December 17, 2009
What a week! Today was the deadline for NSF CISE "small" grant proposals (under $500K), so yesterday was a frantic one for a bunch of CSE faculty, including me, Brian Noble, Alex Halderman, Jason Flinn, Kristen LeFevre, Morley Mao, and I'm sure some others.
Alex and I also had a take-home final to prepare for our security course. So Alex and I (and Scott Wolchok, our GSI) were burning the midnight oil last night. I spotted Morley and Brian in the wee hours, too.
When I got in at 8 this morning (six hours after I left last night), Alex was still slaving away, looking ... bad ... all nighter bad. Soon Brian arrived and we all (individually) put our heads down to bang out brilliance, for that is what we do!
As the morning wore on, emails from Administrative Associates begging the stragglers to finish were directed to an increasingly narrow few. Kristen and Jason submitted yesterday (weird!) ... then Brian was done ... and then it was just Alex and me.
My co-PI, Manish Karir (over at Merit) and his senior technologist Jim Rees (who, for over a decade, was CITI's chief technologist) finished their edits around noon and turned everything over to me. I managed to get ... well, close — close enough, anyway — by around 2:30. At some point, you just gotta trust your instincts (and luck), ship it —au revoir! bonne chance! — and hope for the best. So that is what I did.
Then I headed down to Alex' office just for grins to watch his death march. This is Alex' first year on the faculty, so he is still pretty green and maybe underestimated the NSF proposal guidelines miasma. I skimmed his Project Description, grabbed my laptop, and banged out the missing Broader Impacts section.
Kate Crary, our Grant Specialist, stuck her head in the door so we enlisted her to grab her laptop and join us. She uploaded the Project Summary page, ran the content checks, and kept the communication lines open with DRDA (the grants office). I sliced the References section out from Alex' Project Description, uploaded that, then threw together a Biographical Sketch drawn from his online CV.
FInally everything was done except for Alex' lengthy Project Description section, which he continued to hammer on. None of us have Joshua 10:12 skills, and time continued its relentless march, flirting with disaster. Kate and I worked Alex over, at turns encouraging, emploring, and threatening. Poor Alex, who by now had been slogging away for 30 hours nonstop, was defenseless, putty in our hands.
And then it was 4 PM, four hours past the DRDA deadline, an hour past the DRDA "actual" deadline, and only one hour before the real NSF deadline. Kate started muttering about the risk of anthropogenic something (I didn't understand ... something to do with Acts of God?) so we announced to Alex "you are done." Some last second cuts and pastes, render to PDF and voila! the Project Description was uploaded. Kate ran a final check, then punched finalize.
A few nervous minutes (and a few frantic phone calls) later, the confirmation email came back from NSF: proposal submitted! Hurray! Congratulations, Alex, you got it done! (And thanks to Kate, who really went to bat for the faculty.)
I slithered home, intending to curl up in a fetal ball in front of my fireplace and suck my thumb, but I spent the evening laughing with my daughter Emily instead. Can't beat that!
Happy Winter Traditions everybody!