This week we're doing our first experiment in a few months. It was the first "hard" setup we'd had to do in 16 months--this was the first time since then that we'd used more than one detector at a time, and I'm the only one who remembers how to set up the silicon detectors. And by "remember" I mean "have a vague inkling of what to do most of the time" combined with "have the new home phone number of the post-doc who designed the system".
The setup was labour-intensive. We started installing and testing stuff last Wednesday, worked all day Thursday and Friday, and did some stuff Saturday afternoon. The other students then decided that they would rather watch the Super Bowl than finish the setup before we got beam on Monday, and it was maybe not smart of me to let them get away with that...what that meant was eighteen hours straight on Monday, debugging and making phone calls and bringing the lab sysadmin back to the lab after he'd gone home for dinner.
The whole thing was a lot of fun, though. I realized that, yeah, I have picked up a few things in the past ...oh dear... six and a half years. And that's one of my favourite feelings. This is work that I find interesting, and I'm pretty good at it, and that's a good thing. For another thing, it's nice to do something other than stare at my computer all day, for a change. Putting things together is fun. Figuring things out in groups is fun, as long as the group members are people I respect, and in this case the group is my fellow grad students, all of whom are smart and congenial, so that's another good thing. And taking the lead in a group is something that actually comes pretty naturally, once I think I know what I'm doing. And of course the thing that made the setup most pleasant is that it's not my own experiment that I'm working on, so it's easier for me to stay equanimous when we hit snags. (There's a lesson there, somewhere, I just know it...something about non-self and impermanence and dukkha. I know I've heard something like that somewhere before.....)
Oh, and of course there's another good thing: working for twenty out of twenty-six hours makes me feel incredibly tough. I like feeling tough.