Friday, October 12, 2007


After returning from a really busy trip to San Francisco on Sep 27, I got slammed with my first grant lead. I had to produce a €3M grant application on short notice with minimal support. My officemate Bernhard was helping on 2 other grants with the same Oct 9 deadline. Other grant contributors were generally quite slow, and about half did close to nothing. Most were not native English speakers, adding bonus work that I alone could do well. The grant support office at the university - which any fellow grantwriter knows is essential - was curiously on vacation. Odd. There is a huge EU-wide grant call due Oct 9, dozens of groups at U Bremen had submissions, and all the key people at the grant office choose the preceding 2 weeks for a holiday. Hence it was all me. If you want something done right, do it yourself. Not a good attitude for management, but it worked this time.
From Sep 27 to Oct 9, I averaged 115 hours per week. Do the math, and it looks impossible. Now redo the math, accounting for the four all - nighters and an average of 4 hours of sleep per night. Twice I slept on the metal desk in my office. And delivered a very good grant app. It was nice to see I still had it. Done it before, and will do it again. I was thriving. It was the most fun I had in a while. Thus was born my first grant app, about 120 pages of inspired beauty. What can I say? I would fund us.
Yet I must also wonder about the opportunity cost. With equivalent effort, I could have produced a major patent application, most of a full scientific research project, two solid theory papers, and who knows what in industry. If the grant is denied, which is statistically the most likely, the effort was for naught. I am directly competing against a larger powerhouse consortium of 15 EU groups, including the top BCI labs. I am up against Niels Birbaumer. So my prediction is, good score from the reviewers, but no money. The more senior I become in academia, the more time I have to spend on grant apps. Hm.
Amidst this all, I have been burning to get out my latest silly story. I never had time. The whole time I was working on my grant app, I was thinking about my silly proposal. I thought, dammit, I don't want to smog up my blog with grantwriting. But then I thought, no, if my brain is stuck in that mode, go with it. Hence the HOP proposal, which is sitting on my nonworking USB key here at an internet cafe in Munich. I should be able to post it soon.
Back to intensity. I am here in Munich until Sunday, then off to Salzburg, which I love. I met some old friends here last night and we went to the famous HofBrauhaus. Great fun, but I would guess more than half of the patrons were Americans. On Wed I return to Bremen. on Sunday the 21st I fly to San Diego. After working there with Jaime Pineda and then going to a conference, I go to San Francisco to meet with a lab there, then Albany to visit the Wolpaw lab, then Manhattan, then back to Bremen on Nov 20.
Today is the first of my 29 vacation days. The boss gave me yesterday and next Wed as free vacation days as a bonus for the grant app. Off to wander around Munich. Flaneur.

Three quotes from Thomas Edison, who coincidentally has the same birthday:

Personally, I enjoy working about 18 hours a day. Besides the short catnaps I take each day, I average about four to five hours of sleep per night.

I find my greatest pleasure, and so my reward, in the work that precedes what the world calls success.

Pretty much everything will come to him who hustles while he waits. I believe that restlessness is discontent, and discontent is merely the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.

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