay for paper charges with this money, because...we couldn't pay for paper charges last year. Oh, well, we thought, let's really scrape the bottom of the barrel and waste the money on some iPads instead. A cubicle-neighbour bought one himself recently (out of his own pocket) and apparently they are great pdf readers for cramped trains and the like.

Nope, JAMSTEC won't let us buy iPads becaue they are not allowed. Oh, and even books are banned too. Why? I've learnt there is rarely any point even asking, so I didn't bother.

So, I have about $4000 burning a hole in my pocket. We can't spend it on anything useful like books or paper charges, or anything fun like iPads. I guess that leaves boring and useless stuff. I have one last suggestion of an electric umbrella-dryer (don't laugh, we have seen only in the foyer of another lab, and can guess why it was bought...). Failing that, I could do what another now ex-colleague did a few years ago and buy another desktop computer and simply leave it in its box. In fact that is the machine I am currently using, as I snaffled it when they left last year (still unused).

Has anyone else got any other ideas?

Having only been in Japan during austere years of stagnation and budget cuts, I can hardly imagine what the bubble years must have been like...

14 comments:

Kooiti MASUDA said...

I am tempted to agree with some politicians who say that all so-called "independent administration institutions" should be abolished. Actual IAIs are not quite independent but subsidary of the government and mostly more bureaucratic than the government itself (which seems natural because they have less authority of discretion).

I must haste to say: I do not mean that the governmental expenditure currently given to JAMSTEC should be cancelled. I mean that it might have been poured to a wrong organization. But alas! AESTO has been abolished early in this year, and I do not see any other candidate immediately.

I think that the problem is lack of people who can do both directing science and running an organization. It may be a tall order. Then we should have a mutually trusted pair of a science leader and a management leader.

(I confess that I perform poor at management, and not so active in science, among the peer scientists. Please weigh my comment with this qualification.)

Rocco said...

I suggest http://www.seashepherd.org/

Might help to impose some fiscal discipline in the future :)

Alastair said...

Couldn't you use it to commission some outside research? I have an MSc project starting shortly and would welcome having my fees paid :-)

Alternatively, recently I heard about a company who provide head massages for their staff. Couldn't you arrange that for your team or something similar, but more on a Japanese theme!

Cheers, Alastair.

James Annan said...

Masuda-san,

Scientific management is challenging, but one thing that really astonished us when we first got here is that there is absolutely no attempt at management training at any level at all. In any comparable institution in the UK, staff must generally engage in training before they take up any management positions, with regular opportunities for refreshers and ongoing development.

Of course the scientists generally deride the training as a bit of a waste of time - I was sent on it about a month after starting my first job, primarily because I was most expendable - but given the alternative of absolutely nothing at all...wow.

So I suppose this is why we have a parallel (or superior) level of career bureaucrats here, but then they don't understand science and measure their worth in how many new rules they can invent...

PolyisTCOandbanned said...

This is a non-blogwarfare question. Just a science question.

To what extent do models copy the unstable nature of the climate system. I mean, the world is sort of a big complicated machine system. It jiggles around on its own (El Nino). So even the actual world we observe is not exactly what we would expect (especially on shorter time frames, Chaos book butterflies and JEff Goldbaum from Juraissic Park, level of understanding). Similarly, I figure the equations or whatever that make up the GCMs also have some loosenes, so that slightly different initial conditions would give different time series outputs (although for long periods, probably similar response to forcings).

I guess my question is does the "looseness" (or whatever the right thing is to call it, chaosness, not sure) of the models is similar to the world (in amount and "nature" (frequency spectrum?).

I guess for this purpose would ignore some sort of posited superlong cycles or LTP or the like (as we have no proof it exists) and think in terms of the unforced (stable CO2) system. Maybe using 1900-1950 recorded temps?

P.s. And having the same "looseness" in the unforced system doesn't say that we get the right forcing behavior (or visaversa). But I'm sorta curious. And I guess, the closer you simulate different aspects of nature, the more your "betting" hunch goes up, that you're going to capture effects that we don't have a lot of history for. (AGW).

David B. Benson said...

Can you buy a paper shredder?

Tram tickets?

EliRabett said...

Somewhat seriously trade the money for future consideration with an experimental/observational group. They always need a new widget or to replace an old broken one.

Chuck said...

Summer student.

Steve Bloom said...

Surely some Mac reseller would be willing to package an iCovet with a new computer. I mean, they throw in printers all the time, so why not?

Notechaser said...

Is "raw sushi" redundant?

James Annan said...

Actually no, since "sushi" refers to the method of serving with cold slightly vinegared rice, and the topping is sometimes cooked, and sometimes not fish. Not that I was thinking all that when I carelessly wrote it, of course!

Hank Roberts said...

Too late for spending suggestions? Here's a rooftop idea:

“Ginza Hachimitsu"

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/09/150000-bees-descend-in-tokyo.php

Anonymous said...

Any way it can be returned to the poor taxpayers who provided it in the first place?

Thought not...

jules said...

The tax payers probably wouldn't spend it though, and the reason the government gives us the money is so we can spend it on stuff to bolster the economy. Such behaviour is the basis of Japanese economics.