A roller coaster week…

I am not usually one to walk around with a big grin on my face on Friday, glad to bid good-bye to the week at hand. No, I enjoy my work (most of the time), just as I enjoy the freedom that weekends provide for me to mop up any urgent work, and combine it with my own doings. But I admit I’m happy to see the back end of this week.

Why? Working my way backwards, the week ended with a bang–a quick snow squall that popped up out of nowhere–but did leave a beautiful reminder that winter has not yet abated.

My backyard, recently

Couple that with a marathon of exam grading this afternoon, and I could use a beer. Or a glass of wine, or 4.

But that’s not what really irked me this week. No, it wasn’t that. It wasn’t even the fact that ‘usually-organized me’ (almost) missed a good grant opportunity and found it at noon on the very day it was due at 5 pm. And I had a 2 hour meeting that same afternoon. My urgent phone call from Omaha (Central Time) to ask whether, by any chance, 5 pm might not be Pacific Time, met with a “Nice try, but no!” But I am happy to report, the grant went out at 4:50 pm Central Time.

My most constant worry has been the ever-crashing and ever-troubling issue of a reliable e-mail system. In my previous blog (“Who says scientists aren’t creative?“), I described my utter frustration with our e-mail system– known as Lotus Notes. I noted my dismay at having to “do figure eights-in-the-air” to be able to load e-mail on the web-based system from home. I probably forgot to mention the many e-mail attachments I have been forced to send to journals, colleagues and collaborators using my daughter’s g-mail account (until I finally opened my own). Not exactly what one would expect from a system supposedly designed for serious work.

It turns out, from the many comments and sympathy statements that I received, that I am not alone in this frustration. In fact, there is even a website called “I hate Lotus Notes” that discusses “the healing process” and has items for sale (Share the pain, get gear). Such as this T-shirt:

"I hate Lotus Notes" T-shirt. Not recently--NOW! and always!

But–relief is on the way. Microsoft Outlook, with it’s Macintosh capabilities is scheduled to kick in on March 6, 2012 to replace LN. Yes! But wait…

I was informed that my beloved BlackBerry will not be compatible with the new Outlook, that my calendar won’t be synchronized, and I will no longer be able to have my client e-mail work seamlessly with it. It is important for me to point out that through all my frustrations with LN, my trusty BlackBerry never failed me. Not once. After being set up, these past 2-3 years it has worked seamlessly with my LN calendar and many, many times has saved me–being my only workable e-mail. The muscles on my two thumbs can probably rival those of the strongest body builders.

So I was in great despair to find that I would need to trade-in the old BB for an iPhone. Now everyone who is anyone says, “Wow, what an upgrade!”

But I’m not so sure. The BB did everything I asked of it and more. True, it’s internet capabilities were a bit limited, but ultimately there were few websites that I couldn’t get into. It was easy to use, I could control making the whole thing silent, vibrations for e-mails, rings for the phone, beeps for IM, dings for twitter and FB. Everything worked! And at night, charging in the corner of my room and used as an alarm clock, one finger click and the thing was silent until the next morning. Ahhh, and that blinking red light in seminars–a much awaited e-mail!

Yes! Yes! I was hooked. Crack-Berry.

And now, I sit with my new iPhone beside me, still struggling to unravel the puzzles it presents. It took a day or two to get it coordinated with the university e-mail. That now seems to work okay. Whew. But g-mail? All week I was trying to figure out how I could possibly IM on g-mail without having to open Safari. And STAY OPEN–otherwise people wouldn’t know I’m online. Hours of digging through comments and posts online, and I finally found an application that could be uploaded–and it works. Whew!

I admit that the internet is faster, more sophisticated, more possibilities. All true. But my number one beef–aside from the complexity of learning to use it properly–is the speed at which I can (or rather can’t!) type.

On my old BB, I could e-mail with 2 thumbs as fast as I can type on this computer. With the iPhone, I can’t use my thumbs and still hit the correct keys. Perhaps my thumbs are too brawny from BB exercises, but it just won’t go. So it’s poking away like a real amateur. SLOW. People say I’ll get used to it. I don’t know if they mean I’ll learn to type faster (and with fewer mistakes) or that I’ll just get used to typing more slowly. Probably the latter.

Well, enough said. A traumatic week. And my kids are making fun of me–“What, you don’t WANT the iPhone? Get with it!”

Any advice for an iPhone novice? Aside from anti-depressants?

About Steve Caplan

I am a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska where I mentor a group of students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers working on endocytic protein trafficking. My first lablit novel, "Matter Over Mind," is about a biomedical researcher seeking tenure and struggling to overcome the consequences of growing up with a parent suffering from bipolar disorder. Lablit novel #2, "Welcome Home, Sir," published by Anaphora Literary Press, deals with a hypochondriac principal investigator whose service in the army and post-traumatic stress disorder actually prepare him well for academic, but not personal success. Novel #3, "A Degree of Betrayal," is an academic murder mystery. "Saving One" is my most recent novel set at the National Institutes of Health. Now IN PRESS: Today's Curiosity is Tomorrow's Cure: The Case for Basic Biomedical Research (CRC PRESS, 2021). https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/entity/author/B006CSULBW? All views expressed are my own, of course--after all, I hate advertising.
This entry was posted in humor, research, science and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to A roller coaster week…

  1. Steve – your Blackberry should synchronize fine with Outlook if your IT people set it up right. It requires a proper enterprise install of Outlook which takes care of email, calendaring and probably a bunch of stuff I don’t even know about. It’s all handled by the institutional Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES). This is the system we use here and it’s nearly seamless, just the occasional hiccup where the mobile device is in a wireless dead spot and doesn’t update immediately. I can use BBerry, Outlook on my laptop when I’m inside the institution’s firewall, and web-based secure email (Microsoft Forefront) when I’m outside. They all talk to each other, access institutional address books, and the like, and cross-update.

    However, if your institution cheaps out on the Blackberry server, or whatever implementation of Outlook they’re using – or if they don’t set up correctly what they’ve got – that could cause your BBerry woes.

    Ah well, you’ve got the iPhone now and I dare say you’ll get it sorted out. FWIW, iPhone was initially not supported on our system, but works fine now.

    • Steve Caplan says:

      “However, if your institution cheaps out on the Blackberry server, or whatever implementation of Outlook they’re using – or if they don’t set up correctly what they’ve got – that could cause your BBerry woes.”

      I suspect that might be the problem, as they have been warning all BBerry users of the upcoming Armageddon…

      However, since posting last night, I AM slowly becoming more comfortable with the iPhone. Everything seems to work quite well now, although I daresay that I’ll never learn to type on the screen at the rate that I could with the BBerry.

      However, hope abounds: I am told that there are iPhone mini-keyboards:


  2. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Congrats on the iPhone! Careful though – it’s a gateway drug. You’ll have at least one MacBook before you know it.

    BTW, did you seriously write a grant from scratch and submit it in under FIVE HOURS?! How long was the proposal?! I’m very impressed. Just don’t tell any of the PIs I work for, OK? If they knew such a thing was possible, my job would get that much more stressful!

    (Although actually part of my job is to alert all “my” PIs about relevant grant competitions. My RSS-fu is very helpful in this regard. I sent an email to about 20 PIs today about a suite of seven related grant competitions announced by a single funding agency this week… luckily only five of the PIs on the list would be able to ask me to help with their applications (the others are in different departments, but have asked to be on my alerts list). Sometimes I think I should just STFU instead to reduce my workload… but then my stoopid work ethic kicks in. I hate that bastard).

    • Steve Caplan says:

      Thanks! I am starting to appreciate the iPhone, although I still am uncomfortable typing. By now, though, aside from that I’m enjoying it! Thinking about one of those little keyboards, but people say I’ll get used to the screen touch.

      I’ve always been Apple-oriented, from 1990. I’ve just been slow with the phones. Was one of the last people to get a cell phone, and one of the last of the (relatively) younger generation to get a smart phone (~3 years ago). But, yes, now I’m hooked…

      As for the grant- it was only a 2 page grant (for an internal RFA), so it wasn’t mission impossible. What made it more challenging was that it was supposed to be a collaboration and I am not as up-to-date on my collaborators field, so it took a bit of work to get it right. I am one of those people that you grant wranglers would love, as I almost always have my proposals ready 2 weeks in advance. What I call an “internal deadline.” Always afraid something will crop up at the last minute and I won’t get it out without a lot of stress if I leave it too late.

      PS: I used to be a decent scrabbler and strong boggler, but haven’t played the former for awhile!

  3. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    p.s. you need to download Words With Friends (Scrabble), Hanging With Friends (Hangman), and/or Scramble With Friends (Boggle) ASAP and look me up. My user name is wonderbrit. I’m excellent at Scramble and decent at the other two 🙂

Comments are closed.