Eric's annual post #7: SETI's little helpers, Sick Cat's and more proposals


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Message 581462 - Posted: 4 Jun 2007, 23:15:08 UTC
Last modified: 4 Jun 2007, 23:16:00 UTC

Again, it's been too long. Last week was another proposal deadline... NASA Astrophysics Theory and Fundamental Physics. You may ask "What does that have to do with SETI?" and I'd have to answer "Nothing." It's part of the other half of my job, in this case it was about building 3D models of the distribution of interstellar matter in the Galaxy. Will I get funded? Who knows. The rule of thumb in astronomy is that you'll need to write a proposal four times before it gets funded, and this is only the second time I've written this one. Still haven't heard back on the first one.

I hear that while I've been busy there has been some friction between some of the volunteers that help us out with getting donations and some people who are tiring of the donation drives or would like to avoid the middle man or are unsure of who they can trust.

Regarding the first point, I'm tiring of the funding drives myself and I wish that we had other funding so that we could stop asking you for help, but it probably won't happen soon. The NSF declined to fund the SETI proposal we submitted in November. I can't say that I'm surprised. The NSF program that includes SETI is "Galactic Astronomy," i.e. studying the Galaxy. SETI just doesn't seem to fit in that category. Our previous NSF funding was for building instruments that could be used SETI and for other types of radio astronomy. That was funded through the "Advanced Technologies for Instrumentation" program. So the way NSF is structured, we can get funded to build an instrument, but not funded to use it. NASA's programs are structured in a similar way, and in general they will only support ground based observations that directly support a space mission. So we're left with the personal and corporate donations that have kept us going successfully for the past couple years. We haven't decided when the next will start, but eventually it will.

Regarding the middle men (the most obvious of which are Al (aka Pappa) and Simon (aka Chicken of Angnor), I've been asked why I don't give them official titles which might give more legitimacy to their middleman status. I've resisted this for a couple of reasons. First off, both Al and Simon are volunteers who probably have better things to do with their time than help us raise money. They started assisting with the fundraising without asking. They offered to do what they are doing. Simon saw that it would be difficult for us to accept Paypal Donations directly and decided that he could ease the process by being a go-between. It's worked great thus far. Al, noticing that while I didn't follow the boards and could barely keep up with my email (right now I have 1994 unread messages in my inbox), decided that he could help point out the offers that needed my direct attention. I worry that if I gave them official titles they might feel obligated to do these duties. I think Al has a hard enough time going on a vacation as it is. Simon enjoys optimizing applications more than writing code to handle paypal donations, I'm sure. (That's another service he (and Ben Herndon and Joe Segur and Alex Kan and Crunch3r among others) provide without compensation and that everyone running SETI@home, and the project as a whole will benefit from.)

Another reason is that neither (unless it's in one of those 1998 unread emails) has asked me for a title. A third is there is a tendancy to think that if a title is given, the job is taken. It's not so much the case that we need more than one paypal gateway, but other people besides Al who have acted as go between. I won't name names, but you know who you are. And that's good, because Al can't possibly read every message posted in the forums. I've considered setting up a mailing list for people who want to assist in this manner. That way effort won't be duplicated. Would a little organization help in this case? Anyone want to be on the list? If so, email me the address you want to be contacted at: korpela at ssl dot berkeley dot edu. Appologies in advance for my wacky spam filter. And, of course, if we gave Al and Simon titles would we engender jealousy from people who have helped and not gotten titles?

As far as the trust issue goes, yes, I trust Al and Simon implicitly. Heck if Simon weren't trustworthy and you run the "chicken app" he could have done far worse to you than steal your donation. Of course that doesn't mean I trust everone who might represent themselves as acting in the projects best interest. Use normal caution and you'll be fine.

On a totally unrelated note, I'm working from home today keeping an eye on a sick cat. Is it my imagination or are there more Cat avatars than Dog avatars on the forums. Are SETI people naturally cat people? Anyway here are our two beasts:



The top one is Dolly (aka Dumb-dumb, aka Dumbolina, aka Gooperella, aka Whiner), the bottom one is "The Poor White Cat What Nobody Loves" (aka White Cat, aka Chubbs, aka Bed-sores). Dumb-dumb is usually the medically fragile one. We're quite acustomed to forcing pills down her throat and giving her subcutaneous fluids. This time it's White Cat's turn. She spent yesterday at the emergency vet, and this morning is the first time since friday night she's been able to hold down water or soft food. But she's probably on the mend. Today, I'm glad I've got a job where I can work from home. Just hit 2000 unread messages. I'd better wrap this up.

--
Eric
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Message 581472 - Posted: 4 Jun 2007, 23:26:59 UTC

Eric,

As always, your few words speak volume. You are appreciated by many. It may not always sound like it, but people do.

I hope the cats stay healthy, along with you and yours. Keep up the grand work, and let's hope some day this brings us some awesome news.

Thank you for your updates.

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Message 581560 - Posted: 5 Jun 2007, 2:03:00 UTC - in response to Message 581462.

Again, it's been too long. Last week was another proposal deadline... NASA Astrophysics Theory and Fundamental Physics. You may ask "What does that have to do with SETI?" and I'd have to answer "Nothing." It's part of the other half of my job, in this case it was about building 3D models of the distribution of interstellar matter in the Galaxy. Will I get funded? Who knows. The rule of thumb in astronomy is that you'll need to write a proposal four times before it gets funded, and this is only the second time I've written this one. Still haven't heard back on the first one.

If you code it I will crunch it.
And, of course, if we gave Al and Simon titles would we engender jealousy from people who have helped and not gotten titles?

I'm still waiting for the return of my original dollar star.
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Message 581585 - Posted: 5 Jun 2007, 3:32:27 UTC
Last modified: 5 Jun 2007, 3:33:40 UTC

Being a Cat person Eric, I sympathize with You about Your Cats, I have a 15 year old Calico cat whose fur is slowly turning Grey here and there, Her eyes are still clear and such, Good Luck with funding and all. She's a real Angel too and I trust Her very much.


Angel when She was 10 or 11 years old.
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Message 581760 - Posted: 5 Jun 2007, 11:28:33 UTC - in response to Message 581560.
Last modified: 5 Jun 2007, 11:31:05 UTC

... jealous ... titles...

I'm still waiting for the return of my original dollar star.

What's that?
A single dollar star?! :-O


Matt, good line on the donations and help. Hopefully everyone can help without any jealous fun coming in to play.

Not much of a cat lover myself. There's various cats on patrol around here as in most conurbations. Friends have 3 and sometime 5 taking over their house and home... There's also a very loud elderly 'housecat' (and elderly owner) next door that gives a cat's screechy chorus all itself through the night. Sometimes sounding eeerily similar to a baby being strangled :-( Some foxes here are far louder but at least they're easily recognisable and quite brief about their noisy fun!


Good luck for the grants.

(I moved elsewhere due to that "game"... :-/ )

Regards,
Martin

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Message 581802 - Posted: 5 Jun 2007, 13:16:00 UTC - in response to Message 581462.


. . . bEtter latE than nEvEr eh Eric - Thanks immEnsely for thE POST UpdatE

. . . You arE to bE CoMMEndEd on your Efforts Sir (thE others included 2) ;O

. . . mi *charcoal* (kitty) iz finE and accounted for too . . .

Again, it's been too long. Last week was another proposal deadline... NASA Astrophysics Theory and Fundamental Physics. You may ask "What does that have to do with SETI?" and I'd have to answer "Nothing." It's part of the other half of my job, in this case it was about building 3D models of the distribution of interstellar matter in the Galaxy. Will I get funded? Who knows. The rule of thumb in astronomy is that you'll need to write a proposal four times before it gets funded, and this is only the second time I've written this one. Still haven't heard back on the first one.

I hear that while I've been busy there has been some friction between some of the volunteers that help us out with getting donations and some people who are tiring of the donation drives or would like to avoid the middle man or are unsure of who they can trust.

Regarding the first point, I'm tiring of the funding drives myself and I wish that we had other funding so that we could stop asking you for help, but it probably won't happen soon. The NSF declined to fund the SETI proposal we submitted in November. I can't say that I'm surprised. The NSF program that includes SETI is "Galactic Astronomy," i.e. studying the Galaxy. SETI just doesn't seem to fit in that category. Our previous NSF funding was for building instruments that could be used SETI and for other types of radio astronomy. That was funded through the "Advanced Technologies for Instrumentation" program. So the way NSF is structured, we can get funded to build an instrument, but not funded to use it. NASA's programs are structured in a similar way, and in general they will only support ground based observations that directly support a space mission. So we're left with the personal and corporate donations that have kept us going successfully for the past couple years. We haven't decided when the next will start, but eventually it will.

Regarding the middle men (the most obvious of which are Al (aka Pappa) and Simon (aka Chicken of Angnor), I've been asked why I don't give them official titles which might give more legitimacy to their middleman status. I've resisted this for a couple of reasons. First off, both Al and Simon are volunteers who probably have better things to do with their time than help us raise money. They started assisting with the fundraising without asking. They offered to do what they are doing. Simon saw that it would be difficult for us to accept Paypal Donations directly and decided that he could ease the process by being a go-between. It's worked great thus far. Al, noticing that while I didn't follow the boards and could barely keep up with my email (right now I have 1994 unread messages in my inbox), decided that he could help point out the offers that needed my direct attention. I worry that if I gave them official titles they might feel obligated to do these duties. I think Al has a hard enough time going on a vacation as it is. Simon enjoys optimizing applications more than writing code to handle paypal donations, I'm sure. (That's another service he (and Ben Herndon and Joe Segur and Alex Kan and Crunch3r among others) provide without compensation and that everyone running SETI@home, and the project as a whole will benefit from.)

Another reason is that neither (unless it's in one of those 1998 unread emails) has asked me for a title. A third is there is a tendancy to think that if a title is given, the job is taken. It's not so much the case that we need more than one paypal gateway, but other people besides Al who have acted as go between. I won't name names, but you know who you are. And that's good, because Al can't possibly read every message posted in the forums. I've considered setting up a mailing list for people who want to assist in this manner. That way effort won't be duplicated. Would a little organization help in this case? Anyone want to be on the list? If so, email me the address you want to be contacted at: korpela at ssl dot berkeley dot edu. Appologies in advance for my wacky spam filter. And, of course, if we gave Al and Simon titles would we engender jealousy from people who have helped and not gotten titles?

As far as the trust issue goes, yes, I trust Al and Simon implicitly. Heck if Simon weren't trustworthy and you run the "chicken app" he could have done far worse to you than steal your donation. Of course that doesn't mean I trust everone who might represent themselves as acting in the projects best interest. Use normal caution and you'll be fine.

On a totally unrelated note, I'm working from home today keeping an eye on a sick cat. Is it my imagination or are there more Cat avatars than Dog avatars on the forums. Are SETI people naturally cat people? Anyway here are our two beasts:



The top one is Dolly (aka Dumb-dumb, aka Dumbolina, aka Gooperella, aka Whiner), the bottom one is "The Poor White Cat What Nobody Loves" (aka White Cat, aka Chubbs, aka Bed-sores). Dumb-dumb is usually the medically fragile one. We're quite acustomed to forcing pills down her throat and giving her subcutaneous fluids. This time it's White Cat's turn. She spent yesterday at the emergency vet, and this morning is the first time since friday night she's been able to hold down water or soft food. But she's probably on the mend. Today, I'm glad I've got a job where I can work from home. Just hit 2000 unread messages. I'd better wrap this up.

--
Eric


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Message 581890 - Posted: 5 Jun 2007, 16:31:30 UTC - in response to Message 581658.
Last modified: 5 Jun 2007, 16:32:38 UTC


I have made note in NC and the Cafe a number of times over the last year or two about how many cat people were in the Seti family. Just seems like kitties and Seti go together.


I have a thought. Maybe dogs act like people and cats act like our alien overlords.

White cat is totally pigging out today.

Eric
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Message 581915 - Posted: 5 Jun 2007, 23:18:31 UTC

Thanks for your kind words, Eric!

As far as I'm concerned, I'm happy being a go-between, middleman, or whatever anyone would like to call it. Me, I call it being human and pursuing my interests ;o) My reward is karmic, and that suffices.

I did however write to you about the hardware donations situation, and I suspect that message is one of the ~2K left unread. Something like you mentioned - maybe a mailing list, preferrably an extra (access-regulated) board here, or maybe something totally different. The subject was '"Friends of SETI@Home" and hardware donations', should help track it down I hope. Not going to rehash it here, hope you have time to read through it.

Kind regards,
Simon.
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Message 581916 - Posted: 5 Jun 2007, 23:21:29 UTC - in response to Message 581890.


I have made note in NC and the Cafe a number of times over the last year or two about how many cat people were in the Seti family. Just seems like kitties and Seti go together.


I have a thought. Maybe dogs act like people and cats act like our alien overlords.

White cat is totally pigging out today.

Eric

I think that might be why funding for Seti is so tough out in Government land, They aren't Cat people, Mostly Dog people most likely(Free thinkers vs Pack animals). ;)

I'm glad White cat is pigging out, It does sound like White cat is feeling better.
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Message 581919 - Posted: 5 Jun 2007, 23:26:53 UTC

Speaking of donations. :)

I made one the other day and am anxiously awaiting my "Donor Star", so that I may wear it with pride.


How long does it normally take to get it?


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Message 581922 - Posted: 5 Jun 2007, 23:36:41 UTC

Uh oh,

seems something went wrong with your donation, Bax. Please check your private messages.

Regards,
Simon.
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Message 581927 - Posted: 5 Jun 2007, 23:39:17 UTC - in response to Message 581919.

Bax

I will add another email to Eric's Inbox... LOL


Speaking of donations. :)

I made one the other day and am anxiously awaiting my "Donor Star", so that I may wear it with pride.


How long does it normally take to get it?



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Message 581935 - Posted: 5 Jun 2007, 23:46:03 UTC - in response to Message 581915.

I have to agree with Simon

@Eric Glad your family member is on hte mend... For the Record there are two cats in the house and a dog. The dog had cat training at a very early age...

Thanks for your kind words, Eric!

As far as I'm concerned, I'm happy being a go-between, middleman, or whatever anyone would like to call it. Me, I call it being human and pursuing my interests ;o) My reward is karmic, and that suffices.

I did however write to you about the hardware donations situation, and I suspect that message is one of the ~2K left unread. Something like you mentioned - maybe a mailing list, preferrably an extra (access-regulated) board here, or maybe something totally different. The subject was '"Friends of SETI@Home" and hardware donations', should help track it down I hope. Not going to rehash it here, hope you have time to read through it.

Kind regards,
Simon.


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Message 581953 - Posted: 6 Jun 2007, 0:07:38 UTC - in response to Message 581935.

I have to agree with Simon

@Eric Glad your family member is on hte mend... For the Record there are two cats in the house and a dog. The dog had cat training at a very early age...







Now that's funny. :)


Did they try to make him/her use the litter box? LOL
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Message 582369 - Posted: 6 Jun 2007, 18:56:11 UTC
Last modified: 6 Jun 2007, 19:02:23 UTC

Thank you for your post, Eric, it's very much appreciated.

I was one of those who pushed for Pappa to get an official title, but I see your point.

Of course cats and Seti goes together, just look at this little poster:



Feel free to use it. ;-D

And in case anybody wonders if their cats are aliens, just take a look at this site:

Is Your Cat An Alien?

And good luck with the grant.


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Message 583836 - Posted: 8 Jun 2007, 18:31:18 UTC

With regards to donations, since SETI@home is an international effort, perhaps our international volunteer corps could apply for other governments' funding, e.g. Canada?

Thanks for the update Eric.
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Message 583862 - Posted: 8 Jun 2007, 18:59:08 UTC - in response to Message 583836.

With regards to donations, since SETI@home is an international effort, perhaps our international volunteer corps could apply for other governments' funding, e.g. Canada?

Thanks for the update Eric.


I'm not sure it actually works that way. I believe it still falls under who actually 'owns' it (as in, the one who owns the land it sits on and who's responsible for all maintenance).
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Message 584282 - Posted: 9 Jun 2007, 5:42:45 UTC - in response to Message 583836.
Last modified: 9 Jun 2007, 5:43:14 UTC

With regards to donations, since SETI@home is an international effort, perhaps our international volunteer corps could apply for other governments' funding, e.g. Canada?

Very unlikely, unless a Canadian university were to collaborate on the project. But Berkeley’s receipts for donations do sport a CRA (~=IRS) registration number, so our private contributions get partly subsidized through our tax returns.

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