I finally got the data that our "collaborators" had been withholding. I emailed the PI at the other university during the first week of the month, and twice more, asking for the data. He answered his email towards the end of the month. And I got it that day. And now there are no obstacles. I find that extremely intimidating.
The only thing standing in my way is me. (I am the change I am looking for?)
I went on a date with this engineer who told me of his first post-college job. He was hired on a 6 month contract into a group that was originally a bit over half a dozen people. He hadn't learned this area in college, and wanted the opportunity to be trained in it. When he arrived, the group was down to 3. Then the other two quit. And then the last one quit. And he was the only one in the group, and stayed up as late as he had to in order to do all of his work, and bought lots of books. And he did all the projects that the group was given. He is first generation --- he moved to US in late junior high --- so maybe has good work ethic from that. Whatever it is, I am in awe.
Were I in the situation I would take the many excuses available --- didn't know the material, group left, no mentorship, no contact with anyone --- and decide maybe I could do it, but it wasn't worth it. Worth what, I'm not sure: the time? the ego risk? And do just the minimum and hope to find something more suitable.
A friend of mine said that sometimes he thinks that in dating I am hoping to meet someone who will be a good model to improve my work habits. In fact I am.