My Zunivers

27 November 2006

Vacation: Part Done

I didn't get up in time to go on the hike. Bummer. I did get to meet the famous hiking stick, my father in law's rake handle, tube sock, and duct tape contraption. If only I had actually packed that stuff I left here at home....

Georgia Tech lost. I predicted that one. Who didn't? Wheaton managed a field goal against Mount Union, and I think that is more of an accomplishment. It's only half as many points as the last time the two teams played, but the offensive coordinator is new this year so I'll give him a pass for it.

We saw the aforementioned Friends, as well as assorted relatives who we have met before, and that was nice. Turkey curry from scratch and multiple good times. In a conversation about baby names I mentioned how funny it would be to meet someone named Richard Tenninch-Johnson. Sigh. I must remember to pray for the Wee Godchildren, that they be not filthy like me.

The dog was eating and then was not and now is again. She had some turkey Saturday and she threw up a few hours later. Poor thing. Everyone else was asleep. I was watching TV in the dining room. Heading to the bathroom, I found her on the verge of vomit with that "I will not" look on her face. I went over and told her "You can throw up if you have to." And then she did. And then she went into very ashamed dog mode, which I settled with a half hour of petting and cooing. After I cleaned up the turkey in mucous, of course. Yes, it was still turkey, three hours in the stomach and not a bit digested. Tonight she was actually feeling well enough to come over to the table and ask for food, so she may get better. Rumor has it she actually pooped this afternoon. Her ears were perkier today than any time that we were there.

The other dog, by the way, is now officially Tolerable. Off leash anyway. She curled up at my feet and we napped together on the futon this afternoon. I have stopped calling her Dinner and started calling her Tongue.

I was surrounded by Baptists this morning. At a Baptist church, of all places. Go figure. I did manage to escape some Huggers, thanks to my brother in law leading me to a door I had not seen. This meant that I did not get a chance to shake the pastor's hand. Probably better that way. I would have apologized on behalf of my kind (for lack of a better term) for all the incompetence in the music and media department during the service. No tempo in the insturments. Nobody proofread the projector slides. Someone was having trouble with advanced audio skillz like figuring out which microphone was which and how to use the big sliding one to adjust the volume. I mean, Dang! Yes, I've done this sort of thing for money and these people are volunteers. I expect more out of volunteers. Anyone at my church complains again to me and I'll tell them where to go to see a real screw up.

The pumpkin pie was found in the vegetable drawer on the bottom of the fridge. It had been missing since Thursday. I ate two pieces.

The drive home tonight was uneventful. There were deer freakin' everywhere on the back roads in Maryland, all of them happily lounging by the road rather than on it. I counted seven. And one fox. The Maryland headlights sucked, as usual. I gassed up Sylvia at The Shack (my new name for the charming little Texaco in Reisterstown), where the windshield washing buckets (yes, buckets) had a nice, strong, lemon scented dish detergent mixture in them. I will be buying gas there whenever I'm in the area. Seriously cool place.

I'm enjoying playing with the "new" camera, which is in fact something close to 20 years old. It has a built-in light meter! I can hardly contain my joy about that. The aperature priority setting-- I nearly wet myself thinking about it! No more fumbling with a light meter! I will now have a free hand to work The Monster Flash. Thank you, film, for your latitude. Thank you, Dad, for letting me use it. I will take it hiking with me. Honey, I'll try not to break the bank going shutter-happy. I've enjoyed taking pictures ever since I used a whole roll of film in my first 110 to photograph an afternoon of model rockets. I think I was like 6 then. I held the camera backwards because I thought the picture in the viewfinder looked better that way. The rockets looked strangely like a dark, blurry version of my cheek. I don't make that mistake anymore.

25 November 2006

Vacation: Part 1

A few of my relatives were down here yesterday and today, so we played together. My brother was in charming form. He is in desperate need of a complete moratorium on all video games and cartoons, across the board, no matter how much it makes him complain. I bought him silly putty tonight, since he needs to build up hand strength. I also encouraged him about his first report card. My sister is looking for jobs and apparently the market isn't as bad as we had thought. Something about white school districts avoiding minority teachers by hiring "internally" so that they don't need to hire in teh open wher either every racial move is scrutinized. Who knows what's up with that. She does have a library job lined up for when she's done student teaching. I'm semi-permanently borrowing my dad's film SLR from way back when, with two lenses and a flash, and he brought it down for me. Hooray! A real camera for the first time in years!

This evening I've spent a few quality hours with the linux machine own here, installing such frivolities (at least to the original configurer) such as emacs, gmake, and g95. Someone here hates Gnome and emacs and installed KDE with vim. Sigh. I was given the root password so that I wouldn't need to have anyone hovering over me for hours while I played. I also set up a butt-ugly wallpaper that reminds me of the one on Henry. Now that I'm done with all that I might be able to get some work done. This thing blazes (2.2 GHz P4 and a truckload of fast RAM).

I've been doing Very Bad Things here like reading Jimmy Carter's book (thanks to John for letting me borrow it) and making comments about bodily functions. One of the dogs here isn't feeling well, though, and I don't really hold out a lot of hope for seeing her again after this weekend. She's eating and drinking at a survival rate right now and she is otherwise aloof and lethergic. I'm trying not to make jokes about the dog dying, not because I'm that decent but because I'm decent enough to keep some things to myself if other might not want to hear it. Yes, a shock to many of you, I know.

Jordana, her Husbandlet, and the Squid are nearby visiting relatives for Thanksgiving, and I think we're going over there for dinner tomorrow night. Or something. My sister in law has planned a short hike tomorrow on the AT here in Maryland, but I brought exactly none of my crotch-comfortable shorts (you think I wear underwear when I hike? Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!) or nipple-comfortable shirts, not even in all the laundry we brought. (I won't need this, I thought consciously, not puting any of it in the laundry bags.) I'd love to go, but I doubt that I will. Tomorrow is also the Georgia Tech vs. Georgia game.

I've eaten a whole load of turkey-- my father in law smoked a whole one, plus another got roasted in the oven-- so at least I'm well fed. The regular cassaroles are rapidly being consumed, and the faster we eat the leftovers the better. My mom sent down dessert, either made or made in spirit. I'm really hungry for something Chinese and vegetabley, like beeef with mushrooms and snow peas.

Something really weird is happening here. I think it's before 2:00 and everyone else is in bed! And I'm less than 20 feet form a couple dozen liters of young earth creationist books! Nah, I won't. Someone might miss them. I guess I'll go read for a while. The small dog is furiously begging for me to let her loose, something I can't do. She'll shut up if I go upstairs.

22 November 2006

Which Reminds Me....

"Goodnight Saigon" is one of the saddest songs I've ever heard.

I'll leave you for a while with that one.

The Sappy Thanksgiving Post

Jeff S. reminded me today that there is a road over the mountain between Little Gap and Wind Gap. I don't know how I've been missing it on the map. Actually, it's probably something to do with the map coloring in that area. I had too look very carefully to find it, and it stood out well once I did. Even so, this is great news. Through the winter and spring I'd like to hike to Appalachain Trail from The Pinnacle to Deleware Water Gap.

We have our annual piefest at my church tonight. That's always fun. Maybe we'll be able to stay late and close the place down. Maybe someone will have some cider there. He-he. Hopefully not. We're contributing a crappy frozen pie that isn't going to have enough time to cool because my wife spent the whole day away from home and called me to tell me to cook it only one length of cooking time (half the cooling time) before we need to leave. Hooray for planning.

I need to be away from home this weekend but I also need to work on some programs. That sucks, because I'll need to negotiate with my males-in-law for a few software installations on a computer or two at their house. Or maybe we won't get around to it and then I'll feel guilty for not having done anything. I really wish I had a notebook computer like everyone else on this planet. This wish is very un-thanksgiving, I know, but oh well. Life is real when we like it and real when we don't.

The sunset was almost pretty tonight. I can't tell you what colors it was, but at and after sunset there were horizontal stripes of colors in the orange/yellow/red class and colors in the pink/purple/blue class. I'm thankful that even though I'm clueless about many colors I can at least see, and that I can do things like map the shape of clouds that was causing this coloing and then fly around it in my mind. No drugs needed.

For Christmas Vespers we have a big pile of music that I need to keep straight. We do, happily, get to sing "In The Bleak Midwinter," one of my favorite Christmas songs ever. We'll also, just to give you a preview, be doing Randall Thompson's "Ye Shall Have a Song," Warlock's carol "The Sycamore Tree," and a little Stravinsky, as well as, of course, wandering around in the dark with candles. December 10, people. I recommend that you ask me for information if you want to attend. Music makes me very happy. I'll spare you my thougths on why Billy Joel's "The Entertainer" reminds me of Carmina Burana, so that you too have a reason to rejoice.

Not much sap here, huh? Well, you might not get much more for the next few days because I'm going away.

21 November 2006

I Sent It!

Conversation with my adviser yesterday (edited slightly)--

Me: "Anything else we need for the paper?"

He: "No, I think we're ready to go."

Me: "Okay. I'll submit it tonight and send you the figures and stuff sometime this week."

He: "Okay. How are you doing with Le Projet Perpetuel?"

Me: "Nothing new. I've been working on the Content Free Paper since we last talked. And I do have a cold."

He: "Okay. Well, there isn't much left to do there. I think we can have that paper finished and sent off by Christmas."

Me: "Well, no. I'm not done with the computer program, and I'm a lazy slacker who is taking the next few days off so it's not going to get done then."

He: "Well, forget about the program. The first thing you can do is get those curve fits to work. That shouldn't take long."

Me: "Yes, that shouldn't be hard as it has been. I'm going to start over. Die, Origin! Die!"

He: "Ha-Ha. Don't hurt it. So do we need anything else to complete the same kind of analysis as in Dr. Dutchman's paper?"

Me: "Nothing but the computer program, which I still need to finish."

He: "Okay. So we can definitely finish the paper by Christmas, then."

Me: "Um... er... eh... but... um....... Haveagoodweekendyouneedavacationbye." [runs out the door]

19 November 2006

Undirected Living

No traffic signs.

Pass me some of whatever they're on.

17 November 2006

Find the Flaws

Here is a lateral thinking exercise for the academic in all of us. What is wrong with this article? This is free response, so have at it. (And, even if you don't want to, remember that social scientists do this sort of thing for a living, and none of you want to be outdone by them do you?)

15 November 2006


Recently our friend had surgery to replace a cancerous breast with something breast-like. In honor of her ordeal, I present to you the most ridiculous pair of boobies you'll ever see.

What? You thought I was going to link to a picture of human breasts?


I'm laughing already at the number of you who will either not click these links for fear of porn or be peeved at me for the links not giving them any porn. Or those who will now click on the links and not find them funny anymore.

In other news, tonight I get to go remake all of the figures from the Content Free Paper, polish up the text, and, hopefully, send it off by the end of the week.

Thinking Think Tank

As a scientist, I find this rather disturbing. And I find it disturbing for one simple reason. I've never, in all my studies of science, made a single moral decision based on science alone. Science has informed my decisions, for example that Terri Schiavo would not have ever healed, but science (science, not scientists; see below) has not itself provided a framework of ethics. It provides input for the ethical ideas, but does not provide the machinery with which to process the input into a decision. Please note that this is different from the frameowrk of etchics that scientists have built for doing science, which itself is really Judeo-Christian ethics applied to science rather than something from science itself. I'm talking about an ethics based on science. I find none.

It would be nice if this group were to promote science for what it is, but I have a feeling they will overstep that boundary without ever realizing what one of my acquantences recently called the "breathtaking stupidity" of doing so. In that conversation about Richard Dawkins he pointed out that Dawkins makes theological claims, asks theological questions, and then refuses theological answers because they are theological rather than scientific. Dawkins isn't the only person who does this. The Discovery Institutre, for example, does it in reverse. So does my pastor.

That is, however, exactly where I think this "think tank" will go with ethical and legal matters, and probably religious and theological matters. I don't think its goal is to promote rational thinking through science, mainly because most of their "rational" thinking has nothing to do with science. I'm sure, for example, that when discussing the excercise of religion in the public sphere that most of the people involved in the group will say that the establishment clause trumps the free exercise clause. Even if they don't say it directly, they will say things like "People can practice their religion all they want at home but not in [location]" or make other limitations on free exercise based on establishment while never limiting use of the establishment clause based on free exercise. I'm also sure that there will be absolutely no scientific reason they can give for why. These people probably aren't here to promote science, they are here to encourage atheism and rout out theism. Atheism and theism and teh way those aare used to make decisions are the opposites here, and maybe, to be fair, atheism and theism as applied only to some set of things in life. The problem is not science and religion. Francis Collins et al have a lot to say about that, so I'll defer to them.

Be an atheist all you want, but don't do your atheism in a way that would make you complain if it was the way a religious person did their religion. It's only fair that you hold yourself to your own standards. (Unless your standard is "I am right and everyone else is wrong," in which case you're a spineless wimp and I'll see you behind the barn sometime.)

13 November 2006

Maybe Now I Want To Move...

Time was that I lived down Reading way, and I thought "Gee, I'm glad I'm not one of those weird people from up in Allentown." Then I moved here, and since then I've been thinking "You know, these people are just folks like me, except the imports form Jersey."

Well, now I'm on the verge of regressing. Why? Because the local AAA baseball team, which will be moving here from Scranton, has announced the team name. In 2008 we (those of you still here anyway) will be entertained (if you can call baseball that) by the Lehigh Velly Iron Pigs (team site).

I've been told that there is some lack of logic in naming a team something like Reading Phillies, but it makes perfect sense to me. The Reading Phillies are the Philadelphia Phillies' AA team. The current Scranton-Wilkes Barre Red Barons are the Philadelphia Phillies' AAA team, so clearly logic can fail when it comes to baseball team names.

But still, Iron Pigs?

I'm not saying I don't like it. As a steelworker's child I have my greatest respects for the industry and its history. I'm just saying that the people around these parts are kind of "Woo-wooooo!" 'round the head, you know? Not like Reading folk. To come up with something like that... wow.

11 November 2006

Telephone Spaces

I'm not a huge fan of quantum mechanics. For those of you who have heard lots of talk about Schrodinger's cat and those sorts of interpreting quantum mechanics stuff, the nuts and bolts of quantum mechanics are actually very boring. It's a wave equation, an intergal, and a whole lot of perturbation theory that gives you things like the unimpressive standard model for the atom. Some call it the most sucessful theory in modern physics, and I call it the most hyped theory with dozens of errors that physicists have ever conjured. Some people love it, but it's just not my bag of groceries. (Somewhere in there is a reference to the song "Dead" by They Might Be Giants; you can flesh that out for yourself.)

It has only been recently that I've consciously separated two ideas that I had been confusing in my mind for some time, my aloofness towards quantum mechanics and transforming between different spaces. The first time I encountred solving equations in different spaces was in doing quantum mechanics, There are problems in quantum mechanics where it is much more easy to transform to velocity space, solve, and transform back to position space than it would have been to solve in position space. In quantum mechanics you need to worry about commutation of operators and such, but that's not what bothered me. What bothered me was that this was quantum mechanics, and anything we did there was going to bother me becuse I'm pathological like that. When I later took classes like electricity and magnetism, I loved the subject (after while anyway) but I was horrified by k-space. I simply refused to accept that the ω-space from classical mechanics was even related to all this, becuase I liked classical mechanics. Dispersion relations were a target for my wrath the first time I learned about them. Laplace transforms were evil. And so on.

Anyway, this all comes up because I had a fascinating idea today, and one that I think proves that it isn't transforming between spaces that bothers me, just quantum mechanics (other than, of course, that I like transforming spaces but not quantum mechanics). I don't remember how or why my officemate and I got to this, but I recall saying something like "It's like playing the telephone game in concept space." By "telephone game" I of course mean that perennial classic where someone whispers a sentence once into another peron's ear, and that person then whispers what was heard once to the next person, and so on. After a couple dozen people things get a little bit silly even when everyone is trying their best.

Now I have this warped, twisted version of the telephone game running through my head, where instead of trying to pass on the entire sentence from one end of the line to the other the participants try only to get the same idea from one end to the other. Using the same words is not necessary, only the idea counts. And I've also wondered if it would be easier to play the telepone game by transforming a sentence into concept space, propogating it through the medium, and transforming the solution back to sentence space. However, this is where it gets really sad even if you've thought it's okay so far, I started thinking about how the propogation in sentence space might be the sort stochastic process where the noise in the system does not transform (sort of like how a Fourier transform of the stock values looks like a graph of stock values, not a transform of a sum of regular cycles). Hopelessly lost in my nerddom, I've toyed with developing some ensemble that can be transformed between the spaces, so that the noise can be explored further, but that would be too much even for me.

Clearly my life is clearly a very sad one. I can prove that physics is useful only if you convert every problem to physics space, sovle it there, and convert back. Recursive humor. Sigh.

Sara cooked up a mean batch of stuffed chicken breasts that we all got to eat for dinner, though. Sun dried tomatoes and basil and cheese and olive oil, all in a wonderful balance. After a day that saw me not only get almost no sleep and throw a huge fit about my research (my adviser's conclusion was everything I did is wrong, but I didn't do anything wrong; trust me, it makes sense in context) and invent the most warped and nerdy analysis of a word game I've ever thought about, the chicken indeed made life better.

09 November 2006

Science Sux

Yeah, it does. As a social system it sucks. Not as a subset of society, as a social system.

Unfortunately, just like I say that America sucks but I can't come up with any better country, I can't come up with any better way of studying nature. Horribly whingey of me, I know, but I'm having a very discouraging week and just had to get that off my chest. I'm the first person I can find who has had to deal with such a horrible journal referee for any paper, much less their first paper covering a project that has no content. The problem is that it has content. Go figure.

On the bright side, my adviser and I spent some time today talking about people to solicit for postdoctoral positions. Even better (sarcasm alert!), he says that he knows the perfect person for me to work as postdoc-- a guy in Georgia. Not only in Georgia, but at the Red School!

Sigh. Maybe the less urban areas of the south are more worthwhile. Not.

I'll hope that that can't work and I end up working with one of the three or five possibilities in Montréal. The pay up there sucks and their entire health care system reminds me of a huge college health center, but the weather is nice. The down side, of course, is that my wife would need to come back to the U.S. to have babies (see comments above about America; I'd prefer my kids be born here).

But think of the cross country skiing! And the European charm! And $9 a gallon gas for day trips into the land of the Québécois! And being able to speak French whenever I can! I didn't ever learn German, so I'll be danged if I live my whole life and don't use this French of which I partook. (Quote form adviser, "One of them, [name of former student], refuses to speak French, just to piss them off!") Et la ville souterraine! Clueless tourists who don't know that north is west and east is north! And Hockey Night! Hockey with Canadians! Think of the fun! I could make my family get passports and come visit me for Thanksgiving, and then I could visit them for Thanksgiving a month and a half later! This all sounds so much better than Athens, Georgia.

Yes, Canada is looking nice, as long as it's temporary. Before I get too excited, though, I should wait until I see good prospects there. Kansas is also on the list. But like I said, it's been a rough week, so I also have this strong desire to dream....

07 November 2006

Let The Fun begin

The polls haven't even closed and opening shots have been fired. You know, here.

Election Blog-a-thon

Unless Peter and I end up doing better things, we'll be over at This Party for Election Night, blogging our little hearts away. Okay, I am doing a better thing, going to a concert from 8:00 to whenever. But once I get home....

If we do manage to show up over there, your heckling will be greatly appreciated. It would be nice to have a sort of Novemberfest atmosphere, with some internet oom-pah-pah and bratwurst. I've invited a few guests to blog as well (you who are contributors might not see their names listed, if you can even see the pending requests, because I haven't yet asked everybody through the system) should they choose to accept it.

06 November 2006

Office Candy

A fun little blurb about office candy. I just had to share, especially considering that I've bashed Julie Deardorff in the past over organic milk. You who partake of the supply in my office can argue about which category we're in.

Anyone Up For Some Schwarzenau?

A note before I start-- Over at This Party I posted why I think people who push party buttons (the buttons that pick all the Democrats or all the Republicans) are potentially morons. If you want to complain about that then do it there, not here.

After last night's concert there was a reception in the lobby, and they had wings. happy joy. I ate a big pile of wings. Two thirds of the choir didn't even show up, which surprised me. No cignus for them! The concert went pretty well, although not quite as well as Friday. My tuxedo survived the wing eating frenzy.

I'm currently suffering from normal post-concert down-time. As I noted in the spring, it's hard to explain that. Art, as my choir director reminds us, isn't about information. The feeling after having particpted is not amenable to explanation. It really is a feeling in all its abstract glory.

My sister and I missed church this morning thanks to an alarm clock glitch. My wife went in early for a church membership class that I'm going to skip, not to prevent myself from being a "member" (if you aren't familiar with protestant ways, don't ask) but because I already am a "member" of a church from the same denomination. So I have almost nothing to learn. Heck, at lunch today I said "I'm sure that you started with Alexander Mack" and I was correct. I won't even get into how many "members" at my church wouldn't even know what the church's statment of faith says or why the word "Schwarzenau" is significant.

(Even though I'd make them look up Schwarzenau, I'll tell you here. Right around 1700, Alexander Mack founded a Pietist movement that became the Brethren churches of today. Mack was from Schwarzenau, Germany. So as not to be confused with unrelated Brethren groups such as the Plymouth Brethren, the term "Schwarzenau Brethren" is often used for the resulting protestant circus, of which my church's denomintion is one act.)

I've got some work to do but I really don't feel like doing it. Bugger all.

04 November 2006


I found a great article (it's still under development) about Myers-Briggs types.

I was talking to Master Johnny about this last night, and I'll point out that in this article there is a link to a more serious article.

Concert 1

The concert went pretty well, considering the Great Orchestra Mess Up of 2006 at the dress rehearsal. Horn players doing homework, a percussion section in need of a beating, and that sort of thing. At a number of times during the concert we (the chorus) didn't quite have the sound quality we should have had. A little too birdy chirping sounding, not full and heavy or light and airy (as appropriate, mind you). It's amusing to watch our director at these times, as he gets this sort of constipated look on his face, with hand gestures to match. The mark of a good conductor is hands that can gesture things like constipation. We must have done okay, though, because he never got to the point he got to at dress rehearsal, where, during the reprise of "Fortuna imperatrix mundi," he actually sat down on his podium and was marking beats with little hand puppets held up over his music, mouths opening and closing. That was an amusing act of desperation at the end of a very bad rehearsal; for that alone does it beat hands that can gesture constipation. Whatever works must be done.

In honer of the dress rehearsal I decided not to iron my shirt. I did shake the chalk dust out of my coat after I dropped it on my office floor.

I also want to add that the crowd was stingy with their applause for the violin piece. Our director wrote this cool piece for electric violin and random sections of orchestra, and I loved it. It was all weird at first and eventually developed into this melody in the orchestra that sounded very strained, like it just couldn't quite get where it was going. Amazing sounds. You can even find some Stravinsky hidden in there, if you know what to listen for. But I think half the crowd hated it. Oh, well. I still haven't read the program notes for it, so I need to steal a program tomorrow.

After the concert I was beat, so I went to a corner of the lobby to lean on something and look for anyone I might know (nobody; my adviser and his wife were there and I saw him before the concert but I didn't see them after the concert). Then I went to my office for a while and played flash games online for an hour. Between the concert and the play tonight, I wanted to let the garage empty before I left. I came home and shed my tuxedo to let it dry. Then I ate real food (I had ice cream for dinner). Then I got some work done, but not completely. I have until Sunday afternoon to really finish it.

Tomorrow my sister is coming to visit! Happy bounces!

02 November 2006

Junction Fault

Honestly it has nothing to do with electrical wiring.

I thought some of you would enjoy this image of the juncture between the Appalchian Mountains and the Allegheny Plateau.

For those unfamiliar with Pennsylvania geography, look here and here for some maps and here for some (poorly written, which is sad) introductory text. Rumor has it that there is also an excellent book about roadside geology in Pennsylvania.

01 November 2006

For Your Inner History Buff

The true to life story of Washington and Lafeyette. Far be it from me to take such things seriously.

Burj Dubai

Since most of my readers, at least the locals, seemed as though they hadn't heard about it, I present the currently rising skyscraper. It will be ginormous, and big.