Ramblings

A Juggling Act

Life is rather hectic here, now. The fact that I say I hate school on a regular basis (hourly regular) just points to how much I really do like working. Because, as many of you know, I really really DO enjoy school. I’ve never had a problem with learning, and most of the stuff in the Business College is downright brilliant to me. But this semester, no. I can’t handle it.

I feel like sleeping through certain classes. Or I wait until the last minute to do readings, assignments, or homework. I’m just not into it. Maybe it’s because it’s my last semester, and I’ve just the bug, but again, I think it’s more than that. It’s got everything to do with work.

As most know by now, I was asked to work on a pretty high-profile project for K-State, and particularly my office, OME. It’s a project that’s funded by a section of the Department of Defense, called TSWG (phonetically tiswig, or Technical Support Working Group). The first week in February, I went to Washington D.C. with my office’s director, Rob Caffey, and the project manager, Lloyd Walker. We met up with a few other K-State high-er-ups, Marty Vanier DVM, assistant director of NABC (the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center — the major organization involved in this project), and Elizabeth Unger, K-State’s Vice Provost of Academic Services & Technology (basically the CIO).

A bit about TSWG: they’re self-described as a venture capitalist organization, funding projects with moderate amounts of risk, and the potential for great rewards. Most of their projects are centered around terrorist security of all types, with an emphasis on protective gear. A look at their website shows just the level of creepiness that surrounds their projects: a remote polygraph, suicide bomber detection, and transparent armor. The website we’re developing for them, to guard against and respond to agriculture bioterrorism, surely fits in there somewhere.

So in DC, we basically had two objectives: meet with the subcontracting partners (who were responsible for 3 deliverables that will, eventually, be integrated into the website) and discuss the progress, gear up for integration, and prepare for the second objective, which was presenting this progress to one person: Todd from TSWG. Todd was described to me as a humorless man, who because he works for such a protective, secret organization, refuses even to share an umbrella for fear of improprieties or whatever they’re called. Bullshit. That’s what they’re called. Anyway, no, to me he didn’t seem as dry as some had made him out to be. Rather he seemed like a genius, and so he should be forgiven the quirks that go along with such a thing. Todd is also largely in charge of allocating funds, which, when it comes right down to it, is what this whole trip could arguably be about. It always is.

The meetings went well and I think all of the agents there would agree. Future funding seems likely, which is good news because this project could end up being a major resource for thousands and thousands of people. Avian Influenza is a big worry. As is Soybean Rust and a few other diseases that could cause, naturally or purposefully, major disruptions in the US and worldwide.

Rob & Lloyd & I had a Guinness in a pub the first night, after a rather pricey, but good meal in Chinatown. The next evening, after our meetings, we replayed the beers with Marty, Beth, and a few colleagues from Anser (a subcontractor). All-in-all an informative trip that should definitely put us on course for the next few deliverables — the first of which will be a publically available website, due on April 1st. You’ll no doubt be hearing more about that in the (near) future.

This project alone could keep me well occupied. But it doesn’t end there. No: I have a couple other projects I’m responsible for at work — a new, innovative system that I’m envisioning putting together, for a course templating system. My idea is to have a standard HTML file that can be used for every course, in any kind of design (or theme). By adding a given stylesheet, that course homepage can change automatically from a top navigation site to either a left- or right-navigation site. Adding another stylesheet will give the template its design: whether it be steel or frogs or rain or circuits or music or gray, just one more stylesheet should make that switch. It’s really an aggressive idea, and I think I’m just the person to make it happen, but it’s going to take a ton of testing — every combination of LAYOUT + DESIGN + Operating System + Browser, with any of the unusual combinations of data that may inhabit a course, at different sizes of text, will have to be tested and assured that it works. Big job, indeed.

I’m also involved in a couple more minor initiatives, but they take up such an insignificant amount of time, I won’t bother mentioning here.

Outside of work-proper, I’ve still got the B&W thing on my plate. It’s really not moving forward right now, but I’m gonna give it a push by week’s end.

Juggling all of this with all of my school work — YES, it’s just nine hours but you can bite me — and my desire to go to the Rec on a regular basis, and my affinity for late-night cartoons and movies, and oh, my anxiety towards applying for a full-time position at OME, which seems to be moving very slowly indeed (not necessarily a bad thing at this point), and the search for a new apartment (because YES, we’re definitely not renewing our lease this year), and planning my May graduation, it’s just all a little too all-at-once, if you know what I mean.

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