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Paul Jackson | CERN | Switzerland

View Blog | Read Bio

Shift drifter

It’s morning, late September, in the ATLAS control room. We’re coming to the end of a long overnight run and
I have just started a shift. It really is fair to say that of the few of us currently in the control room, the gentleman
doing the cleaning is the most active. He has cleaned every desktop thoroughly and forced each and every
one of us out of our chairs so that he can sweep the floors, with vigor. I’ve been up earlier than usual for
quite a few days now. Day shifts start at 7am and so for me that means about a 5.30am wake up time in order
to leave sufficient minutes to consume the gallon of coffee necessary for me to be considered safe on the roads.
The lady who runs the patisserie across the road from my house (one of the best in existence – the bakery I mean
not the lady, who is pleasant don’t get me wrong, but probably not ‘one of the best women in existence’) is starting
to give me strange looks as I’ve been waiting outside for her to unlock her doors for the last couple of days. I’m
pretty sure she knows me as “that guy who asks for un baguette and NOT une baguette”, something I’ve been
skillfully avoiding recently by only purchasing multiple baguettes and hence avoiding the need to memorize the
gender of my baked goods. It was cold today and surprisingly busy as I sped towards point 1. Now I’m here,
morning shafts of light start to break in through the mighty windows behind me. I’m sat at the pixel desk
(for those of you who know the ACR) watching my four screens do very little as the run keeps going, we’re at
12h 8m and, lets call it 45 secs. The cleaner is now putting the rest of us to shame by vacuuming the floors,
leaving behind an air of guilt at the apparent lack of actual work being accomplished in the control room.
The plan for my shift is to:
a) If anything starts flashing red find out why it’s flashing and red.
b) Start doing some calibrations and try to ensure I don’t have to do a).
c) Wait for something to happen

A lot of us take shifts for reasons other than the actual act of shift-taking. In a smooth running, ideal physics
data-taking world, the shift allows one to get on with some real work. Imagine being stuck in a room for 8 hours
with nothing much to do, it affords one the opportunity to get on with all manner of work. On a good
data-taking shift there is little to do and you can get a lot done, which is great. Personally I kind of enjoy the
problem solving of things actually happening and having to respond to the a)’s in my tongue-in-cheek shift
plan above. This afternoon should leave plenty of problem solving time as we work on changing the rate
of data-taking, check for things going busy, disable modules ‘losing clock’ and work on upgrading
formatters. Fantastic stuff!

Even though we’d really like to get a lot of work done on shift there is always the possibility that you might goof off
for a bit and stop checking your panels and instead surf the web, write some emails….or work on a blog entry.

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