Friday, March 02, 2007

5 more years...

Jules says I should blog the whole sorry saga of the last few months, but I wouldn't want to wash too much dirty laundry in public, so you will have to make do with the heavily edited version.

The bottom line is that we've been offered new 5 year contracts, so in that sense it's all ended up as well as could have been expected. Moreover, we've got promises of staff being "encouraged" to work with us on probabilistic prediction, and enough of a budget not only to hire one more person specifically for that task us but also to pay for things like travel expenses (don't worry, I'll offset it). We've even been promoted, sort of (it's really just a time-served thing, but at least they didn't try to install us on the bottom rung of the ladder in the new system). The fact that we don't yet know what salaries we will be offered in our new jobs - less than a month from now - is a minor quibble in the grand scheme of things. There were many times over the past few months when such a positive outcome looked rather fact we were seriously thinking of leaving by the time they started to come through with the goods.

Things were complicated by the fact that our contract renewal happened to coincide with both the renewal of the lab's own 5 year strategy (and therefore the planning of major research projects), and the introduction of the new personnel system (which I've mentioned before). It's still not entirely clear how this is going to work out. In fact at the last meeting we had about it, I took great pleasure in pointing out to the Director that the perpetual contract system here is a significant factor in perpetuating the disfunctional management of the lab, and he didn't disagree. No doubt the disfunctional management will be slated again in the forthcoming 5-yearly review of the lab as it was last time, but this assessment process seems to be completely toothless and I'm sure that its recommendations will be blatantly ignored as they were before. Interestingly, at this same recent meeting (and with roughly 20 staff as witnesses), the Director explicitly assured us that there were no circumstances in which he would be empowered to refuse the contract renewal of any scientist in the top rank (which means one promotion above us). Of course this verbal assurance has no legal value whatsoever - I'll wait until I see it written down before believing it - but it may indicate a willingness to moderate the worst excesses of the system. Even so, 18 years to tenure is still crazy. My experience is that once labs get a taste for introducing new systems, they repeat the process at ever-increasing frequency so we may see everything changed again anyway.

We've also been told that in order to progress to the top grade, we need to become competently fluent in Japanese. That doesn't seem an unreasonable requirement in order to be able to play a full role in the management of the lab, and there would certainly be plenty of Japanese paperwork to deal with. Whether or not we would actually want to get involved at that level is far from certain, but I'd rather have this requirement clearly made in an up-front manner, than have it pulled out of a hat unexpectedly at same future point when it is too late to do anything about it. So long as they don't decide to sack us for being "too Japanese" (don't laugh, this sort of treatment is far from exceptional) I'll be happy to continue my painful struggles to learn more of the language. Anyway, the time scale for this hypothetical future promotion is probably another 10 years and although life is still pleasant enough here that's a long way off.


Anonymous said...

Given my previous comments on how fortunate I think you are to have such a life, you won't be surprised to be receiving these hearty congratulations. At least, the budget hike seems like a real boost. Kampai!

Anonymous said...

Why on earth would you want to buy offsets?


CO2 is a postive externality and obviously so.

Have you forgotten that we are living in the midst of a brutal, pulversing, ice age?

C W Magee said...

Hey anonymous,
Did you actually click that link before commenting? It has nothing to do with CO2.

As for the current climate, are you, like, a stylinodon or something?

Anonymous said...

Attempt not to be an idiot will you Lemming.

Did you have a point?

No I don't think you did.

The fact remains, and your stupidity cannot deny this fact..... that we are in a brutal and pulverising ice age.

That is the central fact in this debate.

The starting point of the debate.

Its the Alpha and almost the omega of this debate.

And so it remains something of a mystery as to why Annan feels the need to appease the lunatics and pledge to make offsets.

James Annan said...

Good grief. What did I do in a past life to deserve Graeme Bird's (or whoever it is) undying attention in this one?

Given the point-missing stupidity, I think I'll leave the comments up for now. It didn't feel too brutal today up in the mountains after Tokyo's first ever snow-free winter since records began.

C W Magee said...

My nameless friend,
I actually enjoy stupidity. If you don't believe me, google "Thermodynamics of Hot Chicks".

Personally, I'm a big fan of ice ages. That's one reason I work for people who study the geochronology of Neoproterozoic diamictites. I plan on retiring to Callisto. But if you think that returning us to a Cretaceous hothouse would provide a climate more suitable for your personal beliefs, by all means buy a bigger car, leave your lights on all night, and turn the heater in your pool up to 95 degrees. It's your life, mate.

James, congratulations to you and Jules on the new contracts.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
James Annan said...

Back in the Birdcage for you.

Anonymous said...

LL, re: "Thermodynamics of Hot Chicks", nice one. I trust you've seen The Britney Spears guide to Semiconductor Physics?

C W Magee said...

The most amusing thing about the BSgSP is that the typo density increases next to the pictures...