It's been a little while since I last wrote something here but I can certainly promise you it's not because I've taken a break from writing. In fact it's the complete opposite. During the last week I managed to figure out how to disable the touch pad on my laptop which has been the bane of my life recently. I can't tell you how many important documents my palm and fingers have destroyed or reformatted just because they wanted a place to rest, and the touch pad is the ideal spot for them. Even my lunch joined in one day - a nice dollop of egg mayonnaise moved an important plot of science project completion into the middle of a paragraph about weather statistics and then, for desert, disabled the undo option.
It's UKIRT Board writing time and this is the first time I've had to write the reports. Fortunately, the board agreed last time round to lessen the burden on us and are OK with somewhat briefer papers with less details and more humour. OK, I lied about that last bit. There's not a shred of humour in the reports I've written but it's been tempting to add some. To avoid doing so I think of the US Inland Revenue Service and how they would react to someone writing "I don't know" when reporting their income. Instead of that, I've written "we have nothing further to report".
(Jeez, I hope no members of the board are reading this!).
I hope it'll work. I'm much better answering questions in person than writing them in advance and that's one nice thing about this whole process. I get to visit the UK again and in particular, this time round, Oxford, which is a very special place for me. More on that later as there is nothing further to report at the time of writing. A fully documented account and full discussion will be provided at the appropriate time.
Oh damn, there I go again.
In the meantime it's all hands on deck in preparation for the move to "Minimalist Mode". I've set a firm date for the switch from summit operations to remote observing from Hilo and so far no one's told me I'm being an idiot. This worries me because everyone tells me I'm an idiot all the time, so surely something is wrong. But it has to happen, and happen soon.
Given the upcoming changes, I decided to abuse my newly found powers. In August I mentioned that I was up for my last official full night on the summit of Mauna Kea. Like a well-trained politician running for the senate, I knew what I wrote was likely untrue, but was factually correct when I wrote it and now have the opportunity to flip-flop. I'm up again next week, I changed the schedule myself, and will certainly regret my decision at four o'clock in the morning - on both nights - especially as I forgot I have to give another verbal and written report in the middle of the run to the senior management team. Oh well, I never sleep well on the mountain anyway.
And I'll be up again in December when we switch to Minimalist Mode. This time with an observer but our telescope operator will be 14,000 feet below us in Hilo operating both the telescope and the instrument. I guess I just can't let things go but it seems the right thing to do. Who knows what I'll have forgotten to do in preparation for remote observing? I have to be up there to fix whatever problems occur. Or perhaps it's just a last opportunity to watch a sunset from the summit of Mauna Kea? You choose, I couldn't possibly answer!
The final irony? On those nights in December I'll be accompanied by an observer who was one of the first visiting astronomers I worked with at UKIRT way back in the 90s. He was a student in those days but showed a lot of promise and was a pleasure to support. At the time I thought he'd do just fine in astronomy.
He's now a member of the UKIRT Board. He'll read my board papers and I'll be presenting those papers to him later this month in Oxford.
And I think he still owes me a beer...