Monday, March 28, 2011

Progress report

I don’t know what I would do without all the faceless bureaucrats and administrators to keep me in line at work. They’re just unknown names to me--anonymous. They send out their numerous emails and reminder emails to look at the first emails and all I can think of is—thank God someone is watching over me. What would I do without them? They remind me to fill out this or that progress report, to download this or that form, and I wonder how I survived and managed ten years ago without all this ‘follow-up’. I guess some of it is good and even necessary. But the amount of email I get now is incredible—too much in other words—and the amount of regular post has dwindled to nothing. I check the regular mailbox I have at work and it is nearly always empty. I wonder how the post office survives these days. I wonder how come postal workers are not being laid off in record numbers. The same is true for home mail; I get very little mail and I miss it. I used to like opening the mailbox and seeing cards and letters from friends and family, as well as the occasional advertisements and catalogs. It was something to look forward to. I guess it’s cheaper for clothing stores and electronics stores to send emails with attachments, but I don’t see the savings passed on to us, the customers. I’m waiting for that day.

But back to my emails. Today was one of those Mondays that started well. I decided to focus on my work—on a lecture that I am preparing. I was actually gaining momentum and getting into it, when suddenly I remembered the email from last Thursday, reminding me to fill out and send in a progress report having to do with how I have spent the twelve thousand dollars in grant support for consumables that was awarded me in December 2010. This is how the grant application process proceeded last year. I wrote the grant in May, sent it to the granting agency in June and it came back with a reply in December. The money was transferred to my hospital account in January 2011. The granting agency wants to know how I have spent twelve thousand dollars in the space of two to three months. I have stretched this amount of money to last up to one year many times before, because it’s not often one gets grant support of any kind. So it’s highly unlikely that I would have used it up already. So I wrote this on my progress report. I was honest. I wrote that my work was dependent upon this particular sum of money and that since it was just made available to me in January of this year, that I have not had a chance to spend it, which is true, because I have been busy planning and designing the experiments that will require purchase of specific reagents to complete them. So I found it almost amusing that they wanted me to report on my progress already. I would have thought it sufficient to ask how I was doing in August or September. Then I might have been able to tell them that my experiments were going well or that they were going to hell. One or the other. Additionally, ordering necessary items has become a lengthy process, so that it is also unlikely that I could have ordered everything I needed in the space of a couple of months. So this is my progress report anno 2011.

I have to wonder what happens to all the progress reports. Who keeps track of them, and who reads them? Do they get stapled to your file and get perused by the grant reviewers who will look at all the new grant applications this year? Will they appreciate my honesty, or will they think I’m playing a game with them? I’m not. Honesty is not a game. Political correctness is, and I’m not very good at it. So let the chips fall where they may. At least I got my progress report in on time. I hope that counts in my favor. Now I’m trying to remember how many other progress reports I have to fill out before I can get back to what I really am paid to do—work. 

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