Friday, May 19, 2006

It's 3am and I Want To.....

well you might know the rest of that song by O.A.R., but if you don't it goes

....go to bed.

The question was raised, "What the hell are you doing working from midnight - 8am" It was also mentioned by many that they were happy to see this silly owl shift crap almost over. I need to address both of those.

So first of all, Jason and I are graduate students with Indiana University and working towards our PhD's in Physics. We finished our course work at IU (that was tons of fun) and now we are living in Chicago and working at Fermi Lab on the research portion of our degrees. Part of "getting your degree" assuming that happens for little Leah here is that you have to do a round of what is called Data Aquisition shifts, known as DAQ shifts. Supposedly all graduate students have to do these to graduate (I don't know how true that actually is...but that's neither here nor there, it's a must for IU grad students). So what does one do on a DAQ shift. If there is a data flowing you monitor the, you guessed it, the Data AQuistion system and make sure that the data goes from the proton collision point through our computers and out the other end. The schedule for a DAQ shifter is one week on then two weeks off. You do this for 6 shifts. Since the detector has to be monitored for 24 hours a day, you have three different time slots, 8am-4pm, 4pm-midnight, midnight-8m. Then the shifts go
week 1 : 8am-4pm
week 4 : 4pm-midnight
week 7 : midnight-8am
week 10: 8am-4pm
week 13 : 4pm-midnight
week 16 : midnight-8am
Add into the mix of never quite having a set schedule is that Jason and I are BOTH doing these shifts but not during the same week or the same time slot in back to back weeks. So our schedule gets really screwed up since we like to run toghether, we try to keep our wok schedule together. So our schedule looks something like this :
week 1 : 8am-4pm
week 2 : midnight-8am
week 3 : no shifts
week 4 :4pm-midnight
week 5 :8am -4pm
week 6 : no shifts
and so on until we are done (I am done on July 23nd and Jason is done August 27th) Right now we are in 'week 2' (even though this is the 3rd DAQ shift for me, but Jason just started last week).

To make matters more fun, currently we are in a shut down. That means NO DATA. So I am monitoring NOTHING. When there is a shut down the DAQ shifter still has to be here because by D-Zero (that's the name of our experiment) law there always has to be two people on site....the DAQ shifter is one of those people.

So I should be able to get a lot of work done on these shifts, but my analysis is being very stagnent and ooooh it is frustrating me. I have to be good at fucking something and lots of times, I realize it's not going to be high energy physics. Which is fine and good, I just have to figure out what I am going to do after I'm done......

So with my analysis I have some code that fits a lifetime and it's slow, and apparently sucks because it's not doing a good job of fitting. So I'll change a paramenter and then run it again, and wait 30 minutes and when it's still crap I'll try changing something else and running it. So what to do during the time it's running? I have read just about everything there is to read on the internet (honestly if I click on one more link I fear that it will say, "Sorry you have reached the end...there is nothing left to surf"), I read my book and tonight I was able to make that cool little runners icon in the address bar for this site.

Looks like my code has finished runnning, and yep, it still looks like crap. Maybe it's time to shoot an e-mail off to someone that knows what they are doing and see if they can help me. If I have learned anything as a graduate student, it's how to ask for help.


Editors note : The ONLY good thing about these shifts is at 5am it's really beautiful outside. Of course this is just a fleeting glimpse for me as I run from 3 stories below ground upstairs for a bathroom break.......but still....nice to look at....


Full Metal Lunchbox said...

I totally know what you guys are going through, except for some reason I chose my crazy hours voluntarily.  My current roommate works a normal day shift, and my dogs keep their own mysterious schedule.  So sleep and running aren't things I take for granted either.

What do you guys do during off weeks?  I'll bet it's hard to go back to work after having down time.

LeahC said...

We haven't had a down week yet. Next week we'll have the first one and we are planning on working at home for most if not all of it. Since we have to drive out here for 14 days in a row, we get a little tired of the traffic and the car.

Bob said...

Yawwwwnnnnn, me sleepy.....zzzzzzzzzzz

Joe said...

Do you get any danger pay? I mean, what about all of the dangerous tachion particles emitting from the tractor beam?

Seriously though, what language are you writing your code in? Fortran, C, C++, Ada? I'm a mostly a Java programmer but I'm sure you wouldn't use that for your application.

Josh said...

I love O.A.R.! They're great in concert too, if you haven't seen them already. And wow ... my head hurts ... you two are smart.

LeahC said...

I always thought that O.A.R. would be great in concert, but I haven't seem them yet.

We do most of our code writing in c++. There are some old libraries and stuff in fortran, but I don't like to touch that stuff! I actually made some progress last night! Always good news!

Anonymous said...

I love physics. I always kind of wondered what you and Jason were doing at 2 am at work - I suppose it is like a residency in physics- interesting stuff when you have data I'm sure. Yet, I couldn't do it which is the same reason I couldn't go to med school I need sleep. Best of luck at the lab.

Joe said...

C++, eh? I used to do a lot of C++. I hate it now. Having to do your own memory management is a pain in the ass. Having to write destructors, copy constructors and overloaded assignment operators sucks too. It's Java or death for me now.

Having said that, you can't beat C and C++ for performance and power.

LeahC said...

i don't know Java at all and I think I need to get on learning it so I can get some kind of job after this.