I've spent much of the past few days hanging out with a bunch of scientists who laugh heartily at jokes like "I don't like to use the term 'connect the dots', I prefer 'cubic spline'." And you know how happy that makes me.
The conference began on Sunday with "WeatherFest", a huge science fair for the K-12 set. We all looked forward to it for weeks and it did not disappoint. The kids got to climb around on a swift-water rescue boat and a large, truck-mounted research radar. They played with computer simulations of tornadoes and activities designed to explain the basics of remote sensing to a six year old and have rain-gauge races with each other and learn about Coriolis and angular momentum (a really cool experiment involving a kid-sized turntable and some hand weights). Cool, cool stuff. James wandered around looking cute and saying "day-doo" (thank you) when people handed him swag. That kid is good at gathering swag. Charlie told a half-dozen people things like "My mom used to be a storm chaser!" and "My mom used to have to STAY for hurricanes!" which was nice because it can be so awkward to work those things into the conversation when you are a (somewhat) polite adult (Not that that has ever stopped you before says everyone I've ever attended a party/playdate/oil change with).
Then Monday night I went to some presentations about Hurricane Sandy. Tuesday was the big day, when I sat in rush hour traffic for an hour like a real adult then listened to talks all day (interspersed with some very enjoyable and productive meetings with old friends; colleagues, I think I'm supposed to call them). I topped it of with a delicious dinner at a fabulous, absolutely kid-unfriendly (the quiet, the impeccable menu, the roasted garlic with goat cheese appetizer, holy hell), restaurant with great old and new friends. And I still made it home in time to kiss everyone goodnight (Nighty night, sweetheart! I missed you today! says the hot blast of garlic breath)!
Today I went back for a panel discussion on communicating climate change and the women in atmospheric sciences luncheon. I was dropping the kids off at preschool on the way when I noticed the impenetrable wall of cars sitting parked on the highway into the city. Thankfully a friend suggested I try to make the train (when the radio indicated an entire lane of that highway was closed due to ponding after last night's rain) and after driving like a crazy person, swinging the van awkwardly into the only available (too small) parking space, and running through the rain clutching my stupid worthless dress shoes and my laptop bag, swearing at the ticket machine, I made it onto the waiting train with about a minute to spare, barefoot and out of breath with the legs of my pants soaked through from the knee down. But sitting on the warm, dry train reading books instead of inching down the interstate in my car was DELIGHTFUL.
But for all the fun (and delicious food), these things tend to make me sort of wistful for the kind of researcher I once was. I feel like I am on the fringe of the community now and I know there is a lot of hard work in store if I ever want to be truly a part of it again. I am wrapping up (hopefully! soon!) a paper from my dissertation that would be submitted to a journal (if all goes according to plan) and I'm just starting out on a project with someone at my old school. It is very important that both of those things go well if I am to have any "career" to speak of, but I am EXHAUSTED just thinking about it. I am exhausted in general just trying not to get crushed to death by the kids' laundry pile. When they go to bed I *should* throw in a load of laundry, push up my sleeves, and work through one of the many issues I'm having with my research, but instead I spend a couple guilt-laden hours watching TV and putzing around online then go to bed promising to do better tomorrow. Fun!
So tonight I tried to do better. Because quitting my job is not an option I am willing to consider after Christmas Break (going to my quiet office and reading about nice, predictable physical phenomena was like going to the freaking SPA) (and judging by the level of cranky (from me) I would assume that the kids would agree with me here), that means I have to keep moving forward. I looked for some references related to my rain project and spent an hour trying to figure out how I'm going to download the almost twenty years of data I'm going to need. I didn't touch the edits for my paper because I'm going to need coffee to get through that sucker (Dr. Advisor, once heavy-handed with the red pen and now the master of track changes). We'll call that a pretty good start.